We planned 2.5 days for Rocky Mountain National Park on our epic, three week summer road trip that also included Newberry National Volcanic Monument, six Dead & Company concerts, and Dinosaur National Monument, as well as many other cool spots throughout California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado.
- Our first day in the park was only a half day because we were driving all the way from Vernal, Utah through Rocky Mountain National Park to our hotel in Estes Park, but we did get to experience some of the sights, including the Grand Lake Lodge, Adams Falls, the Kawuneeche Visitor Center, Milner Pass and the Continental Divide, Medicine Bow Curve, Rainbow Curve Overlook, and the Beaver Ponds Boardwalk.
- Our second day in the park was sunny and gorgeous, so we packed it full, doing all the things to do along Trail Ridge Road, including Farview Curve Overlook, the Alpine Visitor Center, Gore Range Overlook, Lava Cliffs Overlook, Rock Cut Overlook, Forest Canyon Overlook, and Many Parks Curve. We also drove historic Fall River Road and checked out Chasm Falls.
- Our third day in the park, ended up being a full day! We visited the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, Fall River River Center, and the Alluvial Fan, we drove down to the Wild Basin Entrance to hike to Copeland Falls and see the Chapel On The Rock nearby, and we visited the Moraine Park Discovery Center, walked around Bear Lake and Sprauge Lake, and hiked to Alberta Falls.
The whole trip was amazing and one of the things I love doing is on our road trips is visiting historic places and notable buildings. Lucky for me, the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places!
Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, also known as the Rocky Mountain National Park Administration Building, was built in 1967 by Frank Lloyd Wright’s apprentices at Taliesin Associated Architects under the Park Service Mission 66 project.
The visitor center is located just outside the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station on Highway 36 in Estes Park, Colorado. Because of its architectural significance and close proximity to the city, it is the busiest and most popular visitor center in the park.
At 8,231 feet elevation, the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center offers:
- A large, detailed topographical map of the national park
- A large auditorium showing a 20ish minute park movie, Spirit of the Mountains, that is shown daily at Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and Kawuneeche Visitor Center
- The Rocky Mountain Conservancy bookstore with gifts, souvenirs, books, and maps
- Rangers available to chat about park information and things to do in the park
- Maps, books, and souvenirs
- A short trail around the property and some picnic tables.
- Views of Longs Peak, the highest peak in the national park.
This is also the location of the eastern backcountry office, with permits and information about backcountry camping and hiking.
The History Of The Beaver Meadows Visitor Center And Park Administrative Building History
In 1956 National Park Service director Conrad Wirth launched the Mission 66 program to help make the parks more visitor-friendly by the National Park Service’s fiftieth anniversary in 1966.
One major result of the Mission 66 program was the development of the modern park visitor center. The new park visitor centers, usually near park entrances, were designed to provide park information, interpretive exhibits, restrooms, shops, and food. The goal was to give tourists a place to stop on their way into the parks, get oriented and learn a little about the park, and then drive through in a day.
Between 1941 and 1951, the number of visitors at Rocky Mountain National Park doubled and as part of Mission 66, three new visitor centers opened: Beaver Meadows, Alpine Ridge, and Kawuneeche.
In 1964, Taliesin Associated Architects, a firm made up of Frank Lloyd Wright’s apprentices, were sought out because they paid special attention to the local landscape in their designs. The firm helped choose the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center location on the south side of the new entrance road and received the commission for the Rocky Mountain National Park building.
Ground was broken on July 16, 1965, by 1966 the building was halfway done, and in 1967, the building was officially dedicated.
The Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and Administration Building was one of the most influential Mission 66 buildings because of how it blended a modern building style — a low, one-story profile, precast concrete panels with local stones, a triangle steel framework based on Native American rock art — with the natural landscape.
Know Before You Go
- The Beaver Meadows Visitor Center at Rocky Mountain National Park is located at 1000 US Highway 36, Estes Park, Colorado 80517 in Larimer County.
- Beaver Meadows Visitor Center was declared a National Historic Landmark and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.
- It is one of five visitor centers spread throughout the park.
- The Visitor Center, also known as Rocky Mountain National Park Administration Building, is the busiest and most popular visitor center due to its proximity to Estes Park.
- It is open year-round from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm with reduced hours in Fall, Winter, and Spring. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
- Food, drinks, and pets are not allowed in any park visitor centers. The National Park Service welcomes service animals that have been individually trained to perform specific tasks for the benefit of persons with disabilities.
- There are accessible and family flush restrooms available, as well as free public WiFi.