After enjoying lunch in Grand Lake and hiking the Adams Falls Trail, we were ready to officially enter Rocky Mountain National Park, drive Trail Ridge Road, and get to our hotel in Estes Park. But first we had to make two quick stops:
- We needed a photo at the Rocky Mountain National Park sign, and
- I wanted to stop in the Kawuneeche Visitor Center to get a print park map, and see if the ranger had any recommendations my pre-vacation research might have missed.
The Kawuneeche Visitor Center in the Kawuneeche Valley is the only visitor center on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Kawuneeche Valley runs almost directly north to south on the national park’s west side. Kawuneeche means valley of the coyote in Arapaho, so the valley is also known as Coyote Valley. Coyotes still live in this area along with elk, mule deer, moose, and mountain lion. Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the United States, passes through the main part of Kawuneeche Valley.
Sitting at 8,720 feet elevation just outside the Grand Lake Entrance Station, the visitor center is often the first stop for visitors staying in nearby Grand Lake, Colorado and the perfect place to get all the information you need to maximize your time in Rocky Mountain National Park.
At the visitor center, you’ll find:
- A large, detailed topographical map of the national park
- A 20ish minute park movie, Spirit of the Mountains, that is shown daily at Kawuneeche Visitor Center and Beaver Meadows Visitor Center
- Exhibits, artifacts, and informational displays about Rocky Mountain National Park’s history, native people, fishing, wildlife, and the Colorado River
- The Rocky Mountain Conservancy bookstore with gifts, souvenirs, books, and maps
- Ranger-led activities and hikes
This is also the location of the western backcountry office, with permits and information about backcountry camping and hiking.
Know Before You Go
- The Kawuneeche Visitor Center at visitor centers spread throughout the park.
- The Visitor Center is 1.0 mile north of the town of Grand Lake on the east side of Trail Ridge Road (HWY 34) just before the western entrance of the park.
- It is open year-round from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm with reduced hours in Fall, Winter, and Spring. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
- The Kawuneeche Picnic Area is open all year and has six picnic tables and six fire pits/grills.
- Download the Kawuneeche Valley Trail Guide.
- 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, flush restrooms available, as well as free public WiFi.