Dream Lake Sunrise on Rocky Mountain National Park Tour

Summer Photo Options | June - Early September
Estes Park Photo Tours

The best Rocky Mountain National Park Summer Photo locations pre-scouted for you

Yellow Wood Guiding offers private Summer Estes Park Photography Tours of Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado.

Landscape Gallery   Wildlife Gallery

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In your booking email select one or a few of these options and I can plan a trip to try to get as many great shots as we can. In the summer we often have to drive 30 minutes to an hour to get to great locations.

If you are not sure you can always have a "Guide's Choice" tour for either Landscape or Wildlife and we can target the best options that day will offer.   

Unless otherwise stated these tour options can be part of a 4, 6, or 8 hour trip. Don't see the option you want, we can customize a trip just for you.

Trail Ridge Road opens on the Firday before Memorial Day. It often snows that weekend and temporarily closes until it gets plowed and the ice melts.

Plan Your Perfect Summer Tour

Summer Sunrise

NOTE: Sunrises in the summer are often nice. About 70%-80% of the mornings we get great color in the mountains, clear blue skies, very few clouds, and just a bit of wind.

Moraine Park Pink Summer Sunrise on an Estes Park Photo Tour
Moraine Park Sunrise

Moraine Park offers a great view of the mountains with a large grassy meadow. Due to closures of the meadows we have to shoot along the road this time of the year. This is a drive up location which requires a start of 30 minutes before sunrise. The elk are often in Moraine Park so they can hinder our access but we can quickly change from shooting sunrise to Elk.

Sprague Lake Sunrise reflection in summer in Rocky Mountain National Park
Sprague Lake / Storm Pass

Sprague Lake offers a great mountain range reflecting in a subalpine lake. Some mornings you can get great reflections, and the wide view offers a good number of compositions. If we have wind Storm Pass is a great shot that in peak color can be even better than Sprague Lake. This destination requires a start time 45 minutes before sunrise.

Gore Range Trail Ridge Road Sunrise on an Estes Park Photo Tour
Tundra Sunrise - Roadside or Hiking

Sunrise is amazing anywhere in the park, but sunrise on the tundra can be breath taking, literally. It could be 20 degrees in the morning. But you can watch as the mountains come to life with the warm pinks and orange light of sunrise. This option requires a 1 hour before sunrise start for the roadside and 1 hour and 30 minutes for the hiking option. This option will offer wildlife shooting after sunrise. NOT AVAILABLE after October 1st.

Dream Lake Sunrise Photo Tour
Dream Lake Sunrise - 4hr Easy /Medium Hike

Sunrise at Dream Lake is one of the best 1 mile hike photo spots in the park, and it produces some fantastic photos. It is an easy hike for fit individuals, medium difficulty for folks from lower elevations and are not as active. This tour requires a start of 1 hour and 30 minutes before sunrise. This trip takes about 3 hours with a few great side trips like Nymph Lake, a cascading stream, and some great overlooks. This option will not offer Elk shooting after sunrise.

Moraine Park Overlook Hiking Photo Tour
Moraine Park Overlook - Medium .25 mile Hike

Moraine Park is a grand glacial valley, and after this short but steeper 175 foot climb we gain a fantastic high view over the entire valley, with the river snaking below in the green meadows with a large view of Stones Peak. This short hike will take most fit people about 15 minutes with a few stops to catch your breath, so it requires a 45 minute before sunrise start. From this location we can also shoot a very nice view of Long's Peak, as well as a different view of the Mummy Range. From here we can go down into Moraine Park or travel the rest of the east side of the park for wildlife or landscape options.

Lake Haiyaha Photography Tour
Dream Lake and Lake Haiyaha - 6hr Hike

Like the tour option above we photograph Dream Lake at sunrise with the 1 hour and 30 minute before sunrise start. It is an easy hike for fit individuals, medium difficulty for folks from lower elevations and are not as active. After sunrise we can photograph the cascade below Dream Lake to produce the silky water effect. Then head up the additional 1 mile to Lake Haiyaha and Chaos Creek for great reflection shots and amazingly giant rocks. The water of Lake Haiyaha is back to it's emerald color and not the milky blue only seen in 2022 and less in 2023. This option has no wildlife viewing.

Summer Sunset

NOTE: Sunsets in Rocky are not as reliable as sunrise. The standard summer weather pattern is blue skies in the morning with building clouds and a potential thunder storm in the afternoon. Generally right before sunset the clouds break, but there are a number of nights that the clouds never break. June sunsets are more reliable then July and August.

Bear Lake Sunset Photo Tours
Bear Lake Sunset

This end of the tour option ends with an easy to get to mountain lake with great mountain scenery. One of the busiest lakes in the park, close to sunset the parking lot clears out and on clear nights the peaks glow. We drive up to the trail head and walk around to the far side of the lake for a potential great shot.

Rock Cut Sunset on Trail Ridge Road
Tundra Roadside Sunset

Sunset on the tundra can be amazing but also very cold. Shot from locations Ansel Adams shot and from others even more spectacular. We can literally drive up a a few great spots, hop out, walk a few yards and take amazing shots if the weather gives us a good sunset. There are 3 potentially greast shots in this one location.

Below Dream Lake Trail Sunset Photo Tour
Nymph Lake and Above Sunset

There is an amazing view below Dream Lake of Long's Peak and Glacier Gorge about .8 miles from the trail head. This is a trip just for landscapes, small stream shots, a some macros. Because of the chance of afternoon /evening thunderstorms this is a gamble but if everything works out it can produce some great vast shots.

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Tundra Sunset - 1 mile - Hiking

There are some amazing sunset options on the Tundra that are on a trail about a mile from the road. This location is pretty taxing as we will be hiking at almost 12,000 feet so its for only fit folks looking for shots most people never get. Be sure to bring a heavy coat, gloves and a hat because it can be very cold even the peak summer heat. 

Flower Fields & Waterfalls

Moraine Park Golden Banner Sunrise in Rocky Mountain National Park
Golden Banners & Iris - Mid June

In mid to late June the glacial valley of Moraine Park can come into blooms of yellow Golden Banner and purple Colorado Iris. Bring your waterproof boots as the river levels are high, the grass is getting thick, but the morning shots of color are amazing. This is an easy walk down to the river.

Alpine Sunflowers on Trail Ridge Road
Alpine Flowers - July

When the snows melt away the first Alpine flowers start to bloom on the tundra of Rocky Mountain National Park. Around the 4th of July the Alpine Sunflowers bloom, some years are great and others are thin. But unless we had a drought the prior year there are usually a few or many great flowers on ground level.

Alberta Falls on Bear Lake Road in Rocky Mountain National Park on an Estes Park Photo Tour
Glacier Creek and other Falls

Summer offers some great chances to photograph river cascades and waterfalls. The Alluvial Fan Falls is a short 400 yard walk. Some are roadside short walks, others like Alberta Falls (shown) are 2 mile round trip hikes.

Chasm Falls on Old Fall River Road
Chasm Falls - 2 mile Hike

This waterfall is a 30 minute walk up Fall River Road. Chasm Falls offers a few different shots and other white water cascades. Chasm is a great option in the late afternoon because the falls are shadowed by 5pm.

Summer Wildlife

Elk cow kissing baby elk calf in Rocky Mountain National Park
Baby Animals - June peak

Calving season starts in late May and we can often find a few and sometimes many baby animals in safe locations. We take great care to not disturb wildlife and especially baby and mom.

Elk Bull in velvet in grassy meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado Wildlife

All summer long Elk are a good Photo Wildlife Tour target. Bulls are in small bacholer herds up high. Bull Elk antlers will be in velvet until early August. Cow and calf groups roam the low meadows up to the tundra.

Moose Bull along the Colorado River in Rocky Mountain National Park on Estes Park Tour

One of the major targets, we find them regularly at great distance but can be challenging at times to get close photos. We mostly find cows and calves, but sometimes we do find bulls. This tour takes some patience to get the shots, and requires at least 3 hours of drive time round trip. 93% chance to see, 45% chance they are close. Most reliable in May - June with 5-8 close sightings, possible in July with usually 1 maybe 2 close sighting, and decreasing in August down to some days not getting a close sighting. There are a few lakes we can also visit instead of higher elevation locations but there are no other animals in those areas and it often takes all 4 hours to get a 65% at a good moose photo.

American Pika with grass in it's mouth on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park
Marmots, Pika, Small Mammals & Predators

Once the sun is out small mammals can be found at all elevations of Rocky Mountain National Park. Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels and various Chipmunks are great cute targets and wondeferful focus practice targets. Yellow-bellied Marmots and American Pika are tundra staples all summer. Pikas are most active in mid July through August as they collect flowers and grass for the winter hay stacks to survive winter up on the tundra. Marmots are also extremely cute and usually pretty common in the right areas. Where cute animals are common we also have a chance for predator sightings like Coyote, Golden Eagle, and on the tundra Long-tailed Weasels. All predator sightings are extremely quick.

Mule Deer Buck in Rocky Mountain National Park
Mule Deer

Mule Deer roam all the elevations of Rocky Mountain National Park in the summer months. In Mid-June the fawns are born. Small doe herds can be found daily. Bucks are harder to find mid summer but some early mornings and late evenings we get great encounters in the low light. Later in the summer the buck and doe groups become more active.

Bighorn Sheep Ram on Trail Ridge Road
Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep can be seen nearly every day of the summer, but getting close photo ops are rare at best. In June they can sometimes be at wonderful distances but by mid July close sheep views usually stop until September. Sheep Lakes is a place we can wait for both Moose or Sheep if you want to roll the dice and gamble with time in May, June and early July.

Summer Tour Fees - May - Mid October

(Total Is Shown NOT Per Person, Rate Is The Same For 1 Or 2 Guests)

Guests 1 or 2 3 or 4
4 Hour Tour Total (Most Recommended) $325 $425
6 Hour Tour Total $525 $675
8 Hour Tour Total $700 $900

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Yellow Wood Guiding is Authorized by the National Park Service, Department of Interior to conduct services in Rocky Mountain National Park. Fees for service are strictly for educational nature experiences and photography instruction, not transportation.

YWGuiding.com Est. 2007