ESTES PARK, Colo. (KDVR) — Soon, the fall colors will pop and people will flock to areas like Estes Park to see the leaves and the iconic elk that reside there. 

“Fall is gorgeous in Estes Park,” Claire Molle with Visit Estes Park said. “It’s unique things that you only get to see one time a year.”

She offered up five tips to help visitors get the most out of their fall experience. 

  1. Expect Crowds

“I do think you’re just going to kind of have to plan for it to be busy,” Molle said. 

She suggests visitors try to remain patient on roads, at restaurants and at trailheads. 

“It’s probably a little less crowded if you get out really early,” she said. 

2. You do not need to travel into the backcountry to see elk

“During the rut season, you can see them anywhere. They’re all over town,” Molle said. 

The elk rut is the animal’s mating season. During the rut, bull elk bugle and large groups of females are easy to spot. 

“Lake Estes is always a great place to see the elk. They love to hang out there. The golf course, the 18-hole golf course, is another awesome place,” Molle said. 

3. Do not approach elk 

“It’s easy to get excited because you see them in town and sometimes they catch you off guard and they’re right there and you feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, you can get so close to them,’” Molle said. 

However, elk have attacked visitors in the past who have gotten too close when taking photos and selfies. 

Visit Estes Park recommends visitors use the “Rule of Thumb” when viewing wildlife. When you have your arm outstretched and close one eye, your thumb should cover the entire body of the animal. If your thumb only covers a portion of the animal, you are too close. 

4. Where to find golden leaves

“A gorgeous place to see leaves is to drive down the Peak to Peak highway,” Molle said. 

She also suggests viewing changing leaves near Lake Estes and inside Rocky Mountain National Park. 

5. Get a reservation before visiting Rocky Mountain National Park 

“During the month of September and part of October there is a reservation system for the national park so it’s just something to keep in mind,” Molle said.

Advance reservations are required from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. in order to visit the Bear Lake Corridor, including Bear Lake, Sprague Lake and Moraine Park. Reservations are required from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for all other areas of the park. The timed reservation system is in place until Oct. 10, 2022.