Rocky Mountain National Park overnight meadow closures elk rutting season

With elk rutting season approaching, Rocky Mountain National Park will impose its annual restrictions on hiking in Horseshoe Park, Upper Beaver Meadows, Moraine Park, Harbison Meadow and Holzwarth Meadow beginning Thursday.

Walking in open meadow areas will be prohibited from 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. through Oct. 31. Visitors must stay on roads and established trails in those areas during those hours. Walking to fishing locations and fishing within the closure areas is not permitted from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Horseshoe Park, Upper Beaver Meadows and Moraine Park are located on the east side of the park near the entrances from Estes Park. Harbison Meadow and Holzwarth Meadow are located on the west side of the park near the Grand Lake entrance.

The closures are imposed to prevent humans from disturbing or antagonizing excitable elk during mating season when the massive animals, with some males weighing more than 1,000 pounds, gather in large groups. The peak of the season generally runs from mid September to mid October, but there are already signs it’s coming.

“The bull elk are starting to gather up their harems,” said Lori Bucci, who works at the Estes Park Visitors Center. “I haven’t seen any large groups gathering, but they’re starting to build in lower elevations and block traffic, which is always a sign that it’s beginning. They’re clustering in groups right now.”

Estes Park will hold its annual Elk Fest celebration Oct. 1-2.

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