The Trout of Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park Trout Species: What You Might Catch

Estes Park offers some of the finest fly fishing in Colorado and features a variety of different trout in Rocky Mountain National Park. The park’s diverse aquatic ecosystems are home to a wide variety of trout species, making it a haven for anglers. From the vibrant colors of native Greenback Cutthroat to the elusive Brown Trout, the park boasts an impressive lineup of trout species, each presenting its unique charm and challenge to anglers. Join us as we dive into the world of Colorado fly fishing and discover the magic of fly fishing for the trout of Rocky Mountain National Park.

angler holds rainbow trout above water

Rainbow Trout

This is one of the most common and easily distinguished trout in the world. Rainbow trout, named after the pink stripe that runs along the side of their bodies can be found in many streams throughout Rocky Mountain National Park and around Estes Park. These fish have the black spots typical of most trout that run the length of their bodies including their tail. Renowned for being the hardest fighting of trout, Rainbows commonly go airborne and put on quite the show.

Here are a few locations where you can catch Rainbow Trout in Rocky Mountain National Park:

  • Big Thompson River
  • Poudre River
  • Fall River
  • Mills Lake


person holds Greenback Cutthroat Trout at surface of lake

Cutthroat Trout

There are two kinds of cutthroat trout native to the waterways of Rocky Mountain National Park. Native to the east side, Greenback Cutthroat Trout hold a special place in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park. These beautiful native trout are a symbol of the park’s conservation efforts and its commitment to preserving the state’s natural heritage. In the clear mountain streams and high-altitude lakes of the park, the Greenback Cutthroat can be found, showcasing its vibrant and unmistakable colors. Their presence in these waters is a testament to the dedication of conservationists and the ongoing work to protect this threatened species. For anglers and nature enthusiasts, the opportunity to encounter and fish for these unique and precious trout in their native habitat is a rare and rewarding experience.

Here are some places where you can catch Greenback Cutthroat Trout:

  • North Fork Big Thompson River
  • Roaring River
  • Fern Lake
  • Sandbeach Lake
  • Ouzel Lake

West of the continental divide in Rocky Mountain National Park, there is a different species of cutthroat trout called the Colorado River Cutthroat, appropriately named after the major drainage that originates there. The Colorado River cutthroat trout displays a stunning yellow-gold body complemented by a brassy-green back and an orange belly. It typically features medium to large spots concentrated on the caudal peduncle and dorsal region, although the extent of spotting may vary depending on the region. Notably, these trout lack spotting on their pectoral, pelvic, and anal fins.

Here are some places where you can catch Colorado River Cutthroat Trout:

  • Colorado River
  • East and North Inlet Streams
  • Nanita Lake
  • Bench Lake
  • Haynach Lake


person holds brown trout above water

Brown Trout

Brown Trout, known for their distinctive appearance and challenging behavior, are a highly sought-after catch in Rocky Mountain National Park. These trout are easily recognizable by their olive-brown and yellow bodies covered in dark, sometimes red or orange spots. Renowned for their wariness and selective feeding habits, they are a challenging adversary for anglers. Anglers often appreciate the art of catching brown trout because of their elusive nature and their preference for a variety of bait and fly patterns.

As opportunistic predators, brown trout are known for their willingness to strike at a variety of lures and flies, which adds to the excitement of fishing for them. Their remarkable ability to adapt to various environments and their tendency to grow to impressive sizes further enhance their allure for anglers. Whether you’re fly fishing in the park’s streams or alpine lakes, the opportunity to land a trophy brown trout is an experience that every angler can appreciate.

Here are some places where you can catch Brown Trout in Rocky Mountain National Park:

  • Big Thompson River
  • Glacier Creek
  • Sprague Lake
  • Colorado River


a brook trout swims underwater

Brook Trout

Brook trout, scientifically known as Salvelinus fontinalis, are a common catch in Rocky Mountain National Park. Recognizable by their distinct appearance, brook trout are characterized by vibrant, colorful markings, with a dark green to brownish body adorned by a profusion of red spots surrounded by blue halos. Anglers are drawn to these beautiful fish not only for their striking appearance but also for their willingness to eat your flies, making them a friendly target for less experienced anglers.

Brook trout are known for their preference for cold, clear, and pristine mountain streams, which aligns perfectly with the park’s scenic environment. The pursuit of brook trout provides a rewarding experience, not just for their aesthetics but also for the thrill of conquering their elusive nature in the pristine waters of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Here are a few places where you can target Brook Trout in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Glacier Creek
  • Tyndall Creek
  • Upper Big Thompson River
  • North Fork Big Thompson River
  • North St. Vrain River
  • Tonahutu Creek
  • Glacier Creek

With its pristine high-altitude fisheries teeming with a variety of trout species, Rocky Mountain National Park is a haven for those seeking the thrill of the catch in a truly breathtaking alpine setting. The majestic landscapes, the serene lakes, and the flowing mountain streams make this a destination that draws anglers from near and far. Whether you’re casting your line for rainbow, brown, brook, or greenback cutthroat trout, the unparalleled beauty of the park serves as the perfect backdrop for a fishing adventure you’ll cherish forever. Come, cast your line, and immerse yourself in the unparalleled majesty of Rocky Mountain National Park fly fishing – where the trout and the scenery are both equally awe-inspiring.

Have more questions about the trout of Rocky Mountain National Park or fly fishing in Estes Park? Call our Estes Park fly fishing shop for more information or book a guided fly fishing trip in Estes Park!