Elk Bugling on the Western Slope | RMHP Blog



Elk Bugling on the Western Slope

Where to Hear and See Elk Bugle in Western Colorado

During the summer, male and female elk remain in separate herds. Near the end of September and beginning of October, everyone comes down to lower elevation meadows to mate, and the male elks start their famous bugle calls. The noise attracts females while warning other males to stay away, and it’s an amazing Colorado wildlife experience for humans.


Here are some of the best places to hear elk bugle along the Western Slope.


Elk bugling in the West Elk Wilderness near Gunnison

The West Elk Wilderness is an expansive swath of pristine wilderness west of Gunnison, and it’s a prime location to hear elk bugle. Your best bet for finding a good viewing spot is to look at a map of the area. A massive network of trails snakes along the valley’s floors, making this area perfect for backpacking and hiking trips.


Elk bugling in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Kawuneechee Valley

On the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park, you’ll find some of the best spots to watch and hear the elk go through their mating rituals — Kawuneechee Valley.


This picturesque spot is home to a stunning meadow filled with plant and animal life, making it one of the best spots to view different types of wildlife within the park. There are trails to explore and scenic camping spots. Stop at the Visitor Center for some insider tips on where to see elk.


Additional elk viewing spots along the Western Slope

You can find elk throughout Colorado if you know where to look, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife has created an elk-watching brochure that lists the top spots.


Scroll to the map on page 8 for a list of deer and elk viewing sites. There are a variety of spots on the Western Slope, making it easy to find a spot near you.


Elk watching safety tips

As more and more people discover the magic of hearing elk bugle in the fall, it’s more important than ever that we all safely and respectfully enjoy the experience. Please keep these safety tips in mind, and share them with others.


  • When viewing wildlife, stay on the road and out of meadows (especially in Rocky Mountain National Park, which can be quite a busy place).
  • After parking your car, turn everything off, including the lights and radio. This will give you a greater chance of seeing elk, and it’s also respectful — we’re in their home, after all.
  • Bring binoculars so you can see everything, up close and personal, from a safe distance.
  • Don’t use lights or calls to attract the elk. It’s illegal.
  • Never approach elk or any other wildlife for any reason. People have been injured trying to get that perfect photograph, but it’s unsafe and disrespectful. A camera with a zoom lens is a much better option.