Rocky Mountain National Park Travel Guide
Rocky Mountain National Park is located in the northern parts of the state of Colorado and on both sides of the Continental Divide. It covers 415 square miles of territory and includes high mountain peaks, forests, meadows, and both alpine and sub-alpine climate zones. The park draws huge numbers of U.S. tourists every year and offers a wide range of activities and sights to see.
The park’s land once belonged to the Ute Indians, who used the area for hunting into the 18th Century. But later, the Arapaho Indians came from the east and drove the Ute out. In 1820, Stephen Long went on an exploratory expedition through the area, and Long’s Peak was later named after him. Some settlement came in 1860’s, and from the 1880’s, mining and logging took hold. It wasn’t until 1915 that the park was established. It began relatively small but was expanded over the years to reach its present size.
Things to see and do in Rocky Mountain National Park
Go hiking on the over 350 miles of trails, which vary greatly in difficulty level but always give you glimpses at nature’s beauty, including towering, snow-capped peaks, serene woodlands, grassy valleys, mountain lakes, and fields of wildflowers. Consider taking the arduous Keyhole Route to the top of Longs Peak or the more gentle trail that winds around scenic Bear Lake.
Go on a scenic drive down Trail Ridge Road. The road reaches over 12,000 feet above sea level at one point, and there are many scenic lookouts along the way. Also consider Old Fall River Road, which takes you through a forest of aspen trees and over a number of rivers.
Go horseback riding through the park. Start at either Glacier Creek Stables or Moraine Park Stables, both of which open around Memorial Day.
Look for wildlife, and bring your camera. The park is home to bighorn sheep, an elk herd, mule deer, a host of butterflies, and numerous other species. In fact, it is one of the premier places in the U.S. to view wildlife.
Camp at any of the five park campgrounds, but be sure to make reservations ahead to secure your site. Also consider getting a special permit to use the park’s designated “wilderness campsites.”
Fish at any of the 50 lakes and the numerous rivers and streams in the park. Both native and introduced cutthroat trout species are the main draw for fishermen.
Rocky Mountain National Park is known for its extreme weather, which differs greatly based on elevation. In general, however, summers are moderately warm and rather sunny, while winters are cold and snowy. Fall is the dry season. Summer and fall are both busy tourist seasons, but spring is also a great time to visit to see the wildflowers in full bloom.
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