Rocky Mountain Natl Park

Overview

Introduction

Located 60 mi/95 km northwest of Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park is a large area that includes magnificent peaks, valleys and nature trails. One of the park's most popular and fascinating features is the tundra that exists above the tree line (11,500 ft/3,505 m).

You can get a good look at the tundra by taking Trail Ridge Road, the park's main thoroughfare. This is a spectacularly scenic drive, parts of which evoke images of the Arctic. The 48-mi/77-km road climbs above the tree line and crosses the Continental Divide, reaching a maximum elevation of 12,183 ft/3,713 m. It's the highest continuously paved highway in the U.S. and is open only from Memorial Day through late October, depending on weather conditions, although the park is open year-round. (Don't be surprised if you feel a little light-headed and your car sounds a little different chugging through the thin air.)

With more than 350 mi/565 km of trails, Rocky Mountain National Park is a hiker's paradise. Outings can range from day hikes to very strenuous multiday excursions. Among the wildlife in the park are elk, mule deer, mountain sheep and even some elusive moose on the park's west side along the Colorado River.

The park can be explored by car, horseback, bicycle, snowshoes and, of course, on foot. The variety of hikes includes paved wheelchair-accessible routes to scaling to the top of Longs Peak at 14,259 ft/4,420 m and plenty in between for amateur day hikers. Be prepared for major crowds if you visit in the summer. In fact, you'd be smart to avoid the park on weekends, when traffic through Estes Park and into Rocky Mountain National Park inches along. Fall is a wonderful season to go, with fewer crowds, golden aspen leaves and huge herds of bugling elks.

Snowshoeing in the winter is also wonderful. The park has five campgrounds that are accessible by automobile. Two of them—Moraine Park and Glacier Basin—require reservations in the summer but are first-come, first-serve in the off-season. Campfire programs, many geared to the family, are held each evening. For hikers, there are additional backcountry campsites, though you'll need a permit for an overnight excursion. http://www.nps.gov/romo.

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