Located in the north-central part of Colorado, the Rocky Mountain National Park is spread across 265,761 acres of land. The park is split into two distinct portions, resulting from the Continental Divide, owing to which, each portion has its own distinct character. The eastern portion is dry and boasts of cirques and glaciated peaks. On the other hand, the western portion is a wetter region, dominated by deep, lush green forests.
A trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park is something that each and every visitor to Colorado should undertake. With its grassy meadows, crisp alpine air, awe-inspiring lakes and streams, snowcapped peaks, and a stunning wildlife, the park attracts over three million tourists each year. Here is Buzzle’s guide to help you plan your trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Tips to Plan a Trip
When to Go
The park is open all through the year; however, it is fully accessible for only half the year. Mid-June to mid-August is the busiest period in the park, and so, it is heavily crowded at this time. However, if you want to avoid crowds, the best time to visit is during winter; it is bitterly cold; however, it is also serene and peaceful.
Traveling to the Park
► The park’s nearest airport is the Denver International Airport, which is located at a distance of 1 hour and 45 minutes from the park.
► Private car rentals are available from the Denver International Airport. Another affordable option from the airport is to take the Estes Park Shuttle service that offers trips to the neighboring Estes Park and back, at reasonable rates.
► If you are traveling in winter, you can also access the park via the Eagle County Regional Airport, which provides only seasonal services.
Traveling in the Park
► In the park, most major trailheads can be easily accessed by car. There are three roads that can guide tourists through the park.
► The Trail Ridge Road, a.k.a. U.S. Highway 34 or the Beaver Meadow National Scenic Byway, is the highest continuous paved road in the United States. This is a long road, spanning across the Continental Divide, and providing access to both sides of the park.
► The Old Fall River Road was the first ever road to have penetrated the park, and it linked both sides. It still exists; however, it is a narrow route, permitting only one-way traffic from Sheep Lakes to the Alpine Visitor Center.
Note: The Trail Ridge and the Old Fall River roads are closed in winter, and generally, do not open till late spring.
► The 10-miles long Bear Lake Road begins close to the Beaver Meadows Entrance, and provides access to the Moraine Park and the Bear Lake. The Bear Lake Road is open throughout the year.
► The Rocky Mountain National Park does not have any lodging facilities within its premises; however, these can be found in the nearby towns of Grand Lake and Estes Park.
► The park offers ample camping facilities; it has two designated areas for group camping―one each for summer and winter seasons―and five drive-in campgrounds. While some of these campsites require people to make prior reservations, others work on a first-come, first-served basis.
► Furthermore, if you intend to camp overnight in the park’s backcountry or wilderness, you will require a special permit to do so. In order to ensure minimum human intervention in the park’s natural resources, only a limited number of permits are granted annually, and you may obtain one from the Backcountry offices in the park.
Altitude sickness is one of the major issues that most visitors to the park have to face. The entire park is at an elevation of 7,500 feet, with more elevated areas going as high as 14,259 feet. It takes a little time to get acclimatized to such a height, and many visitors may experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, dehydration, and so on. Drinking plenty of water can decrease the intensity of altitude sickness.
Things to Do
► With an extremely adventurous terrain, the Rocky Mountain National Park offers a lot of thrilling activities. These include hiking, climbing, horseback riding, river rafting, kayaking, boating, and fishing.
► Scenery is the main attraction of the park, and hence, even if you are not an adventure-seeker, the park will still treat you well. The park offers guided wildlife and birdwatching tours, alongside some easy hikes and scenic drives. All these make for some great individual as well as family fun.
► For curious minds, there are a variety of nature-centric learning programs offered in the park. Right from mountain ecology to learning how to track a moose to the junior ranger program, there are plenty of learning opportunities for visitors of all ages.
Note: Follow what your guides tell you, and do not break any rules. Moreover, respect the sanctity of the natural environment of the park, and do not harm or provoke the wild animals.
► You can also visit the various visitor centers, located in the different parts of the park. Apart from having curio shops and bookstores, they also have different kinds of exhibits and displays related to the park.
► While you are in the park, the weather can change suddenly and drastically. A bright and sunny day can suddenly turn highly windy and wet (or snowy). So, wear layered clothing, and carry sunny and rainy gear.
► If you get caught amidst a lightning storm, stay away from isolated tress and summits, and try to find shelter. However, do not enter small caves, etc.
► Wild animals are very unpredictable. Maintain a safe distance at all times, do not feed them, and avoid doing things that may threaten or provoke them.
► Do not drink water from the park streams as it may cause water-borne disease(s).
► If you are on a snowfield, be particularly careful, and avoid strolling on steep slopes, unless you are accompanied by a guide.
So, whether you are planning to go with a loved one or with your family, the Rocky Mountain National Park will come across as a great getaway. Indulge in adventure activities, delve in moments of peace, and take a lot of photographs. This will indeed be a memory to cherish.