Rocky Mountain National Park
There are times when you live somewhere, you take your surroundings for granted. For the several years I lived in Denver, I did just that. And now I kick myself for not spending more time in Rocky Mountain National Park.
January 26th is the 101st birthday of the great RMNP, and I’d love to reminisce about the time I was at the park last year.
I flew into Denver to visit my dear friend Rick, and he was gracious enough to loan me his car for the day so I could trundle off and do my park thing. The drive to Estes Park from Denver is so beautiful, with long, winding roads and lots of open space. Estes Park is a small town and can get a bit bogged down in traffic (watch out for pedestrians!), but it’s a quick jet into the park from there.
Rocky is a pretty large park (265,761 acres/415 square miles) and is split by the Continental Divide. The east side of the park is typically a drier climate with glaciers and tundra and the western portion is wetter and forested. The park contains five visitor centers, including the main HQ at Beaver Meadows, which was designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.
The park has several big distinctions: the main Trail Ridge Road is the highest elevation paved road in the U.S.; there are four distinct ecosystems (montane forest and subalpine on the lower altitudes and alpine tundra and glacier basins in the upper regions); and one quarter of the park lies above the tree line! With over 350 miles of trails, Rocky Mountain National Park is a place where you can spend days and experience something new every day.
Driving up to the Alpine peak, the road can be tricky, since you want to see the gorgeous vistas surrounding you. Plan your stops accordingly - the Alpine Visitors Center, at the peak of the park, can get very crowded around meal times, and the parking lot backs up onto Trail Ridge Road in both directions.
Be on the lookout for great wildlife sightings!
I will admit that the Alpine side is my favorite. Not that I don’t like the wetlands/forest area (it’s still quite gorgeous!), but I grew up in Louisiana, so the vast tundra is fascinating and beautiful to me.
Plan to go:
Rocky Mountain National Park is open 24/7, but during weather intense seasons (rain/snow), check with their website for road closures and other emergency information.
The entry fee for the park is $8 for 7 days. Reservations are strongly recommended if you intend to camp out in the park and permits are required if you will be out in the backcountry.
Spring and fall are busy seasons, but any time of the year is breathtaking.
all photos taken by sandra with the Olympus OMD EM-10 and Olympus lenses.