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When a hotel search in Rocky Mountains is done, please select the room type, the included meals and the suitable booking conditions (for example, "Deluxe double room, Breakfast included, Non-Refundable"). Press the "View Deal" ("Book Now") button. Make your booking on a hotel booking website and get the hotel reservation voucher by email. That's it, a perfect hotel in Rocky Mountains is waiting for you!

Hotels of Rocky Mountains

A hotel in Rocky Mountains is an establishment that provides lodging paid on a short-term basis. Facilities provided may range from a basic bed and storage for clothing, to luxury features like en-suite bathrooms. Larger in Rocky Mountains hotels may provide additional guest facilities such as a swimming pool, business centre, childcare, conference facilities and social function services. Hotel rooms in Rocky Mountains are usually numbered (or named in some smaller hotels and B&Bs) to allow guests to identify their room. Some Rocky Mountains hotels offer meals as part of a room and board arrangement. Hotel operations vary in size, function, and cost. Most Rocky Mountains hotels and major hospitality companies that operate hotels in Rocky Mountains have set widely accepted industry standards to classify hotel types. General categories include the following:

Upscale luxury hotels in Rocky Mountains
An upscale full service hotel facility in Rocky Mountains that offers luxury amenities, full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and the highest level of personalized and professional service. Luxury Rocky Mountains hotels are normally classified with at least a Four Diamond or Five Diamond status or a Four or Five Star rating depending on classification standards.

Full service hotels in Rocky Mountains
Full service Rocky Mountains hotels often contain upscale full-service facilities with a large volume of full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and a variety of on-site amenities such as swimming pools, a health club, children's activities, ballrooms, on-site conference facilities, etc.

Historic inns and boutique hotels in Rocky Mountains
Boutique hotels of Rocky Mountains are smaller independent non-branded hotels that often contain upscale facilities of varying size in unique or intimate settings with full service accommodations. Rocky Mountains boutique hotels are generally 100 rooms or less. Some historic inns and boutique hotels in Rocky Mountains may be classified as luxury hotels.

Focused or select service hotels in Rocky Mountains
Small to medium-sized hotel establishments that offer a limited amount of on-site amenities that only cater and market to a specific demographic of Rocky Mountains travelers, such as the single business traveler. Most Rocky Mountains focused or select service hotels may still offer full service accommodations but may lack leisure amenities such as an on-site restaurant or a swimming pool.

Economy and limited service hotels in Rocky Mountains
Small to medium-sized Rocky Mountains hotel establishments that offer a very limited amount of on-site amenities and often only offer basic accommodations with little to no services, these facilities normally only cater and market to a specific demographic of travelers, such as the budget-minded Rocky Mountains traveler seeking a "no frills" accommodation. Limited service Rocky Mountains hotels often lack an on-site restaurant but in return may offer a limited complimentary food and beverage amenity such as on-site continental breakfast service.

Guest houses and B&Bs in Rocky Mountains
A bed and breakfast in Rocky Mountains is a small lodging establishment that offers overnight accommodation and inclusive breakfast. Usually, Rocky Mountains bed and breakfasts are private homes or family homes offering accommodations. The typical Rocky Mountains B&B has between 4 and 11 rooms, with 6 being the average. Generally, guests are accommodated in private bedrooms with private bathrooms, or in a suite of rooms including an en suite bathroom. Some homes have private bedrooms with a bathroom which is shared with other guests. Breakfast is served in the bedroom, a dining room, or the host's kitchen. Often the owners of guest house themselves prepare the breakfast and clean the rooms.

Hostels in Rocky Mountains
Rocky Mountains hostels provide budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge, and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex, although private rooms may also be available. Hostels are often cheaper for both the operator and occupants; many Rocky Mountains hostels have long-term residents whom they employ as desk agents or housekeeping staff in exchange for experience or discounted accommodation.

Apartment hotels, extended stay hotels in Rocky Mountains
Extended stay hotels are small to medium-sized Rocky Mountains hotels that offer longer term full service accommodations compared to a traditional hotel. Extended stay hotels may offer non-traditional pricing methods such as a weekly rate that cater towards travelers in need of short-term accommodations for an extended period of time. Similar to limited and select service hotels, on-site amenities are normally limited and most extended stay hotels in Rocky Mountains lack an on-site restaurant.

Timeshare and destination clubs in Rocky Mountains
Rocky Mountains timeshare and destination clubs are a form of property ownership also referred to as a vacation ownership involving the purchase and ownership of an individual unit of accommodation for seasonal usage during a specified period of time. Timeshare resorts in Rocky Mountains often offer amenities similar that of a Full service hotel with on-site restaurant(s), swimming pools, recreation grounds, and other leisure-oriented amenities. Destination clubs of Rocky Mountains on the other hand may offer more exclusive private accommodations such as private houses in a neighborhood-style setting.

Motels in Rocky Mountains
A Rocky Mountains motel is a small-sized low-rise lodging establishment similar to that of a limited service hotel, but with direct access to individual rooms from the car park. Common during the 1950s and 1960s, motels were often located adjacent to a major road, where they were built on inexpensive land at the edge of towns or along stretches of highways. They are still useful in less populated areas of Rocky Mountains for driving travelers, but the more populated an area becomes the more hotels fill the need. Many of Rocky Mountains motels which remain in operation have joined national franchise chains, rebranding themselves as hotels, inns or lodges.

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Travelling and vacation in Rocky Mountains

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Rocky Mountain National Park
IUCN category II (national park)
Rocky Mountain National Park in September 2011 - Glacier Gorge from Bear Lake.JPG
View from Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
Map showing the location of Rocky Mountain National Park
Map showing the location of Rocky Mountain National Park
Location Larimer / Grand / Boulder counties, Colorado, United States
Nearest city Estes Park and Grand Lake, Colorado
Coordinates  / 40.33333; -105.70889  / 40.33333; -105.70889
Area 265,461 acres (1,074.28 km)
Established January 26, 1915
Visitors 4,517,585 (in 2016)
Governing body National Park Service
Website Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is a United States national park located approximately 76 mi (122 km) northwest of Denver International Airport in north-central Colorado, within the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The park is situated between the towns of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west. The eastern and westerns slopes of the Continental Divide run directly through the center of the park with the headwaters of the Colorado River located in the park's northwestern region. The main features of the park include mountains, alpine lakes and a wide variety of wildlife within various climates and environments, from wooded forests to mountain tundra.

The Rocky Mountain National Park Act was signed by then–President Woodrow Wilson on January 26, 1915, establishing the park boundaries and protecting the area for future generations. The Civilian Conservation Corps built the main automobile route, named Trail Ridge Road, in the 1930s. In 1976, UNESCO designated the park as one of the first World Biosphere Reserves. In 2016, more than four and a half million recreational visitors entered the park, which is an increase of about nine percent from the prior year.

The park has a total of five visitor centers with park headquarters located at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center-a National Historic Landmark designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture at Taliesin West. National Forest lands surround the park including Roosevelt National Forest to the north and east, Routt National Forest to the north and west, and Arapaho National Forest to the west and south, with the Indian Peaks Wilderness area located directly south of the park.

Rocky Mountain National Park: History

The history of Rocky Mountain National Park began when Paleo-Indians traveled along what is now Trail Ridge Road to hunt and forage for food. Ute and Arapaho people subsequently hunted and camped in the area. In 1820, the Long Expedition, led by Stephen H. Long for whom Longs Peak was named, approached the Rockies via the Platte River. Settlers began arriving in the mid-1800s, displacing the Native Americans who mostly left the area voluntarily by 1860, while others were removed to reservations by 1878.

Lulu City, Dutchtown, and Gaskill in the Never Summer Mountains were established in the 1870s when prospectors came in search of gold and silver. The boom ended by 1883 with miners deserting their claims. The railroad reached Lyons, Colorado in 1881 and the Big Thompson Canyon Road-a section of U.S. Route 34 from Loveland to Estes Park-was completed in 1904. The 1920s saw a boom in building lodges and roads in the park, culminating with the construction of Trail Ridge Road to Fall River Pass between 1929 and 1932, then to Grand Lake by 1938.

Prominent individuals in the effort to create a national park included Enos Mills from the Estes Park area, James Grafton Rogers from Denver, and J. Horace McFarland of Pennsylvania. The national park was established on January 26, 1915.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Geology

Precambrian metamorphic rock formed the core of the North American continent during the Precambrian eon 4.5–1 billion years ago. During the Paleozoic era, western North America was submerged beneath a shallow sea, with a seabed composed of limestone and dolomite deposits many kilometers thick. Pikes Peak granite formed during the late Precambrian eon, continuing well into the Paleozoic era, when mass quantities of molten rock flowed, amalgamated, and formed the continents about 1 billion–300 million years ago. Concurrently, in the period from 500–300 million years ago, the region began to sink while lime and mud sediments were deposited in the vacated space. Eroded granite produced sand particles that formed strata-layers of sediment-in the sinking basin.

About 300 million years ago, the land was uplifted creating the ancestral Rocky Mountains. Fountain Formation was deposited during the Pennsylvanian period of the Paleozoic era, 290–296 million years ago. Over the next 150 million years, the mountains uplifted, continued to erode, and covered themselves in their own sediment. Wind, gravity, rainwater, snow, and glacial ice eroded the granite mountains over geologic time scales. The Ancestral Rockies were eventually buried under subsequent strata.

Cretaceous seaway

The Pierre Shale formation was deposited during the Paleogene and Cretaceous periods about 70 million years ago. The region was covered by a deep sea-the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway-which deposited massive amounts of shale on the seabed. Both the thick stratum of shale and embedded marine life fossils-including ammonites and skeletons of fish and such marine reptiles as mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, and extinct species of sea turtles, along with rare dinosaur and bird remains-were created during this time period. The area now known as Colorado was eventually transformed from being at the bottom of an ocean to dry land again, giving yield to another fossiliferous rock layer known as the Denver Formation.

Location of the Rocky Mountains

At about 68 million years ago, the Front Range began to rise again due to the Laramide orogeny in the west. During the Cenozoic era, block uplift formed the present Rocky Mountains. The geologic composition of Rocky Mountain National Park was also affected by deformation and erosion during that era. The uplift disrupted the older drainage patterns and created the present drainage patterns.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Glaciation

Andrews Glacier

Glacial geology in Rocky Mountain National Park can be seen from the mountain peaks to the valley floors. Ice is a powerful sculptor of this natural environment and large masses of moving ice are the most powerful tools. Telltale marks of giant glaciers can be seen all throughout the park. Streams and glaciations during the Quaternary period cut through the older sediment, creating mesa tops and alluvial plains, and revealing the present Rocky Mountains. The glaciation removed as much as 5,000 feet (1,500 m) of sedimentary rocks from earlier inland sea deposits. This erosion exposed the basement rock of the Ancestral Rockies. Evidence of the uplifting and erosion can be found on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park in the hogbacks of the Front Range foothills. Many sedimentary rocks from the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras exist in the basins surrounding the park.

While the glaciation periods are largely in the past, the park still has several small glaciers. The glaciers include Andrews, Sprague, Tyndall, Taylor, Rowe, Mills, and Moomaw Glaciers.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Geography

Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses 265,461 acres (414.78 sq mi; 1,074.28 km) of federal land, with an additional 253,059 acres (395.40 sq mi; 1,024.09 km) of U.S. Forest Service wilderness adjoining the park boundaries. The Continental Divide runs generally north–south through the center of the park, with rivers and streams on the western side of the divide flowing toward the Pacific Ocean while those on the eastern side flow toward the Atlantic.

A geographical anomaly is found along the slopes of the Never Summer Mountains where the Continental Divide forms a horseshoe–shaped bend for about 6 miles (9.7 km), heading from south–to–north but then curving sharply southward and westward out of the park. The sharp bend results in streams on the eastern slopes of the range joining the headwaters of the Colorado River that flow south and west, eventually reaching the Pacific. Meanwhile, streams on the western slopes join rivers that flow north and then east and south eventually reaching the Atlantic.

The headwaters of the Colorado River are located in the park's northwestern region. The park contains approximately 450 miles (724 km) of rivers and streams, 350 miles (563 km) of trails, and 150 lakes.

View from Many Parks Curve on Trail Ridge Road. The "parks" in the Rockies are meadows that formed when glacial lakes drained.

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the highest national parks in the nation, with elevations from 7,860 to 14,259 feet (2,396 to 4,346 m), the highest point of which is Longs Peak. Sixty mountain peaks over 12,000 feet (3,658 m) high provide scenic vistas. On the north side of the park, the Mummy Range contains a number of thirteener peaks, including Hagues Peak, Mummy Mountain, Fairchild Mountain, Ypsilon Mountain, and Mount Chiquita. Several small glaciers and permanent snowfields are found in the high mountain cirques.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Ecosystems

Clickable examples of ecosystem elements

Colorado has one of the most diverse plant and animal environments of the United States, partially due to the dramatic temperature differences arising from varying elevation levels and topography. In dry climates, the average temperature drops 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit with every 1,000 foot increase in elevation (9.8 degrees Celsius per 1,000 meters). Most of Colorado is semi-arid with the mountains receiving the greatest amount of precipitation in the state.

The Continental Divide runs north to south through the park, creating a climatic division. Ancient glaciers carved the topography into a range of ecological zones. The east side of the Divide tends to be drier with heavily glaciated peaks and cirques. The west side of the park is wetter with more lush, deep forests.

There are four ecosystems, or zones, in Rocky Mountain National Park: montane, subalpine, alpine tundra, and riparian. The riparian zone occurs throughout all of the three other zones. Each individual ecosystem is composed of organisms interacting with one other and with their surrounding environment. Living organisms (biotic), along with the dead organic matter they produce, and the abiotic (non-living) environment that impacts those living organisms (water, weather, rocks, and landscape) are all members of an ecosystem.

The park was designated a World Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations in 1976 to protect its natural resources. The park's biodiversity includes afforestation and reforestation, ecology, inland bodies of water, and mammals, while its ecosystems are managed for nature conservation, environmental education and public recreation purposes. The areas of research and monitoring include ungulate ecology and management, high-altitude revegetation, global change, acid precipitation effects, and aquatic ecology and management.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Montane

View from the Fall River Road illustrating the montane ecosystem with forested slopes and grassland in between

The montane ecosystem is at the lowest elevations in the park, between 5,600 to 9,500 feet (1,700 to 2,900 m), where the slopes and large meadow valleys support the widest range of plant and animal life, including montane forests, grasslands, and shrublands. The area has meandering rivers and during the summer, wildflowers grow in the open meadows. Ponderosa pine trees, grass, shrubs and herbs live on dry, south-facing slopes. North-facing slopes retain moisture better than those that face south. The soil better supports dense populations of trees, like Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, and ponderosa pine. There are also occasional Engelmann spruce and blue spruce trees. Quaking aspens thrive in high-moisture montane soils. Other water-loving small trees like willows, grey alder, and water birch may be found along streams or lakeshores. Water-logged soil in flat montane valleys may be unable to support growth of evergreen forests. The following areas are part of the montane ecosystem: Moraine Park, Horseshoe Park, Kawuneeche Valley, and Upper Beaver Meadows.

Some of the mammals that inhabit the montane ecosystem include snowshoe hares, coyotes, cougars, beavers, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep, black bears, and Rocky Mountain elk. During the fall, visitors often flock to the park to witness the elk rut.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Subalpine

From 9,000 ft (2,700 m) to 11,000 ft (3,400 m), the montane forests give way to subalpine forests. Forests of fir and Engelmann spruce cover the mountainsides in subalpine areas. Trees grow straight and tall in the lower subalpine forests, but become shorter and more deformed the nearer they are to the tree line. At the tree line, seedlings may germinate on the lee side of rocks and grow only as high as the rock provides wind protection, with any further growth being more horizontal than vertical. The low growth of dense trees is called krummholz, which may become well-established and live for several hundred to a thousand years old.

Odessa Lake in the subalpine ecosystem

In the subalpine zone, lodgepole pines and huckleberry have established themselves in previous burn areas. Crystal clear lakes and fields of wildflowers are hidden among the trees. Mammals of the subalpine zone include bobcats, cougars, coyotes, elk, mule deer, chipmunks, shrews, porcupines and yellow-bellied marmots. Black bears are attracted by the berries and seeds of subalpine forests. Clark's nutcracker, Steller's jay, mountain chickadee and yellow-rumped warbler are some of the many birds found in the subalpine zone. Sprague Lake and Odessa Lake are two of the park's subalpine lakes.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Alpine tundra

Above tree line, at approximately 11,000 ft (3,400 m), trees disappear and the vast alpine tundra takes over. Over one third of the park resides above the tree line, an area which limits plant growth due to the cold climate and strong winds. The few plants that can survive under such extreme conditions are mostly perennials. Many alpine plants are dwarfed at high elevations, though their occasional blossoms may be full-sized.

View on Tundra Communities Trail

Cushion plants have long taproots that extend deep into the rocky soil. Their diminutive size, like clumps of moss, limits the effect of harsh winds. Many flowering plants of the tundra have dense hairs on stems and leaves to provide wind protection or red-colored pigments capable of converting the sun's light rays into heat. Some plants take two or more years to form flower buds, which survive the winter below the surface and then open and produce fruit with seeds in the few weeks of summer. Grasses and sedges are common where tundra soil is well-developed.

Non-flowering lichens cling to rocks and soil. Their enclosed algal cells can photosynthesize at any temperature above 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 °C), and the outer fungal layers can absorb more than their own weight in water. Adaptations for survival amidst drying winds and cold temperatures may make tundra vegetation seem very hardy, but in some respects it remains very fragile. Footsteps can destroy tundra plants and it may take hundreds of years to recover. Mammals that live on the alpine tundra, or visit during the summer season, include bighorn sheep, elk, badgers, pikas, yellow-bellied marmots, and snowshoe hares. Birds include prairie falcons, white-tailed ptarmigans, and common ravens. Flowering plants include mertensia, sky pilot, alpine sunflowers, alpine dwarf columbine, and alpine forget-me-not. Grasses include kobresia, spike trisetum, spreading wheatgrass, and tufted hairgrass.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Riparian

Mountain stream along Fall River Road is an example of a riparian ecosystem.

The riparian ecosystem runs through the montane, subalpine, and alpine tundra zones and creates a foundation for life, especially for species that thrive next to streams, rivers, and lakes. The headwaters of the Colorado River, which provides water to many of the southwestern states, are located on the west side of the park. The Fall River, Cache la Poudre River and Big Thompson Rivers are located on the east side of the park. Just like the other ecosystems in the park, the riparian zone is affected by the climatic variables of temperature, precipitation, and elevation. Generally, riparian zones in valleys will have cooler temperatures than communities located on slopes and ridge tops. Depending on elevation, a riparian zone may have more or less precipitation than other riparian zones in the park, with the difference creating a shift in the types of plants and animals found in a specific zone.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Climate

The complex interactions of elevation, slope, exposure and regional-scale air masses determine the climate within the park, which is noted for its extreme weather patterns. A "collision of air masses" from several directions produces some of the key weather events in the region. When cold arctic air from the north meets warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico at the Front Range, "intense, very wet snowfalls with total snow depth measured in the feet" accumulate in the park.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Elevation

Higher elevation areas within the park receive twice as much precipitation as lower elevation areas, generally in the form of deep winter snowfall. Arctic conditions are prevalent during the winter, with sudden blizzards, high winds, and deep snowpack. High country overnight trips require gear suitable for -35 °F or below.

Wild roses (Rosa acicularis) bloom from montane to subalpine regions

The subalpine region does not begin to experience spring-like conditions until June. Wildflowers bloom from late June to early August.

Below 9,400 feet (2,865 m), temperatures are often moderate, although nighttime temperatures are cool, as is typical of mountain weather. Spring comes to the montane area by early May, when wildflowers begin to bloom. Spring weather is subject to unpredictable changes in temperature and precipitation, with potential for snow along trails through May. In July and August, temperatures are generally in the 70s or 80s °F during the day, and as low as the 40s °F at night. Lower elevations receive rain as most of their summer precipitation.

Sudden dramatic changes in the weather may occur during the summer, typically due to afternoon thunderstorms that can cause as much as a 20 °F drop in temperature and windy conditions.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Continental Divide

The park's climate is also affected by the Continental Divide, which runs northwest to southeast through the center of the park atop the high peaks. The Continental Divide creates two distinct climate patterns - one typical of the east side near Estes Park and the other associated with the Grand Lake area on the park's west side. The west side of the park experiences more snow, less wind, and clear cold days during the winter months.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Climate change study

Rocky Mountain National Park was selected to participate in a climate change study, along with two other National Park Service areas in the Rocky Mountain region and three in the Appalachian Mountain region. The study began in 2011, orchestrated by members of the academic scientific community in cooperation with the National Park Service and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The stated objective: "develop and apply decision support tools that use NASA and other data and models to assess vulnerability of ecosystems and species to climate and land use change and evaluate management options."

Trees killed by mountain pine beetles.

As of 2010, the preceding one hundred years of records indicated an increase in the average annual temperature of approximately 3 °F (1.7 °C). The average low temperature has increased more than the average high temperature during the same time period. As a result of the temperature increase, snow is melting from the mountains earlier in the year, leading to drier summers and probably to an earlier, longer fire season. Since the 1990s, mountain pine beetles have reproduced more rapidly and have not died off at their previous mortality rate during the winter months. Consequently, the increased beetle population has led to an increased rate of tree mortality in the park.

The climate change study projects further temperature increases, with greater warming in the summer and higher extreme temperatures by 2050. Due to the increased temperature, there is a projected moderate increase in the rate of water evaporation. Reduced snowfall-perhaps 15% to 30% less than current amounts-and the elimination of surface hail, along with the higher likelihood of intense precipitation events are predicted by 2050. Droughts may be more likely due to increased temperatures, increased evaporation rates, and potential changes in precipitation.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Park regions

There are five regions, or geographical zones, within the park.

Rocky Mountain National Park: 1 - Moose and big meadows

Region 1 is known for moose and big meadows and is located on the west, or Grand Lake, side of the Continental Divide. Thirty miles of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail loop through the park and pass through alpine tundra and scenery.

Bull elk in a meadow several miles downstream from the headwaters of the Colorado River

The Big Meadows area with its grasses and wildflowers can be reached via the Onahu, Tonahutu, or Green Mountain trail. Other scenic areas include Long Meadows and the Kawuneeche Valley (Coyote Valley) of the upper Colorado River which is a good place for birdwatching, as well as showshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter. The valley trail loops through Kawuneeche Valley which contained as many as 39 mines, though less than 20 of those have archived records and archeological remains. LuLu City is the site of an abandoned silver mining town of the early 1880s located along the Colorado River Trail. According to a 1985 report prepared for the NRHP, there were only three cabin ruins remaining along with remnants of six other buildings.

Baker Pass crosses the Continental Divide through the Never Summer Mountains and into the Michigan River drainage to the west of Mount Nimbus-a drainage that feeds streams and rivers that drain into the Gulf of Mexico. Other mountain passes are La Poudre Pass and Thunder Pass, which was once used by stage coaches and is a route to Michigan Lakes. Little Yellowstone has unique geological features similar to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The Green Mountain trail once was a wagon road used to haul hay from Big Meadows. Flattop Mountain, which can be accessed from the eastern and western sides of the park, is near Green Mountain. Shadow Mountain Lookout-a wildfire observation tower-is on the National Register of Historic Places. Paradise Park is an essentially hidden and protected wild area with no maintained trails penetrating it.

Skeleton Gulch, Cascade Falls, North Inlet Falls, Granite Falls, and Adams Falls are found in the west side of the park. The west side lakes include Bowen Lake, Lake Verna, Lake of the Clouds, Haynach Lakes, Timber Lake, Lone Pine Lake, Lake Nanita, and Lake Nokoni.

Rocky Mountain National Park: 2 - Alpine region

Alpine tundra landscape

Region 2 is the alpine region of the park with accessible tundra trails at high elevations-an area known for its spectacular vistas. Within the region are Mount Ida, with tundra slopes and a wide-open view of the Continental Divide, and Specimen Mountain, which has a steep trail and the opportunity to view bighorn sheep and marmots. Forest Canyon Pass is near the top of the Old Ute Trail that once linked villages across the Continental Divide.

Chapin Pass trail traverses a dense forest to beautiful views of the Chapin Creek valley, proceeding onward above timberline to the western flank of Mount Chapin. Tundra Communities Trail, accessible from Trail Ridge Road, is a hike offering tundra views and alpine wildflowers. Other trails are Tombstone Ridge and Ute Trail, which starts at the tundra and is mostly downhill from Ute Crossing to Upper Beaver Meadows, with one backcountry camping site. Cache La Poudre River trail begins north of Poudre Lake on the west side of the valley near Milner Pass and heads downward toward the Mummy Pass trail junction. Lake Irene is a recreation and picnic area.

Rocky Mountain National Park: 3 - Wilderness

Region 3, known for wilderness escape, is in the northern part of the park and is accessed from the Estes Park area.

The Mummy Range is a short mountain range in the north of the park. The Mummies tend to be gentler and more forested than the other peaks in the park, though some slopes are rugged and heavily glaciated, particularly around Ypsilon Mountain and Mummy Mountain. Bridal Veil Falls is a scenic point and trail accessible from the Cow Creek trailhead, at the Continental Divide Research Center. West Creek Falls and Chasm Falls, near Old Fall River Road, are also in this region. The Alluvial Fan trail leads to a bridge over the river that had been the site of the Lawn Lake Flood.

Lumpy Ridge Trail leads to Paul Bunyan's Boot at about 1.5 mi (2.4 km) from the trailhead, then Gem Lake, and a further 2.2 mi (3.5 km) to Balanced Rock. Black Canyon Trail intersects Cow Creek Trail, forming part of the Gem Lake loop which goes through the old McGregor Ranch valley, passing Lumpy Ridge rock formations, with a loop hike that goes into the McGraw Ranch valley.

Cow Creek Trail follows Cow Creek, with its many beaver ponds, extending past the Bridal Falls turnoff as the Dark Mountain trail, then joining the Black Canyon trail to intersect the Lawn Lake trail shortly below the lake. North Boundary Trail connects to the Lost Lake trail system. North Fork Trail begins outside of the park in the Comanche Peak Wilderness before reaching the park boundary and ending at Lost Lake. Stormy Peaks Trail connects Colorado State University's Pingree Park campus in the Comanche Peak Wilderness and the North Fork Trail inside the park.

Beaver Mountain Loop, also used by horseback riders, passes through forests and meadows, crosses Beaver Brook and several aspen-filled drainages, and has a great view of Longs Peak. Deer Mountain Trail gives a 360 degree view of eastern part of the park. The summit plateau of Deer Mountain offers expansive views of the Continental Divide. During the winter, the lower trail generally has little snow, though packed and drifted snow are to be expected on the switchbacks. Snow cover on the summit may be three to five feet deep, requiring the use of snowshoes or skis.

The trail to Lake Estes in Estes Park meanders through a bird sanctuary, beside a golf course, along the Big Thompson River and Fish Creek, through the lakeside picnic area and along the lakeshore. The trail is used by birdwatchers, bikers and hikers.

Lawn Lake Trail climbs to Lawn Lake and Crystal Lake, one of the parks deepest lakes, in the alpine ecosystem and along the course of the Roaring River. The river shows the massive damage caused by a dam failure in 1982 that claimed the lives of three campers. The trail is a strenuous snowshoe hike in the winter. Ypsilon Lake Trail leads to its namesake as well as Chipmunk Lake, with views of Longs Peak, while traversing pine forests with grouseberry and bearberry bushes. The trail also offers views of the canyon gouged out by rampaging water that broke loose from Lawn Lake Dam in 1982. Visible is the south face of Ypsilon Mountain, with its Y shaped gash rising sharply from the shoreline.

Gem Lake is high among the rounded granite domes of Lumpy Ridge. Untouched by glaciation, this outcrop of 1.8 billion-year-old granite has been sculpted by wind and chemical erosion into a backbone-like ridge. Pillars, potholes, and balanced rocks are found around the midpoint of the trail, along with views of the Estes Valley and Continental Divide. Potts Puddle trail is accessible from the Black Canyon trail.

Rocky Mountain National Park: 4 - Heart of the park

Bear Lake

Region 4 is the heart of the park with easy road and trail access, great views, and lake hikes including the most popular trails. Flattop Mountain is a tundra hike and the easiest hike to the Continental Divide. The hike up Hallett Peak passes through three climate zones, crossing over Flattop Mountain, traversing the ridge that supports Tyndall Glacier, and finally ascending to the summit of Hallett Peak.

Bear Lake is a high-elevation lake in a spruce and fir forest at the base of Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain. Bierstadt Lake sits atop a lateral moraine named Bierstadt Moraine, and drains into Mill Creek. There are several trails that lead to Bierstadt Lake through groves of aspens and lodgepole pines. North of Bierstadt Moraine is Hollowell Park, a large and marshy meadow along Mill Creek. The Hollowell Park trail runs along Steep Mountain's south side. Ranches, lumber and sawmill enterprises operated in Hollowell Park into the early 1900s.

Glacial Basin was the site of a resort run by Abner and Alberta Sprague, after whom Sprague Lake is named. The lake is a shallow body of water that was created when the Spragues dammed Boulder Brook to create a fish pond. Sprague Lake is a popular place for birdwatching, hiking and viewing the mountain peaks, along with camping at the Glacier Basin campground.

Emerald Lake and Hallett Peak

Dream Lake is one of the most-photographed lakes and is also noted for its winter showshoeing. Emerald Lake is located directly below the saddle between Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain, only a short hike beyond Dream Lake. The shore of Lake Haiyaha (a Native American word for "big rocks") is surrounded by boulders along with ancient, twisted and picturesque pine trees growing out of rock crevices. Nymph Lake is named for the yellow lily, Nymphaea polysepala, on its surface. Lake Helene is at the head of Odessa Gorge, east of Notchtop Mountain. Two Rivers Lake is found along the hike to Odessa Lake from Bear Lake, and has one backcountry campsite. The Cub Lake trail passes Big Thompson River, flowery meadows, and stands of pine and aspen trees. Ice and deep snow are present during the winter, requiring the use of skis or snowshoes.

The Fern Lake trail passes Arch Rock formations, The Pool, and the cascading water of Fern Falls. Two backcountry campsites are located near the lake, and two more are closer to the trailhead. Odessa Lake has two approaches: one is along the Flattop trail from Bear Lake while the other is from the Fern Lake trailhead, along which are Fern Creek, The Pool, Fern Falls, and Fern Lake itself. One backcountry campsite is available. Other lakes are Jewel Lake, Mills Lake, Black Lake, Blue Lake, Lake of Glass, and Spruce Lake.

The Pool is a large turbulent water pocket formed below where Spruce and Fern Creeks join the Big Thompson River. The winter route is along a gravel road, which leads to a trail at the Fern Lake trailhead. Along the route are beaver-cut aspen, frozen waterfalls on the cliffs, and the Arch Rocks. The trail to Alberta Falls runs by Glacier Creek and Glacier Gorge.

Wind River Trail leaves the East Portal and follows the Wind River to join with the Storm Pass trail. There are three backcountry campsites. Other sites in the area are The Loch, Loch Vale, Mill Creek Basin, Andrews Glacier, Sky Point, Timberline Falls, Upper Beaver Meadows, and Storm Pass.

Rocky Mountain National Park: 5 - Waterfalls and backcountry

Region 5, known for waterfalls and backcountry, is south of Estes Park and contains Longs Peak-the park's iconic fourteener-and the Wild Basin area. Other peaks and passes include Lily Mountain, Estes Cone, Twin Sisters, Boulder-Grand Pass, and Granite Pass. Eugenia Mine operated about the late-19th to early-20th century, with some old equipment and a log cabin remaining. Sites and trails include Boulder Field, Wild Basin Trail, and Homer Rouse Memorial Trail.

Enos Mills, the main figure behind the creation of Rocky Mountain National Park, enjoyed walking to Lily Lake from his nearby cabin. Wildflowers are common in the spring and early summer. In the winter, the trail around the lake is often suitable for walking in boots, or as a short snowshoe or ski. Other lakes in the Wild Basin include Chasm Lake, Snowbank Lake, Lion Lakes 1 and 2, Thunder Lake, Ouzel Lake, Finch Lake, Bluebird Lake, Pear Lake, and Sandbeach Lake. Many of the lakes have backcountry campsites. Waterfalls include Ouzel Falls, Trio Falls, Copeland Falls, and Calypso Cascades.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Recreational activities

The park contains a network of trails that range from easy, paved paths suitable for all visitors including those with disabilities, to strenuous mountain trails for experienced, conditioned hikers as well as off-trail routes for backcountry hikes. Most trails are for summer use only, since at other times of the year many trails are not safe due to weather conditions. The park provides dozens of designated backcountry campsites and horseback riding is permitted on most trails. Llamas and other pack animals are also allowed on most of the trails.

Longs Peak seen from Dream Lake trail

Rock climbing and mountaineering opportunities include Lumpy Ridge, Hallett Peak, and Longs Peak, the highest peak in the park, with the easiest route being the Keyhole Route. This 8 mi (13 km) one-way climb has an elevation gain of 4,850 ft (1,480 m). The vast east face, including the area known as The Diamond, is home to many classic big wall rock climbing routes. Many of the highest peaks have technical ice and rock routes on them, ranging from short scrambles to long multi-pitch climbs.

Fishing is found in the many lakes and streams in the park, and camping is allowed at several designated campgrounds.

During the winter, only the edges of the park are accessible for recreational activities since most of Trail Ridge Road is closed due to heavy snow. Winter activities include snowshoeing and cross-country skiing which are possible from either the Estes Park or Grand Lake entrances. On the east side near Estes Park, skiing and snowshoeing trails are available off Bear Lake Road, such as the Bear Lake, Bierstadt Lake, and Sprague Lake trails and at Hidden Valley. Slopes for sledding are also available at Hidden Valley. The west side of the park near Grand Lake also has viable snowshoeing trails. Backcountry-style Telemark skiing and snowboarding can be enjoyed after climbing up one of the higher slopes, late in the snow season after avalanche danger has subsided.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Access

Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuously paved highway in the United States.

The park may be accessed through Estes Park or via the western entrance at Grand Lake. Trail Ridge Road, also known as U.S. Route 34, connects the eastern and western sides of the park. The park has a total of five visitor centers. The Alpine Visitor Center is located in the tundra environment along Trail Ridge Road, while Beaver Meadows and Fall River are both near Estes Park, with Kawuneeche in the Grand Lake area, and the Moraine Park Discovery Center near the Beaver Meadows entrance and visitor center.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Trail Ridge Road and other roads

Trail Ridge Road is 48 miles (77 km) long and connects the entrances in Grand Lake and Estes Park. Running generally east–west through many hairpin turns, the road crosses Milner Pass through the Continental Divide at an elevation of 10,758 ft (3,279 m). The highest point of the road is 12,183 feet (3,713 m), with eleven miles of the road being above tree line which is approximately 11,500 feet (3,505 m). The road is the highest continuously paved highway in the country, and includes many large turnouts at key points to stop and observe the scenery.

Schematic map of Trail Ridge Road's northern sections

Most visitors to the park drive over the famous Trail Ridge Road, but other roads include Fall River Road and Bear Lake Road. The park is open every day of the year, weather permitting. Due to the extended winter season in higher elevations, Trail Ridge Road between Many Parks Curve and the Colorado River Trailhead is closed much of the year. The road is usually open again by Memorial Day and closes in mid-October, generally after Columbus Day. Fall River Road does not open until about July 4 and closes by, or in, October for vehicular traffic. Snow may also fall in sufficient quantities in higher elevations to require temporary closure of the roads into July, which is reported on the road status site.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Estes Park

Most visitors enter the park through the eastern entrances near Estes Park, which is about 71 miles (114 km) northwest of Denver. The most direct route to Trail Ridge Road is the Beaver Meadows entrance, located just west of Estes Park on U.S. Route 36, which leads to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and the park's headquarters. North of the Beaver Meadows entrance station is the Fall River entrance, which also leads to Trail Ridge Road and Old Fall River Road. There are three routes into Estes Park: I-25 to U.S. 34 west which runs alongside the Big Thompson River; U.S. 36 west (northwest) from Boulder connecting to U.S. 34 west; and the Peak to Peak Highway, also known as State Highway 7, from points south.

The nearest airport is Denver International Airport and the closest train station is the Denver Union Station. Estes Park may be reached by rental car, shuttle or RTD bus. During peak tourist season, there is free shuttle service within the park and the town of Estes Park provides shuttle service to Estes Park Visitor Center, surrounding campgrounds, and the Rocky Mountain National Park's shuttles.

Rocky Mountain National Park: Grand Lake

Visitors may also enter at the western side of the park from U.S. 34 near Grand Lake. U.S. 34 is reached by taking U.S. 40 north from I-70. The closest railroad station is the Amtrak station in Granby, which is 20 miles (32 km) from the western entrance of the park. Taxi service is available into the park.

Rocky Mountain National Park: See also

  • History of Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Rocky Mountain National Park topics
  • Southern Rocky Mountain Front, where the Rocky Mountains meet the plains
  • Birds of Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park: Notes

  1. Montana State University states in their profile of Rocky Mountain National Park that there has been an increase of 2.5 °F (1.4 °C) in the average park temperature over "the past century" (charts show the period from about 1895-2010). The National Park Service site states that the increase has been 3.4 °F (1.9 °C) over "the last century" (chart shows the period from about 1905-2010).

Rocky Mountain National Park: References

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Rocky Mountain National Park: Further reading

  • Andrews, Thomas G. (2015). Coyote Valley: Deep History in the High Rockies. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674088573.
  • Buchholtz, C. W. (1983). Rocky Mountain National Park: A History. University Press of Colorado. ISBN 0-87081-146-0.
  • Buckley, Jay H.; Nokes, Jeffery D. (March 28, 2016). Explorers of the American West: Mapping the World through Primary Documents. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-61069-732-3.
  • Cole, James C.; Braddock, William A. (2009). Geologic Map of the Estes Park 30' x 60' Quadrangle, North-Central Colorado. Scientific Investigations Map 3039. U.S. Geological Survey. ISBN 978-1-4113-2221-9. This source discusses the geology of the quadrangle, which covers most of Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Emerick, John C. (1995). Rocky Mountain National Park Natural History Handbook. Roberts Hinehart Publishers/Rocky Mountain Nature Association. ISBN 1-879373-80-7.
  • Frank, Jerry J. Making Rocky Mountain National Park: The Environmental History of an American Treasure (2013)
  • Law, Amy (March 16, 2015). Natural History of Trail Ridge Road: A Rocky Mountain National Park's Highway to the Sky. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-1-62619-935-4.
  • Mills, Enos and John Fielder. Rocky Mountain National Park: A 100 Year Perspective (1995)
  • Musselman, Lloyd K. (July 1971). Rocky Mountain National Park: Administrative History, 1915-1965 (Online ed.). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service, Office of History and Historic Architecture, Eastern Service Center. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  • Perry, Phyllis J. (2008). Rocky Mountain National Park. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-5627-7.
  • U.S. Dept. of the Interior. Rocky Mountain [Colorado] National Park (2011) online free
  • U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers. "Stephen Harriman Long, Topographical Engineers". U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers. Retrieved March 21, 2010.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park (National Park Service)
  • Rocky Mountain National Park map
  • Rocky Mountain Conservancy
  • Virtual ride over Trail Ridge Road
Source of information: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. We're not responsible for the content of this article and your use of this information. Disclaimer
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