In 2015, Rocky Mountain National Park celebrated its 100th anniversary. The park was full of patriotic fun.
Population: 1000(elk,that is)
Visitors per year: 3.1 million
Main town: Estes Park
Major industry: tourism
Unit of currency: US dollar (US$)
Cost index: entrance fee US$20 per car, US$10 per pedestrian, campsite at Moraine Park Campground US$20, Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park ” guidebook US$17, post-hike burger and beer in Estes Park US$10
Why go in ASAP?
These snowy peaks, wildflower-carpeted meadows and mirror-like mountain lakes define the glory of the American West. Here you’ll find herds of grazing elk, icy rivers teeming with silvery trout, high-altitude forests of fragrant Douglas fir trees, snowy tundra camouflaging white-tailed ptarmigan. This is a hiker’s heaven, with 355 miles of trails, including several winding their way towards the summit of Longs Peak, the park’s famed `14er’ (mountain higher than 14,000ft). In winter, you can experience almost any snow-related activity in existence – sledding, skiing, snowshoeing.
In 2015, Rocky Mountain celebrated its 100th anniversary with special speakers, activities and community events, art exhibitions, concerts of mountain-themed songs and a parade of vintage Ford Model Ts along the park’s highway. So come along and join in the patriotic fun in one of America’s most rugged and thrilling national parks.
From 10 to 16 August, Plein Air Rockies exhibits the best in Western landscape painting, in the visitors centre in Estes Park. Expect workshops, music, food and prizes.
In August, runners in the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon test their lung capacity on the high-elevation route along the border of the park. Join them for some major quad-burn.
Drive Trail Ridge Road, America’s highest continuous paved road. Described as a ‘highway to the sky’, it travels above the tree line to 12,183ft. Goggle at the jagged, glacier-covered mountaintops, all from the safety of your car. Spot a moose meandering through the willow thickets of the Kawuneeche Valley, on the park’s west side.Hike Mt Ida, one of the lesser-known yet most stunning trails in the Rockies. Expect pristine mountain tundra, with a view of Longs Peak in the distance. In summer, wildflowers turn the high meadows into a rainbow carpet.
Recent studies have suggested that pollution is altering the ecosystem of Rocky Mountain National Park in subtle but potentially permanent ways. Emissions from cars, planes, factories and farms rise up into the mountains, decreasing plant abundance in ways only obvious to scientists – for now. If unchecked, they could acidify soil and damage lakes and rivers as well. As the population of Colorado grows, the problem is likely to become more serious. So visit now, and support local environmental efforts.
The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park was Stephen King’s inspiration for The Shining. The hotel shows the famously terrifying movie version on a continuous loop on Channel 42 in all guest rooms.
The Grand Lake Cemetery, in use since 1892, is one of the few active graveyards within a US national park.
By the 1970s, there were almost no moose within.
Most bizarre sight:
The abandoned mining settlement of Lulu City is a classic Western ghost town. Built during the silver rush of the late 1870s and 1880s, it’s now a handful of decayed cabins and crumbled foundations amid the wild pines of the Kawuneeche Valley. What’s that you hear? It could be the wind. Or maybe it’s the thwack of a long-dead miner’s pickaxe?
Hardcore mountain people – climbers, hikers, ski bums – have their own lingo, which may seem like Greek to flatlanders (that’s the rest of us). `Peakbagging’, for example, is the activity of trying to complete a certain set of mountain summits – the 10 highest peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park, say, or all the 14ers in Colorado (there are 53). If you plan on peakbagging, know that a ‘technical climb’ means you need special gear like ropes or crampons to make the summit – Longs Peak is technical most of the year. And remember, the ‘vertical rise’ of a hike is the amount of elevation gain between the trailhead and the summit – ie, how much your thighs will ache the next day.