Just outside Denver sits a world of glaciers and tundra, forest trails and high-altitude lakes
There's a tendency to think we have to go overseas to see something truly unique, but Rocky Mountain National Park is one of those places which can dispel any such notions. Spreading across the continental divide, and with points over 14,000 feet (Longs Peak is the highest at 14,259), the park has entirely different ecosystems, ranging from forests to tundra, in its 415 square miles. Even the roads are extreme; the popular route of the Trail Ridge Road climbs to a point over 12,000 feet. Most people enter the park from the eastern side of the mountains, from the town of Estes Park, north of Boulder. This is high mountain country, and weather can be unpredictable in the late spring when the cycle switches between late season snows and the summer melts. Popular activities for the park (besides road touring) include hiking, backpacking, climbing/mountaineering, camping, fishing, and even skiing or snowshoeing in the winter months, although most visitors come in the peak summer months when trails and roads are open. Your standard warnings for backcountry safety apply here. Architecture buffs will even appreciate the park for Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright's School of Architecture. Whatever you do, take your camera. The panoramic vistas are everywhere and can make even the amateur photographer feel a bit like an Ansel Adams. For more on the park, listen to the park rangers themselves:
In the area:
- Dine at: Sushi Tora in Boulder, 2014 10th Street, Boulder, CO, (303) 444-2280, sushitora.net
- Drink at: New Belgium Brewing, 500 Linden, Fort Collins, CO, newbelgium.com, tours 10 am - 6 pm, Tues.-Sat.
- Stay in: A tent, typically $20/night for campsites within the park. Reservations are necessary.
- Stay in: The Stanley Hotel (which inspired Stephen King's The Shining) located just outside the park, $160+, 333 Wonderview Avenue, Estes Park, CO 80517, stanleyhotel.com