Our 10th national park in the United States was created on January 26, 1915, when President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Rocky Mountain National Park Act. While the Utah national parks were our planned destination, how could we possibly miss Rocky Mountain National Park when it was on the way and it was their 100th anniversary? Well, we couldn’t.
One of the world’s longest ranges, the Rocky Mountains extend more than 3000 miles from Alaska to New Mexico and some of the highest peaks in the United States are found in this range. Rocky Mountain National Park comprises just 415 square miles of this remarkable range but it is one of the most visited national parks in the country and contains some of the most spectacular scenery. RMNP is the highest national park in the U.S. with elevations from 7860 to 14,259 feet and 77 peaks above 12,000 feet. Thus, the popular slogan “Rocky Mountain high” refers to the elevation, not the recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado.
Entering the park from Estes Park, we followed Trail Ridge Road, the “highway to the sky.” I was immediately entranced by the fall color. I especially love autumn and the aspens expressed it beautifully with a nimiety of yellow. Seeing them, we understood how Aspenglen Campground got its name. I took way too many photos but here’s just one. You get the idea.
And here’s one looking back at Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuously paved road in the U.S.
We decided not to hike any of the 350 miles of trails in the park but we stopped often to take photos of the breathtaking views.
When we reached the tundra, we were above 11,000 feet in elevation and the temperature dipped to 46 degrees Fahrenheit. Our car, like our bodies, had to work harder at the higher elevation with less oxygen. Thankfully, the electric motor on the Prius came to the rescue as we climbed and we were surprised that our gas mileage didn’t suffer.
One-third of RMNP is alpine tundra, a harsh, windy biome where only the hardiest plants and wildlife survive. It’s a fragile environment that is easily damaged and requires care and management to ensure its survival.
Then we headed to a lower elevation at 10,759 feet and stopped at Milner Pass where the Continental Divide passes through.
We stopped for a throw together picnic lunch on the west side of the park at one of the many picnic areas. What better way to enjoy our surroundings than to spend some time feeding our bodies and souls simultaneously?
As we neared the end of our drive through Rocky Mountain National Park, we were treated to yet one more delight, Shadow Mountain Lake, in the southwest corner of the park. This man-made reservoir is a major recreation area, allowing boating, fishing, jetskiing, camping, hiking, and other activities with a backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.
If you have a day, a week, or more, a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park is worth your time. Check it out.
Based on events of September 2015.