Rocky Mountain High

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.

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Entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park

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.

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Aspens in full fall color

And here’s one looking back at Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuously paved road in the U.S.

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Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park

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.

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Rocky Mountain National Park

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Rocky Mountain National Park

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Rocky Mountain National Park

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.

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Rocky Mountain National Park

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Donning the jackets for windy cool temps in the tundra

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Tundra is a delicate and vulnerable biome

Then we headed to a lower elevation at 10,759 feet and stopped at Milner Pass where the Continental Divide passes through.

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The Continental Divide at Milner Pass

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?

 

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Picnic lunch featuring baby carrots, cherry tomatoes from our garden, grapes, and bananas

 

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.

 

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Shadow Mountain Lake

 

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.

Categories: History, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Rocky Mountain High

  1. My favorite national park- have visited every summer for the past 20+ years! And of course, a 100 year celebration made it the ideal time to visit.

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  2. Stunning pictures – the colours are glorious. We visited here years ago and just loved it. I felt more than a bit freaked though by the effect on my body when we were hiking high up!

    Like

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