National Park Week is in full swing! National Park Week is one week every spring when the National Park Foundation and the National Park Service encourage everyone to experience nature and explore history with a weekend of free admission and several events planned throughout the week including Earth Day celebrations. This year is the 99th birthday of the parks and they're building up to a huge 100 year celebration in 2016. In honor of National Park Week we will be sharing our travels to destinations within the park system. On Saturday we talked aboutMt. Rushmore, yesterday we talked about Badlands National Park, and today we're in our own backyard talking about Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).
RMNP is actually celebrating their 100th birthday this year, so if you plan on visiting between now and September be sure to check out the festivities!
Entrance into the park is $20 per car and that will give you re-entry for 7 days. There is also a one year RMNP pass for $40. The park has several entrances, the most used is the Beaver Meadows entrance from Estes Park and it is closest to our favorite of the five visitors centers. Though we haven't been to the newer Fall River Visitors Center yet, so that may change. Entrance from the west is the Grand Lake Station you must use Trail Ridge Road to get into the park.
Trail Ridge Road tops out at 12,000 ft. Going past treeline and is higher than the Continental Divide - it is popular for it's incredible views and the kids love it because there are patches of snow up there almost all year. It is one lane each direction with only a few pull-offs for passing, it is steep and there are several hairpin turns. In my opinion only - if you are not accustomed to mountain driving or if you're in an RV then I really feel that you need to be prepared before you take it on. It's not impossible, but you need to know your limits. It is notable that Trail Ridge is closed in the winter so you must use the other park entrances.
The size of RMNP is incredible - 415 square miles in size, over 300 miles of hiking trails, home to 60 mountain peaks and 4 ecological zones.
I think what every visitor loves most about RMNP are the views. Really everywhere you go the views are amazing! The trails are fantastic and the wildlife is wonderful, but the views will make you fall in love.
We really encourage you to get out of the car at RMNP - there are more trails than you can count in all levels of difficulty and it's the best way to explore. If you say in the car, you're really missing out on so much more. The trails are well maintained and well laid out.
Wildlife is also abundant in the park - lots of elk, bears (though I've never seen one), bighorn sheep, birds, and even a few friendly chipmunks. RMNP is home to over 14 species of endangered and threatened animals.
Stop at one of the many overlooks and grab your camera or binoculars!
Don't forget your water! Our sea-level visitors often blow us off when we tell them to drink water. Altitude sickness is a real thing. Be sure to hydrate!!
- Don't skip over the 20 minute video on the park at one of the visitors centers
- Moraine Park Discovery Center is definitely worth a visit
- Don't expect cell service in the park
- Fill up your gas tank before you enter
- Good walking shoes are a must if you plan to explore
- Picnic areas abound
- There are many campgrounds all over
- RMNP experiences large crowds - in 2014 they had 3.4 million visitors and even had to close once on September 27, 2014, because 13,295 cars had already entered that day. Choose less peak times to visit and you'll be just fine.
- No pets - except horseback riding is allowed in some areas
I could go on and on about Rocky Mountain National Park - it truly is everything wonderful about Colorado. If you have any questions please leave them in the comments and we'll be sure to answer!