Located in Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park contains 150 lakes and 450 miles of streams, mountain areas and alpine tundra. It is the only place in the United States where visitors can see so much alpine country with such ease. Just a two-hour drive from Denver, the Trail Ridge Road takes travelers into the heart of the Rocky Mountain National Park. The drive features tiny tundra flowers and other wild blooms contrasting with the views of towering summits, a total of 78 of them exceed 12,000 feet.
These third generation mountains were first probably islands above shallow seas over 135 million years ago, when dinosaurs were abundant. Another range reportedly grew out of the later sea some 75 million years ago. These mountains eventually eroded to rolling hills. Some sections of the summit sank along fault lines, which helped to create the striking texture of the current scenery.
Rocks as old as those at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, (nearly two billion years) cap the top of the Rockies. Although the Rocky Mountains are only about an eighth the size of the Yellowstone, it accommodates as much as three million visitors lately. Park officials and conservationists worry about overcrowding and cite distressed animals, trodden plants and eroded trails as a problem.
When To Go
From mid- June to August the park welcomes many visitors. It’s best if you plan ahead and visit the park early in the morning or late in the day to avoid some of the crowds. If you are willing to hike for more than three miles in the backcountry you will experience more solitude. In the winter you can experience cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Photograph by Justin Roth