More than 415 square-miles of rock-ribbed wilderness draws nearly three million visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park every year. Easily accessible from many entrances in Colorado, the park is heavily used by locals as well as tourists, and is beloved for its mountain scenery. With at least 60 peaks exceeding 12,000 feet within its borders, this popular national park’s high altitude (14,440 feet at its pinnacle) makes for impressive landscapes.
Flora & Fauna of Rocky Mountain National Park
Visitors will find alpine flowers, 150 pristine lakes and 450 miles of streams and green forests. Children and adults alike will love the beautiful vertical views and enjoy the creative peak names such as Chiefs Head, Isolation, Mummy and Storm, to name a few.
The park is also home to a large population of wildlife. Ranging in size and variety, the largest species include the over 3,000 elk that graze in the meadows of the park and more than 800 bighorn sheep that are commonly spotted near Sheep Lakes in the summer months.
Mule deer can be found everywhere, although they are mostly found at lower elevations around 7,000 feet; while moose frequent the western edge of the park’s boundaries where there are plenty of willow thickets along the Colorado River. In total, there are more than 60 species of mammals, more than 270 bird species, six types of amphibians — including the endangered boreal toad — as well as countless insects, fish and beautiful wildflowers.
Self-Guided Hiking Trails & Ranger Programs at Rocky Mountain National Park
In 1915, the park was named the tenth National Park and it now boasts nearly 355 miles of hiking trails. Marked trails range from flat lakeside paths to more intense and steep, mountainous climbs. Unlike some designated parks with astonishing geological formations by the roadside, this is one park that you have to walk into to appreciate. Be sure to check the Visitors Center for current maps and local weather conditions, as there is bound to be a trail that’s easy or strenuous enough to suit your family.
Biking, scenic drives and horseback riding are other ways for a family to explore the varied terrain.
Fishing and camping are also popular activities to do in the park. There are a myriad of free, Ranger-led programs for children offered by the park year-round, including ways to win Junior Naturalist badges.
The Beaver Meadows Visitor Center plays a 23-minute movie to introduce kids to the parks beauty before exploring for real.
Visiting Estes Park & Other Local Attractions
The eastern entrance to the park is Estes Park, Colorado, a small, very touristy mountain village and resort community that archaeologists say drew Ute, Shoshone and Comanche Indian families for summer vacations more than 10,000 years ago. Now, modern families visit the town, with its dry and mild climate, throughout the year.
In addition to many seasonal outdoor and recreational activities, there are plenty of other attractions. Visit the Estes Park Museum where kids can explore hands-on areas, as well as displays of local memorabilia, including the car made by local entrepreneur F.O. Stanley.
The Enos Mills Cabin is an 1885 museum with memorabilia of the famous naturalist, and the MacGregor Ranch Museum is also fun and educational. Still a working ranch, it is one of the area’s earliest homesteads with equipment, household belongings and clothing dating back to 1860. Another popular activity is nightly cowboy sing-a-longs around a campfire in downtown Bond Park.
For more information on Rocky Mountain National Park, check out the National Park Service’s website.
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