Rocky Mountain National Park
Location Larimer, Grand, Boulder County, Colorado
City Estes Park, Colorado
Area 265,769 acres
Established January 26, 1915
Visitors 3,000,000 (estimate)

Rocky Mountain National Park is a National Park in the state of Colorado. Established on January 26, 1915, the 265,796 acre park is next to the small town of Estes Park, where the park's headquarters is located. Rocky Mountain National Park is among the most visited National Parks every year, attracting nearly 3 million visitors. It is one of four National Parks in the state of Colorado, the others being Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, and Mesa Verde National Park. Rocky Mountain is surrounded by several National Forests (National Forests are not owned by the National Park Service) including Roosevelt, Routt, and Arapaho National Forests.

History of the areaEdit

Some 11,000 years ago Native Americans once traversed the area that is now Rocky Mountain National Park. It is unknown whether or not Native Americans ever took residency in the area, but they did hunt in what is now the Estes Park area. The Ute tribe of Indians controlled the area until the 1700s, but by 1803 the United States took direct control of it with the Louisiana Purchase. Several years later in 1820, Stephen H. Long led an expedition that took him and his crew near the Rocky Mountain areas, though they avoided the mountains (one of which would ultimately be named after him). A man named Rufus Sage wrote about the mountains in an account titled "Scenes in the Rocky Mountains" which recalled the spectacles of the mountain, was published in 1843.

A wealth of men came into the Rocky Mountain area by the thousands during the gold rush. Among the men were Joel Estes and his son who went there while hunting. They moved there in 1860 when they developed a farm. Eventually the land where they lived would be turned into Estes Park, now a small town that also acts as one of the gateways to the sensational National Park. Joel and his family didn't stay long, however, because they found that the winters were too severe, prompting them to leave in 1866. Following this, people came in droves attempting to assert ownership of the Estes Park area. Others came for different reasons, want to climb the mountains for fun.

The climbers appreciated the landscape and eventually, after many of the mining towns such as Lulu City became abandoned ghost towns, advocates started to promote Rocky Mountain as a potential site of a National Park. With the backing of several important figures such as Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir, and perhaps most importantly
Enos Mills

Enos Mills was a key player in making Rocky Mountain a National Park.

Enos Mils, who campaigned for years, writing thousands of letters to congress, the United States government eventually agreed to turn the area into a National Park. On January 26, 1915, Woodrow Wilson signed the act which would establish Rocky Mountain National Park.

Starting in 1915, people who owned land around the Colorado area began to assist in the creation of the park, constructing roads, lodging facilities and trails. Park rangers developed guided tours, taking tourists up into the mountains. The government did not put too much money into this massive project, yet the people who originally made the park what is was did an excellent job. After World War I, more and more people started to come to Rocky Mountain to view the scenic wonders that the park had to offer. In response to the sudden surge, rangers worked tirelessly at constructing museums, trails, and facilities in order to make the visit as enjoyable as possible. When some of the original structures began to wear, the rangers appropriately built new ones that proved to be more sufficient.

With Frankllin Roosevelt's New Deal, people during the depression were given jobs across the country including Rocky Mountain National Park. They weren't payed much, but they did an admirable job at developing roads and buildings around the park and others. Around this time Trail Ridge Road, the most popular scenic drive in Rocky Mountain, was built. Most of the people that came to Rocky Mountain came in their vehicle since a railroad didn't pass through it (as it did with some of the nation's other National Parks like Yellowstone National Park and Grand Canyon National Park), and thus creating scenic drives was an important task. The visitor growth did not last for long, however. During World War II, the amount of visitors in the park began to swell. This trend didn't last, however, and after World War II ended the number of visitors once again began to snowball.

Some guests found the quality of the man made structures to be less than adequate, leading congress to approve of a bill that would improve many of the National Parks in America on the centennial, or hundredth anniversary of the National Park Service (1966). Among the new buildings was something new to National Parks, a visitor center. Three visitor centers were built in Rocky Mountain where people could learn about the history of the park, watch a film about the park, and talk to park rangers. Campgrounds were also built during this time period as well. In the following years, the park would introduce bus tours which would take guests across the park where they could learn about nature and the history of Rocky Mountain.

Today there are around six hundred buildings standing in Rocky Mountain. Many years ago, however, there were well over 1,000. The reason for the demolition of many buildings is an attempt by the National Park Service to return Rocky Mountain to the condition it was in before humans entered the park. Some buildings are considered historic buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of the buildings within Rocky Mountain are included in this registry, and as such are not allowed to be destroyed. Stephen Mather was a key component to developing structures that are rustic in design, under the belief that this architectural design assists in the allusion that the buildings are a part of the environment.


Rocky Mountain National Park is 265,769 acres. Located near the town of Estes Park, Rocky Mountain is separated by the continental divide. Interestingly, both sides of the park, the west and east, are completely different due to the divide. Whereas the west side, the more popular side, has more plants and forests and is generally wetter, the east side features many barren yet very appealing landscapes with glaciers aplenty.

The National Park Service has developed well over 350 miles of trails that take visitors all across the park where vehicles aren't allowed. The trails often take those willing to take risks up one of the 60+ mountains in the park that go above the 12,000 foot mark. Many of the mountains eventually reach a point where trees can no longer grow in a place above the tree line. The highest mountain at Rocky Mountain is Longs Peak, named after Stephen Longs. Longs Peak rises to an astounding 14, 259 feet tall. At one point it was thought that Longs Peak was only 14,255 feet, but this was later proven false.

There are several different ecosystems in Rocky Mountain, from alpine tundras without any trees for miles to vegetated forests with millions of plants and animals at every direction. In the tundras there are plants that don't grow very tall due to the intensity of the wind. Visitors of the park can enjoy the natural beauty of one of the 150 lakes or 450 miles of water streams that course through the mountains.

Animals and plantsEdit


Elk at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Main article: Animals of Rocky Mountain National Park
Main article: Plants of Rocky Mountain National Park

There are hundreds of species of animals and plants scattered throughout the Rocky Mountain National Park area. Animals can best be observed by visitors by looking for them in big open spaces. Animals can be found in all of the different areas of Rocky Mountain, from high on top of mountains to deep in the forests and in the lakes. There are several dangerous animals to look out for such as bears and mountain lions, but by taking cautionary measures, having an encounter with such animals can usually be avoided. Elk typically graze throughout the entire park, as do the occasional moose, deer and sheep.

The thousands of pine trees in the park have started to die out because of the recent Pine Beetle outbreak that has covered the countries of Mexico, United States and Canada. Rocky Mountain has been hit hard, with many of the trees being killed by the beetles. Because of this, many trees have started to fall over, which poses a risk to hikers and campers. While it's true that a lot of trees will die because of the outbreak, in several years new trees will take their place, creating entirely new forests for future generations to enjoy.

There are a few nonnative plants and animals in the park that threaten to put the balance of nature out of touch. Nonnative plants and animals are introduced to parks either accidentally or deliberately by humans, but because the general purpose of a park is to preserve its natural and original beauty, introducing such species can often have disastrous results. The mountain goats, for example, have been wondering into the park from Mount Evans here they were introduced by the state of Colorado. Since these goats fight for food and can give other species diseases, they are either trapped and sent back to Mount Evans or shot.

Visitor informationEdit

There are several visitor centers and information stations within Rocky Mountain National Park that are located on both sides of the continental divide. Shuttle busses operate from late June to early September every year. The shuttle busses are completely free and take visitors to different popular hiking trails. The bus operates at Bear Lake and Moraine Park. The bus routes include Hiker Shuttle Express Route, Bear Lake Route, and Moraine Park Route.

Admission to the park costs $20.00 per vehicle while an annual pass is $35.00. Over the years the price has steadily increased, with the current price being established in 2005 (before that, it was $15.00 in 2001, $10.00 in 1996, $5.00 in 1987, and $2.00 before that.

Visitor centersEdit

Beaver Meadows Visitor Center

The Beaver Meadows Visitor Center.

  • Beaver Meadows Visitor Center: An early park visitor center, Beaver Meadows features a free movie, park rangers willing to assist visitors, a bookstore for those wishing to purchase books and other items related to Rocky Mountain, Colorado, and the National Park Service, and other facilities.
  • Sheep Lakes Information Station: A simple information station that features a map, information on the area and a park ranger.
  • Fall River Visitor Center: The Fall River Visitor Center features displays of local wildlife, a bookstore where visitors can purchase items related to the park, and a room where young children can have fun.
  • Alpine Visitor Center: Inside this visitor center, people can look out at the marvelous scenery up top on the mountains. There's also a bookstore where people can purchase gifts for friends and themselves, and a snack bar.
  • Moraine Park Visitor Center: Interactive activities are present here as is a gift shop.
  • Kawuneeche Visitor Center: The only visitor center west of the continental divide, the Kawuneeche Visitor Center is in the Grand Lake Area. Exhibits, several short movies and a bookstore are all located within this center.


Longs Peak is the central attraction. At over 14,000 feet above sea level, Longs Peak is the tallest mountain at Rocky Mountain. Because of the harsh winters, hikers and climbers attempt to conquer the mountain only during the summer months the heat melts the ice and snow. Several people die in Rocky Mountain, many from trying to hike or climb up mountains.
Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road, a popular scenic drive.

Agnes Vaille, for example, fell from a mountain and died from hypothermia after her partner went to get help. It's events like this that prompt people to take all measures necessary to have a safe and enjoyable climb.

Some other popular attractions at Rocky Mountain include Trail Ridge Road, a visually appealing scenic drive that can be accessed on the west side of the park. There are various trails that vehicle drivers stop in order to take. The Alpine Visitor's Center can also be accessed by taking this road. Inside visitors enjoy a spectacular view of the mountains in the comfort of a building. The fifty mile trail that is also the highest paved road in the United States is not the only popular scenic drive. Bear Lake Road, for example, is another one that is near the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, featuring campgrounds and trails that take visitors to wondrous scenic spots.

Never Summer Mountains are another popular tourist destination because of the fact that for most of the year there is snow on the top of the peaks even when everything else throughout the park has melted due to the heat. Around this area, visitors often find enjoyment in going on hiking trails that take them to mining towns and ghost towns that have long been abandoned by those that created them.

Weather and hazardsEdit

Most of the park visitors come during the months of July and mid August, which is also the hottest months of the year. During the coldest months of the year in the winter, very few guests go to the park in comparison to the other seasons. Temperatures tend to be very harsh during the colder months but in the summer guests tend to be quite comfortable.
RMNP snow

While RMNP can be very beautiful in the winter, it can also be very dangerous.

During the winter and spring months, many of the popular roads, including Trail Ridge, close down due to snow. Some visitors to the park like to ski and snowboard during the winter and spring months.

There are many hazards that the visitor may encounter while at their stay at the park. Pine Beetles have recently been killing off many of the pine trees in the park. Many of the dead trees have been falling over, presenting a problem, especially when it's windy (which assists trees in falling over). Many of the park rangers are working constantly at removing the dead trees from hiking trails and camping areas so the guest can enjoy their stay.

Lightning is another danger that kills many people every year in the state of Colorado. During the afternoon, thunderstorms appear very frequently and they are often joined by intense lightning storms. When a thunderstorm approaches, visitors are advised by the National Park Service to get to cover and go below the tree line, staying as low as possible and removing metallic objects and backpacks that could potentially attract lightning.

There are many animals in Rocky Mountain National Park that can pose a danger to visitors. The most noteworthy of these are bears and mountain lions. While attacks by these animals are very rare, they do occur and knowing the appropriate precautions to take when put under this situation is important. When traveling, it is smart to go in a group, and to keep any children close to the adults. If a person sees a potentially dangerous animal, it is heavily advised not to approach it and instead slowly back away without turning their back to them or running away, while at the same time staying calm. It is advisable to raise your arms and stand as tall as possible. If there are children, the park explains that it is appropriate to pick them up to keep them out of reach from the animals. If an animal starts to approach a person, it is requested that they make loud noises to scare them off. Finally, under the unlikely event that an animal does attack, it is asked that the person do all they can in fighting back. Bringing along special tools such as bear spray is a good idea, as is bringing along bear bells as to not surprise such animals.

Sister parksEdit

Rocky Mountain National Park has two International Sister Parks: the Tatra National Parks in Poland and Slovakia. Despite baring a similar name, they are actually separate entities. The three parks are "sister parks" because they each share a similar landscape and have similar problems that they work together to sort out. Park rangers from all three parks regularly visit each others' parks, posing for pictures at the sister park's entrance.

The three National Parks became sister parks in September of 2007. For several years Rocky Mountain national Park rangers went to Poland and Slovakia, while in 2010 members of those two parks came to the United States to visit their sister park.