August 25, 2017
Rocky Mountain National Park
By: Donna Culpepper
Just about 30 miles from Wild Horse Inn, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of our guests’ favorite excursions. Rocky Mountain National Park was established in 1915 by President Woodrow Wilson, and harbors 415 square miles of spectacular mountain environments. Experience wildlife, Trail Ridge Road, 300 miles of hiking trails, wildflowers and more – all within a short drive of the Inn.
Old Fall River Road was opened in 1920, and was the first auto route in Rocky Mountain National Park offering access to the park's high country. Old Fall River Road is a "motor nature trail” to be traveled at a leisurely pace while enjoying the vistas and flowers.
Trail Ridge Road is one of ten America's Byways and a national designated All American Road. Covering 48 miles between Estes Park and Grand Lake, Trail Ridge Road travels from evergreen forests to alpine tundra and gives visitors thrilling views of the mountains.
Fishing has always been a very popular park activity. The only fish stocked in the park are native trout, and possession limits are managed carefully. Populations of at least four species of trout exist in the park: brown, brook, rainbow, and cutthroat. Some suckers also inhabit the streams and lakes. Only 48 of the 156 lakes in the park have reproducing populations of fish. If you need further information on fishing in the park, or to rent equipment, ask us and we’ll suggest an outfitter for you.
Rocky Mountain National Park has 355 miles of hiking trails, ranging from flat lakeside strolls to steep mountain peak climbs. Stop at one of the Visitor Centers in the park to get details on which trails are in the best shape and meet your abilities. You can also visit our hiking page to see a few of our favorites.
Click here for a link to the Rocky Mountain National Park website's list of trails.
Climbing and Mountaineering
Rocky Mountain National Park and the surrounding area has a strong traditional climbing ethic. The local climbing community does not accept practices such as placing bolts on existing routes or establishing new bolt-intensive routes and chipping or gluing new holds. Clean-climbing techniques are generally the norm, and Leave No Trace is the rule of the area. From bouldering for a few hours to multi-day big wall climbs, from Lumpy Ridge to Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park offers climbers a huge variety of routes.
If you want to learn to climb, or would like to hire a guide, the park does offer a guiding concession.
Colorado Mountain School
800-836-4008 | www.totalclimbing.com
Rocky Mountain National Park offers some of the best wildlife viewing anywhere. Thousands of elk, hundreds of bighorn sheep, deer, bear and moose, along with a huge variety of birds and other smaller mammals, amphibians and reptiles inhabit the park. Some of the best places to see animals, according to the park site:
- Look for elk in meadows and where meadow and forest meet. Elk spend much of their time at or above treeline during the summer, moving to lower elevations in the fall, winter and spring. Their favorite feeding times are dawn and dusk.
- Bighorn sheep are commonly seen at Sheep Lakes from May through mid-August.
- Moose frequent willow thickets along the Colorado River in the Kawuneeche Valley on the park's west side.
- Mule deer are common and can be seen anywhere. They are most often found at lower elevations in open areas.
- Bats feed over lakes and ponds at dawn and dusk.
- Marmots and pikas favor rocky areas. Marmots are best seen on the alpine tundra along Trail Ridge and Old Fall River roads. Pikas - small, light-colored mammals - are common in rock piles. Listen for their sharp, distinctive bark and watch for movement.
- Clark's nutcrackers, Steller's jays, golden eagles and prairie falcons can be seen along Trail Ridge Road.
- White-tailed ptarmigans, some of the most sought-after birds in Rocky Mountain National Park, are common but difficult to spot. For best results, hike on the tundra and look carefully. Ptarmigans usually remain still, relying on their natural camouflage for protection.
- American dippers, or water ouzels, can be found along most streams. Listen for their loud call, similar to the rapid clicking of two stones together, as they fly up and down their territories.
Remember: Do not feed animals. It might just be dangerous to you, but it is definitely bad for the animals as they become tame and often are killed by cars or have to be destroyed as they become too used to human contact. Don’t be part of the problem.
Snowshoeing is a very popular winter activity in the park, and does not require any true specialty skills, just a good pair of hiking boots. You can borrow snowshoes from Wild Horse Inn, or rent them near the park. Rangers from the park often lead snowshoe hikes – ask us for a schedule or visit the park website for details.
Snowmobiling is allowed along a two mile stretch of the North Supply Access Trail in the southwest corner of the park. This trail connects the town of Grand Lake to a system of National Forest trails adjacent to the park. You can rent snowmobiles for guided or self-guided tours near Grand Lake. Ask us!
You can sled at Hidden Valley in the park. Check with the Visitor’s Center to make sure conditions are safe. Have fun!