It has been 100 years since Rocky Mountain National Park was designated the nation’s 10th national park and starting this summer it’s celebrating all year long! If you’ve been wanting to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, this would be the year. Not only are there countless things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park and the celebrations tied to its birthday, but after last year’s floods that wrecked havoc on the area, the park needs your help.
While most hiking trails and camp grounds are back up and running – much due to the $3.5 million federal relief fund the park received – it will be relying on entrance fees to the park for much of the remaining repairs. On my last visit up to Rocky Mountain National Park back in April, I was surprised to see the flood damage on the drive up to Estes Park. However, once we got into town and into the park, the evidence wasn’t as apparent. In other words, they have been busy cleaning up and are ready to celebrate its Centennial. And who wouldn’t want an entire year designated to celebrating their birthday, especially after the last year its had?!?
In honor of its Centennial, I’ve put together a list of 25 things to know about Rocky Mountain National Park. Try quizzing your friends or kids the next time you’re visiting! (Stay tuned for more on our Rocky Mountain National Park series.)
25 Things to Know about Rocky Mountain National Park
1. Beginning September 3, 2014, through September 4, 2015 Rocky Mountain National Park will have celebration after celebration in honer of its 100th Anniversary. (If you’re planning a visit make sure to check its event calendar.)
2. Rock as old as that at the bottom of the Grand Canyon—nearly two billion years—caps the Rockies’ summits. These are some of the oldest rocks within the National Park System.
3. With the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, the U.S. government acquired the land that became Rocky Mountain National Park.
4. Thirty-nine years after Colorado became a State, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Rocky Mountain National Park Act, which was spearheaded by Enos Mills to name Rocky National Park the nation’s 10th national park.
5. There are more than 355 miles of hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park.
6. During the Great Depression of the 1930s President Franklin Roosevelt created programs to put people to work including the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC brought the manpower to Rocky Mountain National Park to build trails, buildings and roads, including Trail Ridge Road and Fall River Road, which are still in use today.
7. Rocky Mountain National Park borders the towns of Grand Lake and Estes Park, making them two of the most popular travel destinations in Colorado.
8. Rocky Mountain National Park averages around 3 million visitors a year.
9. Fall River Road was first road over the Continental Divide. It goes between Estes Park and Grand Lake, the two towns on either side of Rocky Mountain National Park. (Fall River Road remains closed to vehicles due to the 2013 floods and will be closed throughout 2014.)
10. Not only is Trail Ridge Road the highest continuously paved roads in the United States but it’s also designated an All American Road and one of 10 of America’s Byways. The road consists of 48 miles, starting in Estes Park on the park’s east side and endings in Grand Lake (or visa versa depending on where you start). The elevation of the drive reaches nearly 13,000 feet.
11. Rocky Mountain National Park is technically a 90 minute drive from Denver. However, traffic and the recent road closures due to the 2013 flooding has drastically increased travel time.
12. Abner Sprague, a lodge keeper in the Estes Park area was the first person to pay to enter the Park after a $3 fee was set into place by the government. Pricing has since increased to $20 for a standard private vehicle, seven day pass. The fees go towards maintaining the park. (In 2014 the park will waive its entrance fees on August, 25, September 27 and November 11.)
13. Rocky Mountain National Park is open year around.
14. Pets are permitted in Rocky Mountain National Park, however they are not permitted on trails or in the backcountry.
15. Fisherman take note! Rocky Mountain National Park is home to 156 lakes and 450 miles of streams. However, not all are open for fishing due to conservation efforts and that fact that only 48 of the lakes contain trout. (The cold water temperatures and lack of spawning habitat prevent populations from sustaining in many of the higher elevation lakes.)
16. Rocky Mountain National Park is one of four National Parks in Colorado. The other parks include Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, Mesa Verde National Park (also a world heritage site), Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
17. There are 265,769 acres (358 square miles) of land within Rocky Mountain National Park; making it one of the largest national parks in the United States.
18. One third of the 265,769 acres within Rocky Mountain National Park is tundra — above the altitude where trees can grow.
19. Want to see some big horn sheep? Make your way to Sheep Lakes in the early summer. More than 350 big horn sheep live in the Park and head to this popular watering spot to graze during the summer months.
20. Moose are on the loose in Rocky Mountain National Park but that hasn’t always been the case. Before 1978, there were very few moose in the Park until 24 moose were relocated from Wyoming between 1978-79. By 1994, the herd had grown to 700 moose.
21. Colorado is home to 58 fourteeners, aka mountain peaks exceeding 14,000 feet. There is only one fourteener inside Rocky Mountain National Park’s boundaries: Longs Peak. The mountain checks in at 14,259. It’s the 15th tallest of Colorado’s 58 fourteeners.
22. The oldest person to summit Longs Peak was Rev. William Butler, who climbed it on September 2, 1926, his 85th birthday.
23. In 1871 Addie Alexander became the first woman to climb Longs Peak.
24. Freeland Stanley, co-inventor of the Stanley Steamer automobile is responsible for putting Estes Park on the map for tourism. After visiting Estes Park to help ease his tuberculosis he and his wife decided to stay and began building The Stanley Hotel, which opened in 1909. That choice led to making the area a popular resort destination among the rich and famous who came to stay at the infamous Stanley Hotel. However, The Stanley Hotel is best known for being the setting of Stephen King’s novel, The Shining. The hotel is also listed as a National Register of Historic Places.
25. Rocky Mountain National Park surrounds Grand Lake, which is Colorado’s largest and deepest natural body of water. (The town built around the lake is also known as Grand Lake.) The lake was named Spirit Lake by the Ute Tribe as they believed the lake’s cold waters to be the dwelling place of departed souls. (If you are able to see the lake during the early morning hours, you will understand why.)
Have you visited Rocky Mountain National Park? Have any tips on things people need to know about the area?
Elaine Schoch (pronounced the German way – Shock) is the editor and founder of Carpe Travel as well as an award-winning travel writer, wine judge, certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 and certified American Wine Expert. She is married to The Husband and has two kids, Princess One and Two – who’s interest and knowledge in wine is quite extensive. Not to mention the stamps in their passports.