ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
In 1915, Rocky Mountain National Park became the tenth national park and
preserves one of the most scenic stretches of the southern Rocky Mountains.
One-third of the park is above treeline, where tundra predominates. This
is a major reason the area was set aside as a national park early in the 20
Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses 415 square miles. There are 114
named peaks above 10,000 feet and 147 lakes. Approximately three million
people visit the park annually. Rocky Mountain National Park is one-ninth
the landmass of Yellowstone National Park with roughly the same visitation.
During summer months, visitors may travel the entire 48 miles of Trail
Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in America that reaches an
elevation of 12,183 feet. Most will stop at the Alpine Visitor Center,
located at 11,796 feet above sea level.
From the montane ecosystem in the park’s lower levels to the high alpine
tundra ecosystem, there are marked differences in wildlife and vegetation.
Ponderosa pine and juniper grow in montane areas east of the Continental
Divide. West of the divide, lodgepole pine dominates the lower levels.
Higher up, in the subalpine ecosystem, the dominant tree species are
Douglas and subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce. Throughout the park below
the tundra are groves of aspen. Openings in the forest produce summer
wildflower gardens, where the Colorado blue columbine reign. Meadows and
glades are dotted with wildflowers in season. At the edge of the tundra
the trees are wind-sculpted, reaching the point where there are no more
trees. Many of the park’s tundra plants are those that can survive in
arctic regions. Scores of glacially carved alpine lakes invite park
visitors to enjoy a moment of solitude in a pristine setting. From its
valleys to its mountaintops, Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses many
With over 355 miles of trails, the park is a favorite destination for
hikers, cross-country skiers, snowshoers, climbers and horseback riders.
Backcountry adventure and general sightseeing are also very popular.
Diverse wildlife includes elk, deer, bighorn sheep, black bears, mountain
lions, coyotes, moose and hundreds of species of birds, among others. Each
fall, when the aspen are in full color, tens of thousands of visitors come
to the park to witness the annual rut of the elk.
The photo can be credited: Courtesy Rocky Mountain National Park