Rocky Mountain, Colorado on the map. National Park Rocky Mountain (Colorado state) on the map of US

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Rocky Mountain, Colorado on the map. National Park Rocky Mountain  (Colorado state) on the map of US

Above right, top: Long's Peak, the park's highest peak. Major John Wesley Powell and his party made the first successful ascent of the summit in 1868, generating an unbounded enthusiasm for mountain climbing in the area.

Above right, center: Wildflowers bloom in the harsh but fragile world of the alpine tundra.

Right: Bear Lake, nestled amid the stunning scenery of the Rockies. Park visitors can enjoy an easy hike around the lake.

Facing page: Dream Lake, with Hallett Peak rising in the background.

Rocky Mountain, Colorado

Established: 1915   Acreage: 266,944

The snow-mantled peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park rise above green alpine valleys and glistening lakes. One third of the park is above the treeline, and here tundra predominates—a major reason why these peaks and valleys have been designated as a national park. As the elevation changes so does the landscape. At the lower levels, the slopes are graced with ponderosa pine, juniper, Douglas fir, blue spruce, lodgepole pine and groves of aspen. At 9000 feet (2700 meters) Englemann spruce and subalpine fir takeover. The forest glades are filled with wildflower gardens of rare beauty and luxuriance, where the blue Colorado columbine reigns. As the trees disappear, the alpine tundra—a harsh, fragile world—begins. Many of the plants here can also be found in the Arctic. Wildlife, both large and small, can be spotted in the park—beaver, marmots, wapiti (elk), deer, coyotes and bighorn sheep.

After the United States acquired the region through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, explorers, trappers and adventurers passed near the park area. In 1859, Joel Estes and his son, Milton, topped Park Hill and became the first known white men to see the 'park,' an open, forest-rimmed valley, which now bears the Estes name.

During the 1880s, a mining boom struck in what is now the west side of the park, leading to the creation of Lulu City, Dutchtown and Teller. Only low-grade ore was found, however, and the mines were abandoned. When the automobile finally turned out to be a practical mode of transportation, more and more people visited the area and a movement began to set aside the region as a national park. The efforts of one man—Enos Miller, a naturalist and writer—laid the groundwork for the establishment of this breathtaking park.

Rocky Mountain is a park for hikers—more than 355 miles of trails provide access to the remote sections of the park. For those who prefer to remain in their cars, there is Trail Ridge Road, one of the great alpine highways in the United States. Bear Lake Road is one of the few paved roads in the Rockies leading to a high mountain basin. Old Fall River Road, the original road crossing the mountain, gives an idea of what it was like to cross the mountains in the early days of the automobile. Fishing, camping, horseback riding and skiing are other popular activities in the park.

Rocky Mountain, Colorado on the map. National Park Rocky Mountain  (Colorado state) on the map of US