Friday, February 6, 2015

Best sites to see at Rocky Mountain NP

Longs Peak. Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountain NPS.
Among the best ways to see Rocky Mountain National Park’s best sights is via a day hike. Just five short trails will allow you to enjoy each of the park’s highlights – the Continental Divide, montane forests, waterfalls, mountain wildlife, and peaks over 14,000 feet high.

Continental Divide
Water falling west of the divide flows into the Pacific Ocean; everything falling to the east flows into the Atlantic. Hikers can cross the divide via the Milner Pass Trail, which runs 4.1 miles one-way from Poudre Lake to the Alpine Visitor Center. The trail is at a very high elevation, so beware of altitude sickness.

Montane forests
Mountain forests cover much of the national park. The Mills Lake Trail travels 2.8 miles one-way through a woods to a mountain pond, gaining 700 feet elevation in Glacier Gorge.

Waterfalls
With so many mountain peaks and glacier valleys, a number of waterfalls can be found in the national park. The Alberta Falls Trail runs 1.4-mile out-and-back trail to a 30-foot drop on Glacier Creek.

Mountain wildlife
Bighorn sheep, black bears, cougars, and mule deer all call the national park home. The Lawn Lake Trail in West Horseshoe Park, off of Fall River Road, is an excellent meadow to spot grazing mammals, especially elk, with their young in early to mid-summer.

Longs Peak
At 14,259 feet, Longs Peak is one of Colorado's most visibly prominent fourteeners – a mountain more than 14,000 feet high – on the Front Range. Among the best views of it can be had on the Bluebird Lake Trail in Wild Basin. The 12-mile round trip includes an elevation gain of 2,478 feet.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.