Driving the Trail Ridge Road
The Trail Ridge Road, which cuts west through the middle of the park from Estes Park, then south down the park's western boundary to the community of Grand Lake, is one of America's great alpine highways. Consistently rated among the most scenic highways in America, Trail Ridge Road was designated an All-American Road in 1996, one of the first six in the nation. Climbing to 12,187 feet near Fall River Pass, it is the highest continuous paved highway in the United States.
Taking a Day Hike
Rocky Mountain National Park is filled with hiking trails that range from easy to extremely difficult. For those who are less adventurous, there's a lot of wonderful scenery packed into the easy Copeland Falls Trail walk (only .6 miles round-trip), which follows a creek past wildflowers, aspens, stands of large fir and spruce, and Rocky Mountain maples to a picturesque little waterfall. If you take the Emerald Lake Trail, you will hike less than 4 miles round-trip and see three pretty lakes and the surrounding mountains and walk through a forest of limber and lodgepole pines and fir trees that has meadows of wildflowers in summer. Perhaps the Lake Haiyaha Trail should be called Many Lakes Trail, since not only do you see Lake Haiyaha (hi-yah-hah), but this 4.2-mile round-trip moderate hike also offers views of Dream, Nymph, Bear, Mills, and Sprague lakes, plus a pond or two. The views of Longs Peak are also pretty spectacular.
Watching Elk and Deer Graze
It's almost unbelievable how easy it is to see wildlife while driving along Trail Ridge Road. In fact, if you don't see birds and at least some squirrels and other small mammals, then you must have slept through the ride. In addition to the numerous squirrels and chipmunks, look for deer and elk in the meadows along the road, and yellow-bellied marmots and pikas at the higher elevations. Watch for the numerous birds, such as mountain bluebirds, Steller's jays, Clark's nutcrackers, prairie falcons, and golden eagles.
Parking yourself at the base of a Waterfall
One of the most picturesque waterfalls in a park that has many picturesque waterfalls, Ouzel Falls is also a good spot to see the water ouzel (also known as the American dipper), a bird that collects its dinner by darting into the water.
Going on a Moonlight Snowshoe Hike
A still, moonlit evening in January or February is perfect for a snowshoe hike with a ranger, who may discuss the adaptation of the park's animals to the long winters, and the wildlife you are likely to see at night. Or maybe your group will quietly absorb the scenery as moonlight glistens on fields of snow, mountains stand tall against the night sky, and a chorus of coyotes breaks the stillness.
Being Mesmerized by the view at Rock Cut
At 12,114 feet, this is one of the highest points along Trail Ridge Road, and it's a good stop for those who want to experience the harsh alpine tundra while staying within a few feet of the warmth and comfort of their cars. For an even better look, walk the relatively easy .5-mile loop of the Tundra World Nature Trail, where exhibits identify the flora and fauna of the tundra and explain why you wouldn't want to live here year-round.
Witnessing a Beaver Build a Dam
Beavers are fun animals to watch, but it's often hard to find them on your own. Rangers lead a special hike to the park's beaver ponds to show visitors where the beavers live and how they build their dams. It's especially rewarding for families with kids, but fun for all ages, and if you're lucky, a beaver may make an appearance.
In the southeast corner of the park, Wild Basin offers great cross-country skiing. Start on the last mile of the entry road, which is closed to motor vehicles in winter. The road leads to the trail head for the wonderful Ouzel Falls Trail, where you'll usually see a wide variety of birds.
Sleeping under the Stars
It's rare to find a drive-in campground anywhere that permits tent camping only, but Longs Peak Campground does. And it is a welcome relief for tenters to know they won't be walled in by apartment building-size motor homes and trailers.
Imagining the Old Wild West
Although there isn't a great deal to see in Lulu City today except some cabin ruins and rusty pieces of mining equipment, it can be fascinating to imagine what Lulu City was like more than 100 years ago, when this silver boomtown had a hotel, two sawmills, a variety of shops, and even a small red-light district.
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