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Located just a relatively short drive outside of Denver, Colorado, in the lovely mountain town of Estes Park, is the popular Rocky Mountain National Park, locally known as RMNP. The park offers its visitors year-round delights making a visit here perfect no matter what season you find yourself in.
Hiking is popular at several sites year round, although in the winter you’ll do better on snowshoes. RMNP offers miles of hiking trails for various levels including plenty of back country opportunities. If you do decide to head off the regular trails, though, make sure you have the proper permit from the visitor center. Also remember that you are at higher altitude, so if you haven’t acclimated yet you’ll want to take it nice and easy. Because of the elevation you’ll also need to drink more water than you’re used to, so be sure to bring more than you think you’ll need. In the wintertime many people also like to cross country ski and telemark.
The park is absolutely breath-taking during the fall as well when leaves exchange their green adornment for ambers and reds. In September and October the elks experience their rut. You can see large harems up close and hear the males bugling throughout the area. They are very comfortable around humans so aren’t very timid, but it’s still important to keep your distance so none of the males think you’re about to challenge them. Some of the best views are the drives up to Bierstadt Lake. The road leading over the pass to the other side of the park is only open during part of the year. It’s definitely worth taking this road. The scenery is fabulous, but the higher you go you watch the forest thin out until you’re staring at the barren tundra.
During the spring and summer it’s easy to spot many of the other wildlife living at RMNP including beavers, moose, deer, and the occasional mountain goat. Temperatures during the day are very comfortable with it becoming much cooler at night. There are numerous camping sites inside and directly outside the park. If your idea of camping is a nice motel or cabin, those are easily found in Estes Park which is a very brief drive. If you want to see the large herds of elk, the best times of day are early morning and after 3 PM. They hang out in the large fields, and the best viewing areas are along the road and are well marked for you.
If you’re into a little more sweat-producing activities, you’ll find many trails accommodating mountain bikes and trail runners. Even road bikes are not an uncommon sight to see, especially on the weekends. Some areas are also appropriate for rock and mountain climbing, but again make sure you check with the visitor center first.
No matter how sedate or adrenaline-filled your tastes, Rocky Mountain National Park is a tremendous place to visit while you’re in Colorado, even if you can only fit in one day on your trip.