While the Rocky Mountains extend over 3,000 miles across two countries and five U.S. states, they are most synonymous with the state of Colorado, home to Rocky Mountain National Park. Here are some of the more interesting and awe-inspiring sights in and around the park that visitors should be sure to see.
Trail Ridge Road
This famous 48-mile highway traverses many of the 415 square miles of Rocky Mountain National Park and reaches an altitude of more than 12,000 feet. Visitors can take in spectacular views in all directions while getting up close and personal with wildlife, such as elk and moose. But plan accordingly: The road is only open from May to October.
Image via Flickr by markbyzewski
Bear Lake is one of many scenic lakes within Rocky Mountain National Park. A 1-mile hiking path encircles the lake and serves as a trailhead for other trails leading to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake. Hikers enjoy majestic views of Hallett Peak, Longs Peak (the tallest mountain in the park), and Half Mountain rising above the timberline of aspen, spruce, pine, and fir trees.
Continental Divide Trail
The Continental Divide Trail follows the actual Continental Divide and spans generally the same area as the Rocky Mountains themselves, from Canada to Mexico. The portion of the trail within Rocky Mountain National park stretches for 30 miles and takes hikers from 8,000 feet to 11,500 feet. At that distance, it takes at least two days to complete the trail, so hikers should plan ahead with both provisions and camping permits. The reward, however, is stunning views of both Flattop Mountain and Ptarmigan Point.
A conveniently located place to stay while visiting this trail and its environs is Silverthorne, Colorado. The area provides many lodging options and serves as a good launching point for embarking on the trail.
Holzwarth Historic Site
This property provides visitors a look back at the life of Colorado homesteaders. The Holzwarth family, originally from Germany, moved to the area in 1917 and started a cattle ranch, a guest ranch — the Holzwarth Trout Lodge — and a dude ranch, which they named the Never Summer Ranch (after the nearby Never Summer Mountains). Today, the site represents what early dude ranching was like in the Rockies and preserves the legacy of an immigrant family's success in America. Tours of the buildings are available during the summer months until Labor Day.
Still within the Rocky Mountains and south of Denver stands Pikes Peak — not the tallest Colorado mountain in the range, but one of the most famous. Visitors can hike the 13-mile Barr trail, drive up the Pikes Peak highway, or take the cog railway to the top of the 14,115-foot mountain (where hot doughnuts await in the visitor center). In 1893, the view from the summit inspired Katharine Lee Bates to pen the lines to “America the Beautiful,” complete with spacious skies and purple mountain's majesty.
When you're visiting Rocky Mountains, no visit will be complete without stopping at these natural wonders.