Our first day-trip out of Fort Collins, CO, was to Rocky Mountain National Park.
From our campground on the northern edge of Fort Collins, we headed south on Highway 287 to Highway 34 in Loveland. From Loveland, it was about 25 miles to Estes Park
Much of this drive into Estes Park paralleled the winding Big Thompson River through a passageway between rock formations that rose from the roadside.
The formations were striking in their colors and size and seemed to be a good introduction to what lay ahead in the Park.
We headed through Estes Park on our way to the Fall River Visitor Center. We then backtracked and drove to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center to purchase tickets for the Trail Ridge Tour. After learning that we could only order these tickets by phone, we made those arrangements and then planned to drive to Bear Lake.
Our visit was on a Saturday, and attendance was strong, very strong. We learned that parking lots along the route were closed, so it was an easy choice to take the shuttle to Bear Lake. A short walk led to Bear Lake and the views shown here (above and below). There were a couple of good viewing spots, and even though we had to wait to take photos, the views were so beautiful that we sat through several family photo sessions.
After returning to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, we drove to a section of the Park called Horseshoe Park.
The photos below were either taken from the shuttle or from our stops on our drive around the Park.
Two people who played important roles in establishing Rocky Mountain National Park were F.O. Stanley (more on him and his brother in a later entry) and Enos Mills. In 1884, Mills, age 14, first came to this area.
He became a naturalist and wrote about the area's history. He bought the Longs Peak Inn in 1902 and conducted nature trips.
Mills first proposed that the area become the nation's tenth national park to preserve the wildlands. He lobbied Congress to create a new park stretching from the Wyoming border south to Pike's Peak, covering more than 1000 square miles.
A compromise between civic leaders and the Colorado Mountain Club on one side and mining, logging, and agricultural interests on the other proposed the park contain 358 square miles.
In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson established Rocky Mountain National Park. Today, the park has grown to 415 square miles.
In 2009, nearly 250,000 acres within the Park were designated wilderness, thereby protecting forever the wild values of the park.
Despite the high attendance at the Park, it was rather easy to find small trailhead parking lots. We're sure there were some beautiful views along the Park's trails, but we thought the views from the roads in the Park were spectacular.
As the Park's brochure notes: "Set in the Southern Rockies, Rocky Mountain National Park could be called "the top of the world for everybody."