Rocky Mountain National Park was first discovered in 1859. While on a hunting trip, Joel Estes and his son came across the area that would eventually become Estes Park. In 1860, Joel Estes moved his family to the area in order to raise cattle. In the years that followed, settlers and homesteaders staked their claims in the Estes Park region. Additionally, climbing enthusiasts, enticed by rumors of the park's high peaks, began to visit the park. Among these adventurous folks were the great explorer John Wesley Powell, who conquered the summit of Longs Peak in 1868 and Anna Dickinson, who became the first woman to succeed in the climb. Isabella Bird, the Englishwoman whose extensive travels and writings entitled her to the first female membership in the Royal Geographic Society, visited, and fell in love with Estes Park in the fall of 1873. Her book, A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains, drew many people to the area. Within this same timeframe, the English Earl Lord Dunraven arrived in the area and built the elegant Estes Park Hotel.
In 1884, a boy by the name of Enos Mills came to the area. Mills would one day become a well know naturalist, as well as a major proponent for the creation of Rocky Mountain National Park. The bill passed congress and was signed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1915. At the park's dedication, Wilson proclaimed: "In years to come when I am asleep forever beneath the pines, thousands of families will find rest and hope in this park..." Wilson's proclamation came true in many ways.
Rocky Mountain National Park Artist in Residence Program
The Artist-in-Residence program at Rocky Mountain National Park gives professional writers, composers, and visual and performing artists the opportunity to practice their craft while residing in the awe inspiring landscape of Rocky Mountain National Park. For two-week periods from early June through September, the Rocky Mountain National Park Artists in Residence are provided with lodging in a rustic, historic cabin. In return, the artists donate an original piece of work to the park.
Rocky Mountain National Park Hiking
A Rocky Mountain National Park hiking excursion is a highly unique hiking experience. This is due to the fact that there is a marked difference in the park as the elevation changes. If you go Rocky Mountain National Park hiking in the lower foothill, you will find open stands of ponderosa pine and juniper grow on the slopes facing the sun, and Douglas fir on the cooler north-facing slopes. As you climb higher, the forests of the sub-alpine ecosystem consist of Engelmann spruce and fir. Openings in the sub-alpine forests produce exquisite wildflower gardens. The columbine, Colorado's state flower, grows in this area of the forest. At the higher level of the sub-alpine zone, the trees take on a twisted, unusual shape. Then, as you reach the alpine tundra, the trees disappear, and the majority of the plants you see can also be found in artic environments. Some people get so engrossed in the Rocky Mountain National Park hiking experience that they do not want to leave the park. For these folks, a Rocky Mountain camping vacation is in order.
Rocky Mountain National Park Camping
There are five Rocky Mountain National Park camping facilities.
- Glacier Basin
- Moraine Park
- Longs Peak
- Timber Creek
Reservations for summer camping in Moraine Park and Glacier Basin are taken in early January. Throughout the winter, the water is turned off at all year-round campgrounds. Drinking water can be found at entrance stations and open visitor centers.
From May to September, stays at Rocky Mountain National Park camping facilities are limited to seven nights (three nights at Longs Peak). Limits are extended to 14 nights at the year-round campgrounds the rest of the year. During July and most of August, expect the campgrounds to fill every day by early afternoon. In June and September, park campgrounds tend to fill on the weekends.