One of the landmarks of Colorado that is attracting more and more visitors each year, is the Rocky Mountain National Park. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, it’s one of the busiest national parks in the country. KGNU’s Elizabeth Avila paid a visit to the park recently to find out about some of the programs on offer for visitors.
In 2015, Rocky Mountain National Park, just a one hour drive from Boulder, celebrated 100 years – a full century of conservation achievements and park status. Today Rocky Mountain National Park is the 3rd most visited park in the United States, welcoming people from all over the world with special programs like the ranger-led hikes.
Barb King, an interpretive ranger for the Colorado River District on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, is part of the Ranger-Led Hikes program which takes groups and individuals through the park while teaching about the history, landscape, and wildlife. This program, along with a range of others, kicks off during the weeks that follow Memorial Day weekend and is also available in several of Colorado’s other parks, including the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve to the South.
“In fact, today was the first program for the season. Starting off slowly because not all of our rangers are even here yet for the season… we do a lot of school groups during the week…By middle of June we will be starting our Summer schedule and everything will be listed on the park news paper.”
According to the National Park Foundation, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of over 400 parks in the National Park System and receives over 1 million visitors in a six-week period each Summer. Barb has lived and worked on the west side of the park since 1992. She says that the park has plenty to offer on both the East and West sides and she is still passionate about working there and leading these programs.
“…Its exciting to see the enthusiasm and it recharges me because I live up here year round. I don’t want to say that I take it for granted because I don’t think I do, but for example yesterday, I was hiking this trail and I was looking at all the dead trees and all the downfall…And then I met this couple on the trail and they were like “this is the most beautiful trail we’ve ever been on.” …So its just interesting to keep seeing the area, to keep refreshed through new eyes.”
A quick glance at the official map shows Rocky Mountain National Park is an enormous land mass covering 415 square miles. It includes a portion of the Rocky Mountain Range as well as the Continental Divide and over 300 miles of accessible hiking trails ranging in difficulty.
The Ranger Led programs are packed with park history like the water diversion programs as well as information about all of the wild life. The trail had several geological points of interest as well as plant life. Barb answers the group’s questions and offers more information.
The park welcomes millions of visitors in the summer and year-round. With so much traffic and noise, Barb says it is important for visitors to be respectful of the park and its wildlife.
“We have to remember that this isn’t our home. This is the animals’ home, we need to use quiet voices. I also yesterday heard people with their radio music, blaring it as they were walking down the trail and we have to remember “would you want someone coming to your home like that, being so disrespectful?”…We are real busy now too and with over 4 million visitors each year and being in the third busiest national park in the country, we really need to be more mindful of the environment and staying on the trail and being more respectful to protect it.”
In its second century of operation, the park will continue to face many challenges to conservation efforts. For more information about the park’s programs please visit the National Park Service website or stop at the nearest Ranger station during your next trip.
photo credit: Nopal Media.