Thursday, February 25, 2021

Farewell Post

With great sadness, I am announcing that this will be my last post on this blog. Yesterday I finalized the sale of this blog and my website,, to the owners of The good news for hiking enthusiasts is that plans to continue operating this blog and Moreover, they will be making additional investments in design, video, and images to ensure a positive user experience for years to come!

Ever since launching in 2008, I have fully enjoyed my pursuit of making the site the most comprehensive resource for trail information in the Great Smoky Mountains. The website gave me an opportunity to explore corners of the park that I otherwise probably would've ignored. In the process, I discovered many hikes that are just as scenic and enjoyable as Charlies Bunion or Alum Cave. Hopefully I've helped some of you discover new trails as well.

Having said all that, I want to thank you one last time for all your support over the years. Maybe we'll see you on the trail someday!


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Headed to Glacier National Park This Year?

Are you planning to visit Glacier National Park this summer - or anytime down the road? I wanted to let you know about an eBook we published last year that provides hikers with access to detailed trail information while hiking in the park.

Exploring Glacier National Park is the mobile version of, the most comprehensive website on the internet for hiking trail information in Glacier National Park. This book was published to provide readers with convenient access to the information contained on while in the park, or on the trail, where internet access is most likely not available. Additionally, the format of this book will provide a much better experience for smartphone users.

Exploring Glacier National Park covers 68 hikes. Like the website, the book includes driving directions to each trailhead, detailed trail descriptions, key features along the route, difficulty ratings, photographs, maps and elevation profiles, which provide readers with a visual representation of the change in elevation they’ll encounter on each hike. Some hikes will also include historical tidbits related to the trail. Whether you're looking for an easy stroll in the park, or an epic hike deep into Glacier's backcountry, this book provides all the tools you'll need to make your hiking trip as enjoyable as possible.

As with our four websites, this book also contains several directories that will help you choose the best hikes suited to your preferences and abilities. This includes hikes listed by location within the park, hikes listed by key trail feature, and hikes sorted by difficulty rating. I’ve also included lists of our top 10 hikes, the best easy hikes, the top fall hikes, and the top early season hikes.

The book is now available on Amazon.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Smokies Announces 2021 Plan for Cades Cove Vehicle-Free Days

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are extending a pilot project in Cades Cove by continuing vehicle-free access on the Cades Cove Loop Road on Wednesdays from May 5 through September 1, 2021. Park managers implemented this weekly, full-day opportunity in 2020 in an effort to improve the visitor experience and to reduce congestion associated with vehicle-free mornings that were previously offered until 10:00 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The park received 47 comments through mail, email, phone, and comment cards regarding the vehicle-free day pilot project. More than 60% of these comments were extremely positive, however, some campers were still impacted by early morning parking congestion and some visitors were disappointed by the lack of vehicle access on Wednesdays. Overall, the full-day opportunity provided a more enjoyable and safe experience for the nearly 30,000 bicyclists and pedestrians who participated in the vehicle-free day opportunities. During the 2020 season, 25% more pedestrians and cyclists participated in vehicle-free access periods per week as compared to the 2019 season, with an average of 1,800 participants each Wednesday.

Park managers continue to be concerned about parking congestion and will monitor use levels, parking availability, visitor experience, and congestion throughout the second year of the pilot project. According to data collected in 2020, parking lots were full during 30% of the observation period and roadside shoulders along Laurel Creek Road were utilized for parking during 60% of the observation period. Staff and volunteers will implement some changes in parking access this season to ease pressure on campground and picnic area parking lots and to prevent roadside parking along Laurel Creek Road. Roadside parking damages shoulders and creates unsafe conditions for visitors walking from their car to their destination.

For more information about congestion monitoring in the park, please visit the park website at


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Monday, February 15, 2021

6 Great Hikes in Colorado

With endless amounts of stunning mountain scenery, the State of Colorado arguably ranks as the top hiking destination in the country. Although I’m quite partial to the hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, there are many other places around the state that are on par with the national park. Here are six hikes that I think you’ll find to be quite amazing, and may want to consider for your hiking bucket list:

Ice Lakes
Ice Lakes, located just outside of Silverton in the San Juan National Forest, has the most intense cobalt blue color I’ve ever seen in nature. Combine this extraordinarily beautiful alpine lake with outstanding mountain scenery and several thousand wildflowers, and you have one of the best hikes found just about anywhere.

Blue Lakes
The Blue Lakes Trail travels to an extremely scenic glacial basin within the Mt. Sneffels Wilderness area. Although not a national park, the San Juan Mountains near Ouray could easily qualify as one, and would probably rank as one of the crown jewels within the entire national park system. You could also make a strong argument that the hike to Blue Lakes would rank high on the list of the best hikes among all of our national parks.

Black Face Mountain
Although Black Face Mountain may look fairly nondescript from the top of Lizard Head Pass just outside of Telluride, you shouldn't be deceived - the views from the summit are quite amazing. After a relatively easy climb hikers will enjoy stunning panoramic views of several 13 and 14,000-foot peaks, as well as the iconic Lizard Head.

Gilpin Lake Loop
The Gilpin Lake / Gold Creek Lake Loop in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness area near Steamboat Springs is an extremely popular hike. The trail visits waterfalls, broad glacially-carved meadows, and two scenic lakes. From the top of Gilpin Ridge you’ll enjoy absolutely stunning views of Gilpin Lake, a deep blue, alpine lake that lies below the gaze of Mt. Zirkel and Big Agnes Mountain.

Mt. Elbert
Why not just go to the top of Colorado? Not only is 14,440-foot Mt. Elbert the highest point in Colorado, it’s also the highest point between Mt. Whitney in California, Fairweather Mountain in Canada, La Malinche Mountain in Mexico, and Mont Blanc in France. From the “roof of Colorado” hikers will enjoy outstanding panoramic views. Moreover, as “fourteeners” go, the hike to the summit is relatively easy.

Quandary Peak
At 14,265 feet Quandary Peak ranks as the 13th highest mountain in Colorado, and is one of the more accessible fourteeners in the state. The trailhead is located only 8 miles south of Breckenridge, and doesn't require a 4-wheel drive vehicle to reach it. Moreover, the 6.75-mile roundtrip route has very little exposure to steep drop-offs, thus making this a great first mountain for novice peak baggers.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Saturday, February 13, 2021

North Carolina State Parks Report Record 19.8 Million Visitors in 2020

North Carolina state parks experienced a record number of visitors in 2020. State parks and recreation areas welcomed 19.8 million visitors last year — 400,000 more than any other year on record and 1.2 million more visitors than in 2019. The previous record for visitation was set in 2017 when the parks welcomed 19.4 million visitors.

Park staff attribute the increased visitation not only to public recognition that outdoor recreation promotes better health during the pandemic, but also to recently completed Connect N.C. Bond projects at parks across the state. These projects include improved and expanded campground facilities, new trails and visitor centers and improved parking and access.

Among 41 state parks and recreation areas, 28 reported increases in visitation in 2020, despite the majority of parks being closed for weeks at the outset of the pandemic. Jockeys Ridge State Park in Dare County reported the highest visitation at 1.9 million, and was among seven state park units that welcomed more than a million visitors. The others were Carolina Beach, Pilot Mountain, William B. Umstead, Fort Macon and Eno River state parks and Falls Lake State Recreation Area. Jordan Lake, Kerr Lake and Falls Lake welcomed fewer visitors than previous years due to several weeks of closed campgrounds, facilities and boat ramps.

Several parks experienced visitation increases in excess of 25 percent compared to 2019, including Carolina Beach (78 percent), Mayo River (92 percent), Raven Rock (32 percent) and Grandfather Mountain (32 percent). The month of December was the busiest December on record, with South Mountains up 98 percent for the month and William B. Umstead up 68 percent. Hammocks Beach welcomed 67 percent more visitors in December than the prior year, and Hanging Rock welcomed 57 percent more visitors.

With increased visitation also came challenges such as overflowing parking lots, litter on park grounds and damage to natural resources from heavier use of trails and popular sites. According to the Division of Parks and Recreation, visitors can help to reduce negative impacts in the parks by carrying a bag for their own litter; wearing a mask when they approach other visitors; staying on trails to avoid damaging natural resources; visiting less popular parks or less popular trails in parks; and visiting on weekdays or visiting earlier or later in the day to reduce crowding.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Smokies Announces Cades Cove Road Projects

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that the Cades Cove Loop Road will be fully closed for three weeks in September to resurface the popular roadway which is used by more than 2 million visitors a year. The one-way road will be closed to all motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, and horseback riders from Tuesday, September 7 through Monday, September 27.

The road was fully reconstructed and resurfaced in 2010. This preventive pavement treatment will maintain the heavily used road in good condition and extend the service life of the asphalt surface. A full closure is necessary to allow logistical movement of trucks and paving equipment along the narrow, one-way road.

While the contract duration is expected to be two months, the actual asphalt paving operation will occur over the three-week closure period. Work also includes resurfacing of the campground entrance road from Laurel Creek Road to the Cades Campground and the parking area adjacent to the Cades Cove Campground Store. The campground, picnic area, campground store, and horse stables will remain open and accessible throughout the duration of the paving project.

In addition, current roadwork occurring in Cades Cove along Forge Creek Road has been extended. Forge Creek Road has been closed to all use since November 2, 2020 to replace five bridges. The closure has been extended through Saturday, July 31, 2021. Due to the complete removal of the bridges and the use of large equipment to perform repair work, the road will continue to be closed to all use. The full closure prevents all access (by foot, bicycle, or horse) to the Henry Whitehead Place and Gregory Ridge, Gregory Bald, and Hannah Mountain trailheads. Gregory Bald is accessible from trails outside the Cades Cove area, including Wolf Ridge Trail, Long Hungry Trail, or a section of the Appalachian Trail. For more information about these routes, please contact the Backcountry Office at 865-436-1297.

For more information about temporary road closures, please visit the park website at


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Top 5 Reasons to Visit Grand Teton National Park

Rising more than 7000 feet above Jackson Hole, the high peaks of Grand Teton National Park provide one of the most dramatic landscapes in the world. Although many people seem to treat it as an afterthought, only visiting the park as a side trip while visiting its more famous neighbor to the north, more time and focus should be given to this stunning landscape. Within its 310,000 acres the majestic mountains of the Teton Range are home to a wide variety of wildlife, eight peaks that top out above 12,000 feet, more than 100 alpine and backcountry lakes, and more than 240 miles of trails that provide intimate access to all of this incredibly beautiful scenery. The following are among some of the top reasons why you should pay a visit to this amazing park:

1) Cascade Canyon

The Cascade Canyon Trail is widely touted as one of the best hikes in the entire National Park System. In addition to the stunning views of 12,928-foot Mt. Owen, the trail visits Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. The route is also known for the wide variety of wildlife that is frequently seen, especially bears and moose.

2) Lake Views

Lying along the eastern base of the Teton Range is a series of glacially-carved lakes. Rising sharply above their western shores, the views of the rugged mountains are stunning and dramatic. From the shores of Jackson, Leigh, Jenny, Phelps, Bradley and Taggart Lakes, hikers will enjoy some of the most striking views in the park.

3) Wildlife

Although Yellowstone rightfully receives a lot of attention for its wildlife viewing opportunities, the Grand Tetons are also known for its diversity of wildlife. The rugged mountains provide habitat to a wide variety of wildlife, including black bears, grizzly bears, elk, bison, bighorn sheep, moose, pronghorn, wolves, fox, lynx, bobcats and mountain lions. There are also more than 300 species of birds, including trumpeter swans, ospreys and bald eagles. A drive along Moose-Wilson Road is a popular way of spotting mega fauna such as bears and moose. However, hikes such as Amphitheater Lake, Hermitage Point, Moose Ponds and the Emma Matilda Lake Loop are all great choices for possibly seeing wildlife in the backcountry.

4) Photography

The abrupt rise of the Tetons from the valley floor arguably makes them one of the most photogenic mountain ranges in the world. As a result, professional and amateur photographers alike will enjoy a multitude of photo opportunities around the park. Some of the best spots for getting that perfect shot include Mormon Row, Oxbow Bend, Schwabacher’s Landing, as well as the Snake River Overlook, which was made famous by Ansel Adams' 1942 photograph. Of course all of the backcountry locations mentioned above will also provide outstanding photo opportunities.

5) Snake River Float Trip

The Snake River meanders along the sage brush flats below the Teton Range, and provides park visitors with the unique opportunity of enjoying the majestic mountain scenery from a raft. Although outfitters offer trips throughout the day, I highly recommend the morning trips, as the mountains typically look their finest when bathed in the glow of early morning sunshine. Morning is also the best time to view wildlife along the river banks, including bald eagles.

With more than 240 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see Grand Teton National Park. In addition to the hikes listed above, the park offers a variety of other outstanding hikes. If you do plan to visit Grand Teton this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings as well as other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Monday, February 8, 2021

Great Smoky Mountains Ranks as the Third-most Dangerous National Park?

An online guide for outdoor travel called recently published a list of fatality figures for America's national parks. The data was derived from the National Park Service through a Freedom of Information Act. The numbers were compiled from 2010 to 2020, with deaths tallied in several separate categories, including drowning, falls, wildlife, motor vehicle accidents, medical/natural deaths, poisoning, boats, bicycles, homicides, environmental, and undetermined deaths.

According to the data, the Great Smoky Mountains ranks as third-most dangerous national park in terms of the total number of deaths in the park during that time period. The Grand Canyon recorded 134 deaths, Yosemite saw 126 deaths, while the Great Smoky Mountains reported 92 deaths.

Now, as we all know, the Great Smoky Mountains has by far the highest number of visitors per year; therefore, it's a bit disingenuous to say that they should be considered the third most dangerous national park. So, I decided to see what the data would look like if we reviewed fatality rates on a per one million visitor basis. The results, as you might expect, were quite different. Using this method the Virgin Islands is actually the most dangerous national park in the system. During the 2010 to 2020 study period the park recorded almost 165 deaths per one million visitors. Denali ranked second with 84.8 deaths per one million visitors, while Big Bend finished a distant third with 47.4 deaths per one million visitors. Among the top 20 parks on's list, the Great Smoky Mountains actually ranks as the 19th most dangerous park, with just 7.3 deaths per one million visitors.

I then decided to look at this same data from a slightly different angle. All of the numbers discussed so far include medical and natural deaths, which really have no bearing on how dangerous a park really is. As a result, I removed these deaths from the total number of deaths to see if there were any substantial differences. The Virgin Islands and Denali were still the two most dangerous parks, with Redwoods coming in as the third. The Great Smoky Mountains still ranked 19th on this list. Although the Grand Canyon had the highest number of total deaths, the park actually ranks 9th on a per million visitor basis, with medical and natural deaths stripped out of the total counts. Yosemite ranked 7th using this methodology.

A few other statistics shed some additional light on why parks report so many deaths. For example, the Smokies reported 37 motor vehicle deaths - by far the most of any park. This represents 40% of all deaths recorded in the park during the study period. Yosemite recorded 45 deaths from falls, which represents almost 36% of all deaths in that park. Surprisingly, there were only 6 deaths recorded as a result of wildlife throughout the entire National Park System. Yellowstone recorded 3 of those deaths during the study period. The Grand Canyon had the highest number of "undetermined" deaths (17), with Yosemite, the Great Smoky Mountains and Sequoia-Kings Canyon each reporting 13. My assumption is that this category includes disappearances and suicides.

To review the article and the data, please click here.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Friday, February 5, 2021

Glacier National Park: A Day Hikers Overview

"Give a month at least to this precious reserve. The time will not be taken from the sum of your life. Instead of shortening, it will indefinitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal. Nevermore will time seem short or long, and cares will never again fall heavily on you, but gently and kindly as gifts from heaven."

- John Muir on his visit to Glacier National Park in the early-1890s
Encompassing more than a million acres, Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana is home to some of the most beautiful alpine meadows, lakes, pristine forests, rugged peaks and glacially-carved valleys in the world. Its diverse habitats support nearly 70 species of mammals, including grizzly bears, black bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, wolverines, gray wolves and mountain lions. With more than 740 miles of trails leading to some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet, Glacier is also a hiker's paradise.

Considering its massive size, most people divide the park into sections in order to focus on one or two areas at a time. The four most popular areas in the park are West Glacier and Lake McDonald, Two Medicine, Logan Pass, and Many Glacier. The following are a few suggestions for day hikes in each of these areas.

Two Medicine

Although not quite as popular as some of the other areas in Glacier, the Two Medicine Valley in the southeast corner of the park still offers some incredibly beautiful scenery. One of the best hikes in this area leads to Scenic Point. This rock outcropping, which sits above an alpine tundra meadow, offers panoramic views of much of the entire Two Medicine Valley. On a clear day you can even see the Sweet Grass Hills rising above the Great Plains roughly 90 miles away!

The most well-known backcountry hike in the Two Medicine area is Dawson Pass. Although this route usually gets most of the attention, I think the views from Pitamakan Pass are much more dramatic. From the knife-edge ridge you can see five cobalt-blue lakes on either side of you. Can’t decide on which one to hike? The two passes can be combined to create one epic day on the trail.

Many Glacier

One of the most popular destinations in the park is Many Glacier. Classic hikes such as Iceberg Lake and Grinnell Glacier get most of the attention; however, there are two other destinations that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially if you’re seeking a degree of solitude in this stunning valley.

One of these is Ptarmigan Tunnel. The highlight of this hike is passing through a 240-foot tunnel that was cut through Ptarmigan Wall. The tunnel was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930's so that visitors on horseback could pass over into the remote Belly River area. After hiking all day in the Many Glacier Valley, walking to the other side of the tunnel is like walking into another world. The views from the other side are simply stunning.

The other destination, Cracker Lake, has to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. It has the most beautiful turquoise color you could ever imagine. If it were possible to ignore the magnificent scenery of the surrounding mountains, it would still be well worth the 12.6-mile roundtrip hike, just to see the amazing color of this lake. Cracker Lake’s deep shade of turquoise is the result of light refraction through its suspended load of glacial silt.

West Glacier / Lake McDonald

For more than a century one of the things that has made hiking in Glacier unique are its two Swiss-style backcountry chalets: Granite Park and Sperry. The Granite Park Chalet can be reached by taking the epic Highline Trail from Logan Pass, or by taking the 4.2-mile climb from The Loop area on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The historic Sperry Chalet is typically accessed from the Sperry Trail, a 6.1-mile trail leading from the Lake McDonald Lodge. The trail passes through Glacier Basin where hikers will enjoy views of several waterfalls flowing hundreds of feet down the cliff walls that surround the alpine meadow.

From that same trailhead is the hike that leads to the historic Mt. Brown Fire Lookout. The trail climbs 4250 feet in only 5 miles, making it one of the toughest day hikes in the park. The elevation gain is similar to the amount gained on many of the trails leading to the summits of 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado. However, at a much lower elevation, hikers will have far more oxygen to breathe. From the lookout the views into the heart of Glacier are simply amazing.

For a much easier hike, but one that still includes stunning scenery that Glacier is famous for, be sure to check out Avalanche Lake.

Logan Pass

To see the best of what Glacier National Park has to offer you have to go deep into the high country. One of the most popular hikes in the park is the Highline Trail. In fact, this world famous hike should be on the bucket list of every self-respecting hiker! The views, the wildlife and the wildflowers, all combine to make this a hike you'll remember the rest of your life. From Logan Pass, high adventure awaits from the start. Just beyond the trailhead hikers are forced to pass
over a six-foot wide ledge for roughly one-quarter of a mile. One false move and your next stop will be on the pavement of the Going-To-The-Sun Road - more than one hundred feet below. Fortunately the park has installed a hand cable along this stretch of the trail. My advice is to not let this deter you, as this is one of the most scenic trails in America. Almost 99% of the Highline passes through open country, so there's never any dull scenery on this hike. The trail is also famous for wildlife, especially bighorn sheep and mountain goats, which are frequently seen just off the side of the trail. Hikers will have the choice of taking the moderate hike to Haystack Pass, or the extremely strenuous hike up to an overlook along the crest of the Continental Divide which offers stunning views of Grinnell Glacier some one thousand feet below. This just might be the best view in the park.

Just a notch below the Highline Trail on the “awesome meter”, but far less crowded, is Piegan Pass. The trail offers mind-blowing views of mountains, glaciers, alpine meadows and an up-close view of the Garden Wall, a glacially-carved arĂȘte that marks the Continental Divide. Near Piegan Pass, and one of my absolute favorite areas in Glacier, is Preston Park. In the early summer, after the snow finally melts, this incredibly beautiful alpine meadow becomes a carpet of wildflowers.

For more information on all these hikes, and many others throughout the park, please visit


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Walkers Creek Trailhead added to Uwharrie National Recreation Trail

The Uwharrie National Forest recently announced the addition of the Walkers Creek Trailhead to the Uwharrie National Recreation Trail (UNRT).

The UNRT was rerouted from Luther’s Spur to connect to the Walkers Creek Trailhead. This reroute replaces the section of trail that went along the Pisgah Covered Bridge Road and now takes hikers through the forest. Reroute work was completed by the Uwharrie Trailblazers.

The Uwharrie National Recreation Trail was constructed in the late 1960s by hiking enthusiast Joe Moffitt, volunteers and Boy Scouts troops from local communities. The trail was completed in 1975 and received it’s “national recreation” status in 1979. Many sections of the original 50-mile trail were closed as private properties were sold. The Uwharrie National Forest continues to work with partners at the Three Rivers Land Trust, North Carolina Zoological Society, and the Uwharrie Trailblazers to reestablish the UNRT.

The Walkers Creek Trailhead is part of a 47-acre tract land was purchased by the U.S. Forest Service from the North Carolina Zoological Society. The trailhead is located on High Pines Church Road in Randolph County.

“We are grateful to our partners for the addition of this important piece of land along the Uwharrie Trail. This addition will improve forest access and provide us the opportunity to sustainably manage this land for future generations,” said Susan Miller, District Ranger for the Uwharrie National Forest. “It also comes at such a great time as the Uwharrie National Forest celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.”

The Uwharrie National Forest was designated on January 12, 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. It is one of the most recently formed in the National Forest System and is comprised of 51,481 acres.

Uwharrie Fun Facts:

* The prevalence of metavolcanic rocks has led geologists to surmise that a chain of volcanoes created the area’s mountains, once much higher but eroded over time into 1,000-foot peaks.

* Archeologists have found human habitation in the Uwharrie Mountains spanning more than 10,000 years.

* In 1700-1701, explorer John Lawson chronicled Native American tribes, plants, animals and geology in his journals, later published as “A New Voyage to Carolina”. He called the river “Heighwaree,” and later explorers called it “Uharie.”


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Monday, February 1, 2021

The Top 5 Reasons to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Encompassing more than 265,000 acres, and with more than sixty peaks topping out above 12,000 feet, Rocky Mountain National Park is home to some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth. From wooded forests to alpine tundra, these majestic mountains provide habitat to more than 60 species of mammals, while more than 280 species of birds visit or reside within the park. With more than 350 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, Rocky Mountain is also widely recognized as a hiker’s paradise. Here’s why you should plan to visit Rocky sometime this year:

The Continental Divide
One of the best things about Rocky Mountain National Park is its accessibility to the high country. No other park in the country allows visitors to gain lofty elevations so easily. Roughly one-third of the park is above tree-line, and more than 60 peaks top out above 12,000 feet, including 14,259-foot Longs Peak, the highest peak in the park. In addition to trails like the Flattop Mountain Trail or the route to Mt. Ida, visitors can also drive over the Continental Divide along the highest continuous paved road in North America. With a maximum elevation of 12,183 feet, and more than eight miles traveling above 11,000 feet, Trail Ridge Road connects Estes Park with Grand Lake. The road also provides access to outstanding tundra hikes such as the Ute Trail, the Tundra Communities Trail and the Alpine Ridge Trail.

Wet springs can bring exceptional wildflower blooming seasons in Rocky Mountain National Park. Even during normal years the park explodes with a variety of wildflowers. Some of the varieties visitors might enjoy include Alpine Clover, Rock Primrose, Western Wallflower, Sky Pilot and Alpine Sunflowers in the tundra areas of the park, as well as Mountain Iris, Lupine, Mariposa-lily and Colorado Columbines in the lower elevations. Some of best wildflower hikes include Big Meadows, Cascade Falls, Emerald Lake and the Lumpy Ridge Loop, among many others.

Longs Peak
At 14,259 feet, Longs Peak is the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park. The iconic sentinel is seen from almost anywhere in the park, as well as from many locations around northern Colorado. It’s also one of most popular “fourteeners” for hikers and climbers to tackle in a state that boasts a total of 53 peaks above 14,000 feet. Although considered a mountaineering route, thousands of hikers attempt to summit the peak each summer using the famous Keyhole Route. Personally, I don’t want anything to do with the narrow ledges and steep cliffs along the upper portions of the route. I much prefer safer climbs such as Hallett Peak and the Chapin-Chiquita-Ypsilon Mountains route to cure my big mountain summit fever.

Elk Rut
The annual elk rut is one of the premier attractions in Rocky Mountain National Park. Each fall elk descend from the high country to the lower elevation meadows during the annual breeding season. During the rut, bull elk compete with one another for the right to breed with herds of females. Mature bulls compete for cows by bugling, posturing, displaying their antlers and herding, while occasionally fighting off young challengers. The peak season for the rut generally lasts from mid-September to mid-October in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Fall Aspens
Just as the elk rut is kicking into high gear, another annual event that draws tourists to the park during the autumn are the brilliant fall colors of aspens. Each September the leaves of quacking aspens turn from green to orange and golden yellow throughout the park. Some of best hikes for viewing fall aspens include Bierstadt Lake, Alberta Falls, Cub Lake, Finch Lake, Adams Falls and Chasm Lake, among many others.

In addition to the hikes discussed above, Rocky Mountain National Park has many other outstanding hikes that take-in the best scenery the park has to offer. If you do plan to visit Rocky Mountain this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park