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Rocky Mountain National Park

Sightseeing
Rocky Mountain National Park Family Vacations

A feature of the park is the marked differences found with the changing elevation. At lower levels, open stands of ponderosa pine and juniper grow on the slopes facing the sun; on cooler north slopes are Douglas-fir. Gracing the streamsides are blue spruces intermixed with dense stands of lodgepole pines. Here and there appear groves of aspen. Wildflowers dot meadows and glades. Above 2,700 meters (9,000 feet) forests of Englemann spruce and subalpine fir take over. Openings in these cool, dark forests, produce wildflower gardens of rare beauty and luxuriance, where the blue Colorado columbine reigns. At the upper edges of this zone, the trees are twisted, grotesque, and hug the ground. Then the trees disappear and you are in alpine tundra - a harsh, fragile world. Here, more than one-quarter of the plants you will see can also be found in the Arctic. From the valleys to its mountaintops, Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses many worlds.

Trail Ridge Road is one of the great alpine highways in the United States. It crosses the park from east to west and then drops into the Kawuneeche Valley and that of the North Fork of the Colorado River. Its winding course takes you 3,713 meters (12,183 feet) above sea level and into a world akin to Earth's arctic regions. The road is usually open from Memorial Day to mid-October depending on snowfall. As your family travels along Trail Ridge itself, above tree line, you are on the "roof of the Rockies" with superlative vistas of glacier-carved peaks on every side. For a closer look at the alpine world, walk to Forest Canyon Overlook or take the half-hour round trip Tundra Trail.

Activities
Rocky Mountain National Park Family Trips

Your family can become acquainted with the park through its guided walks, campfire talks, and other services. Stop at park headquarters or the Kawuneeche Visitor Center, both of which are open ell year, and see the exhibits at Alpine Visitor Center, open June through September, and at the Moraine Park Museum, open May to October. Wayside exhibits and self-guiding trails also will help your family enjoy your stay in the park.

Horses with guides can be hired at several locations for your family's convenience. For the climbers in your family, Rocky Mountain National Park offers a variety of challenging ascents throughout the year.

Winter means snow in the Rockies and snow means skiing. Cross-country skiing in the lower valleys, winter mountaineering in the high country, and downhill skiing at Hidden Valley.

Shopping
Rocky Mountain National Park Family Travel

The only shopping your family will find in the park is the gift shop. You can, however, find shopping in the Estes Park and Grand Lake areas.

Hidden Gems
Rocky Mountain National Park Family Vacations

Did you know...

The Stanley Hotel is located in Estes Park. This luxury 1909 hostelry inspired Stephen King's novel The Shining.

Family Friendly Dining
Rocky Mountain National Park Family Trips

There is no dining within Rocky Mountain National Park, with the exception of the snack bar at the Alpine Visitor Center at Fall River Pass. However, there is an incredible variety of quality dining options in the Estes Park and Grand Lake areas. Restaurants, snack shops and coffee shops offer menus for all tastes and ages.

Climate
Rocky Mountain National Park Family Travel Spring (April through May) - Precipitation will fall in the form of rain at lower elevations and snow at higher elevations. Conditions will change often from warm and dry to cold and wet. Late spring usually brings on the late-afternoon thunderstorm season, which will last through most of the summer.

Summer (June through August) - Expect sunny mornings, afternoon thunderstorms and clear nights. Lightning is often associated with these thunderstorms. Avoid tundra slopes and high ridges in the presence of threatening weather. Dark, flat-bottomed clouds are a sign of possible lightning.

Fall (September through November) - Sunshine and blue skies are typical of a normal autumn day. Cool temperatures and decreasing precipitation can be expected. Snow may begin to fall in late-October to November.

Winter (December through March) - Cool, crisp days and winds should be expected. The area experiences over 300 days of sunshine a year, making for some pleasant winter days. However, sudden and intense snowstorms and blizzards can happen at any time.

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