Front Range Colorado has one of the most expansive outdoors laboratories in the nation. We enjoy thousands of acres, a short driving distance from the east side urban center, offering a massive …
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Front Range Colorado has one of the most expansive outdoors laboratories in the nation. We enjoy thousands of acres, a short driving distance from the east side urban center, offering a massive variety of wildlife, plants, birds and environmental features. And we can take an active role in a drive-by view, group field educational classes or quiet personal time with reading materials. Where is this unique opportunity you ask? It is the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), stretching over the Continental Divide between the communities of Estes Park and Grand Lake.
RMNP encompasses 415 square miles reaches 12,000 feet elevation alone Trail Ridge Road, and has 300 miles of hiking trails. The park supports 20,000 employees and offers an opportunity for 315,000 seasonal volunteer roles. In 2018 it was the third most visited park within the National Park system, welcoming nearly 4,600,000 visitors.
The “Ranger” programs offer some of the most interesting and unique learning opportunities within RMNP. This educational program is led by the park’s professional rangers or invited skilled and experienced instructors. There are two defined field areas for these programs, the east side (Estes Park, and the west side (Grand Lake). Specific topics are scheduled on a continual weekly schedule throughout the summer. Examples of West Side Ranger Programs include “Lions, Bears and Moose! Oh My!” It is a 45-minute talk at Kawuneeche Visitors Center each day of the week, at 2:30 p.m.; Mountain Wildflowers at the Onahu Trailhead held weekly on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 9 a.m..A must see program is the Colorado River Adventure Walk, set each Wednesday at 10 a.m., set at the Coyote Valley Trailhead. Given the Colorado River is the largest of the seven river basins that originated in Colorado, it often times becomes the center of coffee conversation when discussing western water issues. Another popular presentation is the “A Walk Backwards” that explores the park history when, in the 1920s, there were many active ranches in what is now RMNP. This program is a two-hour event held at the Holzwarth Historic site parking area. A walking tour of that family ranch can follow the Rangers’ program.
The east side programs have equal appeal and visitor interest. East side highlights a variety of trails, both gentle and more challenging. Hikers regularly meet at the end of “Bear Lake Trail Road for just over a half mile of hiking to and around the beautiful and popular Bear Lake. “Lily Lake Trail” draws many hikers as well with its one-mile distance and mild elevation change. Learn about the park’s predominate wildlife, the elk, at the “Story of the Elk” scheduled every Monday at 10 a.m. a the Fall River Visitor Center, featuring a 30-minute ranger lecture and photo show. The bear has its own following at a 30-minute ranger program “Leave it to Beaver” every Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Fall River Visitor Center. Birders can look to the “Birds of the Upper Beaver Meadows,” which focuses on all the high elevation bird life in the RMNP. That program is scheduled 7 a.m. Tuesday through Friday each week and includes a gentle 1.5 hour walk at the Upper Beaver Meadows Trailhead.
There are dozens of other ranger programs, hikes, walks and learning experiences in the RMNP. The “Rocky Mountain National Park Newspaper and Trip Planner” offers a wealth of information and is available at park entrances on both sides. The best contact point is the park information center at 970-586-1319. There are weeks still remaining in the 2019 summer to experience Colorado’s popular RMNP. Enhance your summer outdoors experience by taking advantage of these outdoors classes.
Outdoorsman and Westminster resident Ron Hellbusch can be reached at Ron-Hellbusch Comcast.net
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