By Lisa Swann

Rocky Mountain National Park, established in 1915, will begin celebrating its 100th anniversary later this year, so it’s a perfect year to visit. The park was created to showcase the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, with nearly 250,000 acres of the park designated as a wilderness area.

Within two hours of Denver, Colo., the park is accessible with the Trail Ridge Road rising to 12,000 feet and 300 more miles of hiking trails where one might catch a glimpse of elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep, black bears, coyotes, cougars, eagles, hawks and smaller animals. Golden aspen trees are on display in the fall, and in the summer there are myriad wildflowers.

There was early opposition to forming Rocky Mountain National Park in the 1900s from ranchers, cattlemen and miners. However, conservationists prevailed in Congress and helped establish the park. The park has a rich oral and written history including stories of early native peoples, explorers, ranchers, mountaineering, fire ecology and the biology of the native flora and fauna.

One can be sure that in this 100th anniversary year, these oral histories, publications and government reports, artifacts and natural history specimens will be center stage in any visit. Be sure to check with the National Park Service before visiting as some places in the park are still closed due to 2013 flooding.

A young elk runs to join the rest of its herd in Rocky Mountain National Park
A young elk runs to join the rest of its herd in Rocky Mountain National Park. Credit: Vince O’Sullivan