Featuring Mount Evans, bighorn sheep and mountain goats, along with a varied assortment of wildlife, wooded forests, timberline, tundra, alpine, backcountry trails, volcanic mountains, the Continental Divide, and the Colorado River, the Rocky Mountain National Park, 265,770 acres of land, located northeast of Boulder, Colorado, along the Front Range, is perhaps the most popular national park in the United States.
U.S. Highways 34 and 36, and Colorado Highway 7, access the Rocky Mountain National Park, which is surrounded by the Roosevelt National Forest, the Routt National Forest, and the Arapaho National Forest. The Park’s headquarters, Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, is a National Historic Landmark.
Extremely popular areas of the Rocky Mountain National Park include Trail Ridge, Fall River, Wild Basin, Mummy Range, Longs Peak, Keyhole Route, the Diamond, Bear Lake, Hallett’s Peak, and the Continental Divide. The deep snows of Winter close trails above 9000 feet elevation making skiing and snowshoeing popular activities during this time, and the cities of Estes Park and Grand Lake are closeby.
Because the south-trending Continental Divide takes a brief, sharp, northward loop creating this reverse scene, the Pacific Basin is on the east side of the Divide, and the Atlantic Basin is on the west.
The mountains of the Rocky Mountain National Park are very craggy with deep snows, and were heavily mined. Many ghost towns, like Paradise Park, are hidden away in the peaks above Grand Lake, with no trails leading to them.
Bear Lake Trail:
Bear Lake Trail leads to Bierstadt Lake, a popular backwater hiking destination, however, snow skis must be carried in sections of this woodland trail during the Winter where snowfall can be unexpected. Bear Lake Trail is four and a half miles long with moderate terrain, a trailhead at 9475 feet, and a high elevation of 9730 feet.
Emerald Lake is the most popular hiking trail in the Rocky Mountain National Park, and significantly more glistening in the Winter, when snow blankets the wilderness, and snowshoes or skies are necessary on this slightly more than three and a half miles long trail over moderate terrain.
Old Fall River Road:
Old Fall River Road, across the Continental Divide, is one of the many treasures of the Rocky Mountain National Park, however, this one-way dirt road, with 16 switchbacks, up a steep canyon passing Fall River, is only accessible through early October. Mount Chapin, the southernmost peak of Mummy Range, can be enjoyed on this hike.
Marmot Peak Trail:
Alpine clarity awaits on the windswept summit of Marmot Peak few hikers reach. Through ascending altitudes reaching 11,900 feet over this one mile long out-and-back trail, a deep forest separates the peaks of Mummy Range, and blue mesa lays beyond Never Summer Range.
Tundra Nature Trail:
Tundra Nature Trail is an ideal hike for those wanting to learn about timberline life. Peaking at 12,390 feet this out-and-back trail provides circular scenic views of the surrounding mountains with their continual winds, barren slopes, and mushroom rock formations.
Good physical condition is recommended for this above timberline, across alpine, point-to-point trail along Tombstone Ridge, that drops into Windy Gulch and Upper Beaver Meadows. Ute Trail gains 200 feet, and loses 3200 feet, of elevation along this six mile long hike that must be vacated before any thunderstorms or whiteouts occur.
Beaver Boardwalk provides many species of wildlife along the river basins of the Rocky Mountain National Park, especially beavers, which are advertised on the sign at Hidden Valley Creek stating “The World of the Beavers”. Natural wetlands, marsh grasses, and wildflowers are abundant at Beaver Boardwalk.
Deer Mountain Trail:
Deer Mountain Trail offers views of the Continental Divide, Longs Peak, Chapin, Chiquita, Ypsilon, and Mummy Mountains, which are immediately seen 100 yards from the trailhead, making Deer Mountain ideal for young children, families, and short excursions on this out-and-back trail over easy terrain.
Websites like rockymountainnationalpark.com, trails.com, backpacker.com, fourteenernet.com, and mountainweb.com provides much more information on these and other winter hiking opportunities found in Colorado.