Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sunrise from Longs Peak

While perusing the National Park Service's online collection of park brochures a few days ago, I came across a Rules and Regulations pamphlet for Rocky Mountain National Park from 1920. The pamphlet, which appears to be more of travel brochure than a compendium of rules, includes an extremely well written and eloquent account of four women who climbed to the top of Longs Peak under the light of the moon in 1915.

The brochure describes the essay:

"A night ascent of Longs Peak is necessary to see the wonderful spectacle of sunrise from the summit. Here is the story of an ascent made in August, 1915, by Miss Edna Smith, Mrs. Love, Miss Frasher, and Miss Terry, under the guidance of Shep Husted."

Here is the account is by Miss Smith:
At supper time the chances seemed against a start. It was raining. Later the rain stopped but the full moon was almost lost in a heavy mist and the light was dim. Mr. Husted thought an attempt to ascend the peak hardly wise. At 11 o'clock I went to Enos Mills for advice. He said, "Go." So we mounted Our ponies and started, chilled by the clammy fog about us.

After a short climb we were in another world. The fog was a sea of silvery clouds below us and from it the mountains rose like islands. The moon and stars were bright in the heavens. There was the sparkle in the air that suggests enchanted lands and fairies. Halfway to timberline we came upon ground white with snow, which made it seem all the more likely that Christmas Pixies just within the shadows of the pines might dunce forth on a moon beam.

Above timberline there was no snow, but the moonlight was so brilliant that the clouds far below were shining like misty lakes and even the bare mountain side about us looked almost as white as if snow covered.

As we left our ponies at the edge of the Boulder Field and started across that rugged stretch of d├ębris spread out flat in the brilliant moonlight we found the silhouette of Longs Peak thrown in deep black shadow across it. Never before had that bold outline seemed so impressive.

At the western edge of Boulder Field there was a new marvel. As we approached Keyhole, right in the center of that curious nick in the rim of Boulder Field shone the great golden moon. The vast shadow of the peak, made doubly dark by the contrast, made us very silent. When we emerged from Keyhole and looked down into the Glacier Gorge beyond it was hard to breathe because of the wonder of it all. The moon was shining down into the great gorge 1,000 feet below and it was filled with a silvery glow. The lakes glimmered in the moonlight.

Climbing along the narrow ledge, high above this tremendous gorge, was like a dream. Not a breath of air stirred, and the only sound was the crunch of hobnails on rock. There was a supreme hush in the air, as if something tremendous were about to happen.

Suddenly the sky, which had been the far-off blue of a moonlit night, flushed with the softest amethyst and rose, and the stars loomed large and intimately near, burning like lamps with lavender, emerald, sapphire, and topaz lights. The moon had set and the stars were supreme.

The Trough was full of ice and the ice was hard and slippery, but the steps that had been cut in the ice were sharp and firm. We had no great difficulty in climbing the steep ascent, We emerged from the Trough upon a ledge from which the view across plains and mountain ranges was seemingly limitless.

As we made our way along the Narrows the drama of that day's dawn proceeded with kaleidoscopic speed. Over the plains, apparently without end, was a sea of billowy clouds, shimmering with golden and pearly lights. One mountain range after another was revealed and brought close by the rosy glow that now filled all the sky. Every peak, far and near, bore a fresh crown of new snow, and each stood out distinct and individual. Arapaho Peak held the eye long. Torreys Peak and Grays Peak were especially beautiful. And far away, a hundred miles to the south, loomed up the summit of Pikes Peak. So all-pervading was the alpine glow that even the near-by rocks took on wonderful color and brilliance.

Such a scene could last but a short time. And it was well for us, for the moments were too crowded with sensations to be long borne. Soon the sun burst up from the ocean of clouds below. The lights changed. The ranges gradually faded into a far-away blue. The peaks flattened out and lost themselves in the distance. The near-by rocks took on once more their accustomed somber hues. And in the bright sunlight of the new day we wondered whether we had seen a reality or a vision.

On the summit all was bright and warm. Long we lingered in the sunlight, loath to leave so much beauty; but we feared lest the ice in the Trough should soften, and at last we began the descent. We descended leisurely and stopped at Timberline Cabin for luncheon.

It was a perfect trip. It seemed as if the stage were set for our especial benefit. It was an experience that will live with me always. At first I felt as if I could never ascend the peak again, lest the impressions of that perfect night should become confused or weakened. But I believe I can set this night apart by itself. And I shall climb Longs Peak again.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Conditions Permitting - Rocky Mountain National Park Will Conduct Winter Pile Burning Operations

Fire managers at Rocky Mountain National Park plan to take advantage of potential upcoming winter weather conditions to burn piles of slash. Approximately 1,500 piles are from several hazard fuels and hazard tree mitigation projects on the east side of the park. Slash has been cut and piled by park fire crews and contractors during the last two years. Nearly 6,000 piles were burned throughout the park last year.

When fighting the Fern Lake Fire, firefighters were able to take advantage of previous and existing prescribed fire and hazardous fuels treatment areas that provided a buffer between the fire and Estes Park. Prior hazard fuels projects were instrumental in stopping the fire from jumping Bear Lake Road. Because of the reduced fuel loading in those treated areas and the fire lines that had already been created in some locations, firefighters had confidence they could directly, and safely, attack the fire in places like the Upper Beaver Meadows area if the fire had moved there.

Pile burning operations will only begin when conditions allow. The piles are located in a variety of locations on the east side of the park including south of Lily Lake and the Twin Sisters Trailhead, near the Fall River entrance, the north slopes of Deer Mountain, east of Glacier Basin Campground, upper Bear Lake Road Corridor, Highway 34 below Deer Ridge Junction to Horseshoe Park and along Trail Ridge Road above Deer Ridge Junction to Hidden Valley.

Safety factors, weather conditions, air quality and environmental regulations are continually monitored as a part of any fire management operation. For more information please contact the park's Information Office at 970-586-1206.


Volunteers Needed at Rocky Mountain National Park

The Volunteer Program at Rocky Mountain National Park is seeking volunteers to fill a variety of roles during the busy summer season.

Volunteers are needed to assist in visitor centers, at trailheads, in the Fire Management Office, on road crews and trail crews, and in the Cultural Resource Office. Occasionally, the National Park Service recruits for positions that include housing. Currently, the park has two of these positions, one located at McGraw Ranch and the second located at the Holzwarth Historic Site on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain is seeking people who like to communicate with the public, work hard, and have a sincere desire to help protect Rocky Mountain National Park.

For a list of current volunteer openings as well as links to apply, click here. For additional questions, please contact the Volunteer Office at Rocky Mountain National Park at (970) 586-1330.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rocky Mountain National Park Unveils Centennial Logo

In celebration of the park's 98th birthday on January 26, Rocky Mountain National Park and the Rocky Mountain Nature Association announced the winning logo for the park's upcoming 100th Anniversary celebration. The designer is Carol Welker, a graphic artist based out of Dallas, Texas.

As a child, Welker spent summers in the Cedar Park area near Drake, Colorado. She has many fond memories of exploring Rocky Mountain National Park with her siblings - hiking, backpacking, and summiting Longs Peak. "As a result," says Welker, "the iconography unique to the park was ingrained in my mind and my soul."

"The logo design was certainly inspired by my past," says Welker. She incorporated the most memorable images from her childhood into her design, including aspen leaves, columbine, pine cones, and bighorn sheep. "I wanted to give an overall majestic feel to the logo and make a bold statement about the respect the park deserves as well as the many reasons its preservation calls for celebration."

Close to one hundred logo entries were received, including a great number of outstanding ideas, which made the selection process very difficult. Officials wish to thank everyone who participated.

The 100th Anniversary will be promoted and celebrated throughout the park and surrounding communities. The winning logo will be used for educational, promotional, and marketing pieces approved by Rocky Mountain Nature Association and Rocky Mountain National Park. In order to accommodate the greatest variety of events possible, celebration of Rocky Mountain National Park's 100th Anniversary will begin on September 4, 2014, and will continue until the 100th Anniversary of the dedication of Rocky Mountain National Park on September 4, 2015.

Over the course of the year, a calendar of events will be offered by the park, local organizations, and surrounding communities to celebrate Rocky Mountain National Park's natural and cultural history and the relationships that have developed over the last 100 years.


What not to do in a national park

Check out this hiker (tourist?) as he tries to rescue his camera battery on Half Dome in Yosemite National Park last year:

Half Dome, one of the most iconic features in our national park system, sits at an elevation of 8842 feet, and requires a 14.2-mile round trip hike to reach the summit via the Mist Trail. To assist climbers up the final 400 vertical feet, steel cables were bolted into the granite rock face by the Sierra Club in 1919. You can check out a pretty awesome photo of what it's like to climb the cables here.

A 2008 article in Backpacker Magazine stated that the Mist Trail sees 2,500 to 3,000 people per day during summer weekends. Over the years several people have fallen to their deaths along the route. In response to the heavy use of the trail, the park announced earlier this year that they will be implementing a new permit system for climbing the monolith:
Applications for permits to hike the trail are available from March 1 through March 31, 2013. The park will allocate permits through a preseason lottery, a two-day in advance lottery, and as part of the Wilderness Permit process (daily lottery). Details regarding the lotteries and the wilderness process can be found at the park's website. The lottery will be conducted through


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rocky Mountain National Park Planning Season

Planning a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park this summer? Now's the time to make your reservations, as accommodations will begin filling up for peak season over the next few weeks.

I wanted to take this opportunity to remind readers that if you're planning a trip to Rocky Mountain this summer, please take a moment to check out the listings on our lodging and accommodations page on Our website offers a wide variety of overnight accommodations that offer a wide variety of amenities in the Rocky Mountain National Park area.

We also offer several other tools and information resources that can be helpful as you plan your vacation. Trying to figure out where to hike can be challenging, especially if you're unfamiliar with the park. As a starting point you can check our list of the Top 10 Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, or the Best Easy Hikes in the park.

If you're looking for other activities besides hiking, check out our Things To Do page.

Please know that by supporting one of our advertisers you help to support

Finally, if you know of anyone planning a trip to RMNP this year, we would really appreciate if you could forward this link onto them as well.

Thank you very much!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fatalities on Longs Peak

**** For an updated post on these statistics, published on 1/4/2018, please click here.

The summer 2011 edition of Trail & Timberline, a quarterly publication from the Colorado Mountain Club, includes an interesting article on fatalities while climbing Longs Peak throughout the history of Rocky Mountain National Park. Included with the article was a map charting the location of each fatality, as well as a list of those who have died over the years.

Between 1915, when Rocky Mountain became a national park, and 2010, a total of 344 park visitors have died as a result of accidents, car crashes, heart attacks and various other reasons. Included in those statistics are 60 fatalities associated with climbing Longs Peak. Since the article included some basic information on each of those deaths, I wanted to dig a little deeper into some of the statistics.

* Among the 60 fatalities on Longs Peak between 1915 and 2010, only 4 were women. This likely has a lot to do with the ratio of men versus women climbing the mountain during that time period, but could also suggest that women take less risks or are more careful. Unfortunately there's not enough data to make any solid conclusions regarding this.

* The average age for those that have died on the mountain is 32.5. The oldest person to die was 75 when he slipped on ice along the Narrows section of the Keyhole Route. There were also two 16-year-olds that have died on the peak, one in 1932, and the other in 1980. A total of 9 victims were teenagers, which represents 15% of all deaths.

* Although 57% of the victims were below the age of 30, the average age for climbing deaths since 1999 has jumped to almost 45.

* During the first decade of the 21st Century, 8 fatalities have been recorded. However, the deadliest decade was the 1970s when the mountain claimed the lives of 13 people.

* Two-thirds of all deaths were the result of a fall - roped and unroped.

* The technical East Face route has witnessed the most fatalities during the lifespan of the park: 14. However, the Keyhole Route reported 13 deaths during that same time period. Additionally, three other people have died at or near the Keyhole, while another died of hypothermia at the Boulder Field.

* The Homestretch on the Keyhole Route has seen the most deaths of any one location on the mountain: 7.

* 20 people have died on the mountain for reasons other than falls, including 6 that had heart attacks, 4 hypothermia, 3 by lightning, and 3 by exhaustion and exposure. Two people have died as a result of suicide, including one person who ingested anti-freeze at the Narrows in 1979. It's not clear as to whether she was trying to kill herself, or trying to stave off the cold.

* Perhaps the most famous person to perish on the mountain was Agnes Vaille. On January 25, 1925, Ms. Vaille became the first woman to climb Longs Peak in the winter. While making her descent along the Keyhole Route, Vaille slipped and fell about 150 feet. Spent with fatigue, Vaille insisted she needed a short nap, but froze to death before her hiking partner could bring help back. Today, just below the Keyhole, is the Agnes Vaille Shelter. Built as a memorial to Ms. Vaille, the shelter also serves as a refuge for hikers and climbers in need.

* One other notable death occurred in 1889 - prior to the park's establishment. Frank Stryker was descending down the Homestretch on the Keyhole Route (according to Death, Daring & Disaster he was still ascending) when a loaded pistol fell out of his pocket and discharged into his neck. You could say there was a bit of karma involved. The 28-year-old was taking pleasure in launching large boulders down the mountain while climbing the mountain. The newspaper account at the time said "he announced his intentions of sending off a particularly huge stone" just before the accident occurred. The man continued to cling to life for ten more hours while his companions attempted to transport him down the mountain on a makeshift litter.

If considering a hike to the Keyhole or Chasm Lake, or a climb to the summit of Longs Peak, it's always a good idea to know your limits and to respect the mountain.

For more information on hiking to Chasm Lake, please click here.

For more information on hiking to the Keyhole, please click here.


Monday, January 21, 2013

AmeriCorps Arrives on Canyon Lakes Ranger District

The Canyon Lakes Ranger District of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests will be hosting an AmeriCorps crew in 2013 to help with hazardous fuels reduction work and firefighting efforts. This is the third year the district has hosted a crew.

AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs that engage Americans in intensive service to meet the nation’s critical needs in education, public safety, health and the environment. This AmeriCorps Team is comprised of 12 young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 and provides an enormous service to the U.S. Forest Service. Members of the team are from all across the United States, each from a different state.

The Forest Service provides necessary training and housing for the crew, as well as a liaison to assist the team lead with supervision and assignments.

The team will be in the district during late winter and then will return May through July. Work this winter will consist mostly of slash pile burning and prescribed fire preparation. In the summer the crew will help supplement the district’s firefighting resources.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

West Magnolia recreation area reopens

The popular West Magnolia area, located on the Boulder Ranger District immediately south of Nederland, reopened to public access this past Friday. The area had been closed since June 2012 for safety reasons during major fuel mitigation work and hazardous tree cutting. The Nederland Recreational Shooting Closure (Order No. 10-01-2012-11) is still in place.

Those visiting the area are advised to stay on designated roads and trails and exercise caution around existing trees. Trees of all sizes remaining after treatment will be susceptible to blow-down during windy weather. Stumps and logs may be hidden under the snow. Remember, your safety is your responsibility.

Cutting and hauling operations are on hold for now. Operations are expected to resume when conditions allow, and small area closures may be put in place. Slash piles and log decks remaining on site must not be tampered with, added to, or removed from for legal and safety reasons.

For other recreation information on the Boulder Ranger District this winter, please call Visitor Information at 303-541-2500.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sunset Crater / Wupatki National Monument

During our tour of the southwest this past September, my wife and I visited the three National Monuments that surround Flagstaff, Arizona. About an hour north of town, located in the Coconino National Forest, is Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument, which are in close proximity to each other, and are usually visited together.

Our first destination during this leg of the trip was to hike the one-mile Lava Flow Trail at Sunset Crater. All of the mountains in northern Arizona, known as the San Francisco Peaks, are dormant volcanoes and cinder cones. The result is a very unique landscape, which in some places reminds you of something you would see on the moon. Sunset Crater (below) is one the larger cinder cone volcanoes in the area. One of the significant features of this 1000-foot high cone is that the rim area lights up with a reddish glow during sun sets.

The Lava Flow Trail doesn’t climb atop, or even on Sunset Crater, but it does explore a variety of interesting volcanic formations near its base:

From the volcano we drove north on the Loop Road to visit the Wukoki Pueblo. These ruins were once the home of families from the Kayenta Anasazi culture, who built the Wukoki (a modern Hopi word for “Big House”) in the early 1100s, and were occupied for nearly a century. In 1896, archeologist Jesse Walter Fewkes is quoted as saying that Wukoki “is one of the most impressive masses of aboriginal masonry…. It is visible for many miles, and from a distance resembles an old castle as it looms… above the plain.”

From Wukoki it’s a short drive over to the Wupatki Pueblo. The centerpiece of the Wupatki National Monument is a four story stone apartment house that was also built roughly 900 years ago. It’s estimated that by 1182 roughly 85 to 100 people lived at Wupatki, the largest building for at least fifty miles around. The complex featured a 100-room pueblo, a community room and a ball court. Within a day's walk, it’s estimated that a population of several thousand people surrounded Wupatki:


Friday, January 18, 2013

Promoting qualities for a sturdy manhood and womanhood

"Mountaineering, in its broader sense, promotes the health and strength of the body, it teaches self-reliance, determination, presence of mind, necessity for individual thought and action, pride of accomplishment, fearlessness, endurance, helpful cooperation, loyalty, patriotism, the love of an unselfish freedom, and many other qualities that make for a sturdy manhood and womanhood."

- Roger Toll, former superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park from 1921 to 1929

A view of Longs Peak from the Roger Toll Memorial on the Tundra Communities Trail near the top of Trail Ridge Road:


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pueblo's 17th Annual 'Eagle Days'

Colorado Parks and Wildlife's 2013 "Eagle Days" festival features eagle-viewing opportunities, hands-on activities for youngsters, live bird programs and educational presentations by raptor experts.

This year's festival, Feb. 1-3, takes place at three locations: Lake Pueblo State Park, the Pueblo Nature & Raptor Center and the Pueblo Zoo. Each year the event draws hundreds of visitors from across the state to learn more about these unique birds of prey.

Numerous bald eagles spend the winter at Lake Pueblo State Park and the Pueblo Reservoir State Wildlife Area. They roost in the large trees and dine on fish from the large expanse of open water.

The area around Pueblo Reservoir offers excellent opportunities to view a variety of birds of prey year-round, but during the winter months, the bald eagles are the star attraction. The eagles tend to gather at the west end of the lake, but park employees and visitors report sighting individual eagles around the south marina, the Boggs Creek area and the river corridor below the dam.

Programs at the Park Visitor Center and entry to the Visitor Center from Hwy. 96 are free, but vehicles are required to have a Park's Pass if they enter or drive through other portions of the park.

The festival starts Friday, Feb. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lake Pueblo State Park auditorium with the announcement of the winners from this year's photo contest and a slideshow by Colorado photographer and premiere taxidermist Todd Huffman. Activities continue from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

The schedule of events:

Friday, Feb. 1:
6:30 p.m. – Colorado photographer Todd Huffman will present a "Spectacular Colorado Slideshow" at the Eagle Day Photography Contest Awards Ceremony at the Park Visitor's Center Auditorium.

Saturday, Feb. 2:
Ongoing all day - "Eagle Viewing" through spotting scopes at west fishing area at Lake Pueblo State Park, and kids' activities including making owl puppets, owl cookies and badge making at the Park HQ.
9 a.m. - Live Raptors Demonstration" by Diane Miller at the Pueblo Raptor & Nature Center, next to Lake Pueblo State Park.
10 a.m. - "Scamper, Gallop and Fly: The Wildlife of Colorado," by nature author Mary Taylor Young.
11:30 a.m. – "Air Force Academy Falcons Demonstration" by USAFA Cadets.
Noon - The Pueblo Mountain Park will present a program and activities for kids of all ages.
1 p.m. - "Bird Conservation on National Forest Lands" by Richard Roth, retired U.S. Forest Service biologist.
2 p.m. - "Bald Eagles," by Bernadette Atencio of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
3 p.m. – Release of a rehabilitated raptor at the west fishing area on the north side of Lake Pueblo State Park.

Sunday, Feb. 3:
 9 a.m. - Wildlife viewing field trip meets at the north entrance to the Pueblo Reservoir State Wildlife Area, located west of the north entrance to the Park and south of Pueblo West
10:30 a.m. - Bird walk at the Pueblo Raptor & Nature Center.
11:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. - Live birds on display at the Pueblo Raptor & Nature Center
Noon to 4 p.m. - "See the Eagles" at the Pueblo Zoo. View the Pueblo Zoo's pair of bald eagles.

For more information about Pueblo Eagle Days, visit or call Colorado Parks and Wildlife at 719-561-5300 or 719-561-9320.

More about eagles:

Eagles are the number one animal that Americans say they want to see in the wild. Colorado, in the winter offer prime viewing opportunities for both bald eagles and golden eagles.

Up to 1,200 bald eagles spend the winter in Colorado. Bald eagles are attracted here by relatively mild winters. Look for them near open water where they hunt for fish or ducks.

Most of the bald eagles leave Colorado in late February and March, heading north to nesting grounds in the northern U.S., Canada and Alaska, but a few remain year-round.

Golden eagles prefer rugged cliffs with adjacent open country where they feed on a variety of birds, reptiles and mammals, though jackrabbits are their primary prey.

Unlike bald eagles, golden eagles are common nesting birds in Colorado but they too move about during different times of the year. There are roughly 900 active golden eagle nests in Colorado. The majority of the golden eagles nest in the northwest part of the state during the summer. In wintertime, golden eagles are more broadly distributed throughout the state, but they are particularly visible on the eastern plains.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

First Summit: Climbing Longs Peak

The following is a pretty good film that highlights a group of five guys from Missouri as they climb Longs Peak during a multi-day backpacking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park:

For more information on the hike up to the Keyhole on Longs Peak, please click here.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Winter Camp Comfort Tips

Backpacker Magazine has recently published a pretty good video that offers some sound tips for making your winter camp a little more comfortable. If new to winter camping, you might benefit from this video:


Friday, January 11, 2013

Pinnacles Becomes Number 59

Yesterday the former Pinnacles National Monument in California received a promotion when legislation was signed, making it the 59th U.S. National Park.

Legislation to upgrade Pinnacles National Monument to a National Park was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in June, before finally receiving the nod from the Senate on December 30th.

The Pinnacles National Monument was created by President Theodore Roosevelt under the Antiquities Act of 1906. The initial area designated by the president was 2,080 acres, but has since grown to its current size of 26,606 acres.

The new park is located roughly 80 miles south of the San Francisco Bay Area, and about 40 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean.

The park gets its name from the massive monoliths, sheer-walled canyons, rock spires and crags that are remnants of an ancient volcano. The volcano eroded over millions of years as it moved northward along the San Andreas Fault.

Pinnacles is also home to a successful California condor re-establishment program. Every fall since 2003 captive-bred condors have been released into the wild. In 2010, for the first time in more than a century, a condor chick was successfully hatched within park boundaries. The national park now manages a population of 32 condors.

Pinnacles National Park has more than 30 miles of hiking trails. Hikes range from flat stretches of grasslands, to uphill climbs through talus caves, to the High Peaks Trail that takes hikers through the heart of the Pinnacles rock formations.

Due to extreme hot summer temperatures, Pinnacles is most popular in the cooler months. The park warns:
During the summer, extreme temperatures can make hiking uncomfortable at best, and possibly dangerous for those who are unprepared. If you plan to visit Pinnacles from late May through early September, please check the weather forecast and plan accordingly.
During the spring, when the grasses are green and a variety of wildflowers can be seen along any trail, hiking is at its best. Fall and winter are also excellent times to visit.

For more information on the park, please click here. For more information on hiking in the park, please click here.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Court Upholds Decision On Elk Thinning In Rocky Mountain National Park

The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday against WildEarth Guardians’ challenge to the National Park Service for its refusal to restore wolves to Rocky Mountain National Park. The grassroots organization argued that wolves would be much more effective in managing the burgeoning elk population in the park, rather than the continued use of sharpshooters to cull the herd.

“Despite the fact that wolves provide enormous ecological benefits to both elk and ecosystems that human sharpshooters simply cannot, the court ruled in favor of the sharpshooters,” said Wendy Keefover, Director of Carnivore Protection for WildEarth Guardians. “Wolves would do a far better job of culling the weak, the sick, and consistently moving sedentary elk away from fragile streams. Sharpshooters will never have the same ecological benefits on the landscape.”

The Park Service recognized the need to manage overpopulated elk in Rocky Mountain National Park in a December 2007 management plan, but the agency only briefly considered a wolf reintroduction as the preferred option to control elk herds. Guardians had argued that the agency’s decision-making process not only violated federal planning mandates, its decision to use sharpshooters also violated the agency’s organic act that established the Park Service as an agency that is supposed to prioritize conservation.

“Wolves keep getting a bad rap from agencies, Congress, and the courts, and we are so disappointed that they cannot return to their ancestral home – even in a national park where they are beloved by the overwhelming majority of citizens,” said Keefover. “This outcome is going to be a huge disappointment to the over 70 percent of Coloradoans who want wolves back.”

Although park officials once proposed the reintroduction of wolves as a possible solution, that option was quickly dropped. The agency stated there was little support from coordinating agencies, concerns from neighboring communities and a high potential for human-wolf conflicts. Officials also warned that managing wolves in the park would be expensive and time-consuming.

The appeals court ruling stated: "We find the record supports the agency’s decision to exclude consideration of a natural wolf alternative” from its elk management plan.


Rocky Mountain National Park Sets Visitation Record

Rocky Mountain National Park recorded the highest number of annual visitors ever this past year. A total of 3,251,317 visitors spent time in the park in 2012, which represents a 2.3% increase over 2011. The 2012 year also marks the eighth time that visitation exceeded 3 million in the park's history. 1978 was the first year.

Here's a look at annual visitation trends since Rocky Mountain became a park in 1915:


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Winter Trails Day in Rocky Mountain National Park

Next weekend is the 17th Annual Winter Trails Day in Rocky Mountain National Park. The event will be held will be held on Saturday, January 19th, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Park and Ride lot near Glacier Basin.

Winter Trails Day is a free snowshoe festival with hundreds of demo snowshoes for adults and children, advice from snowshoe experts, and outdoor gear displays.

Participants will have the opportunity to try snowshoes from several manufacturers, including Tubbs, Atlas, MSR, Crescent Moon and others. You'll also receive expert advice on selecting and fitting snowshoes. There will also be informational clinics that include educational stations on winter activity basics, safety techniques, nutrition and hydration tips, essential conditioning exercises and how to dress for winter hiking and camping.

Event organizers ask that you bring your own food and water. You should also note that, beginning at 2:00 PM, the available quantity of demo equipment will be restricted - so be sure to arrive early enough in order to demo each and every model. Also, be sure to bring your driver’s license for registration purposes.

Although the event is free, Rocky Mountain National Park entrance fees still apply.

For more information, please click here, or call 1-800-443-7837 or the Estes Park Visitors Center at 1-970-577-9900.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What would you see if you went hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park?

What would you see if you went hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park? Hopefully this video, which I recently published, will partially answer that question:

For more information please visit:


Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Wonderful World Awaits: Explore Rocky Mountain National Park this Winter

For many visitors, winter is their favorite season to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park. The park is less visited but still very much open and alive with activity. Beautiful backcountry areas can be reached on snowshoes, skis, and at lower elevations - even with hiking boots! Elk, coyotes, deer, snowshoe hares, and other wildlife remain active through the winter. Their story is told by the tracks left in the snow. For those visitors who are prepared, winter is an enchanting time to explore the park.

Snowshoeing and skiing are fun ways to experience the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park. The park offers ranger-led snowshoe ecology walks for beginner-level snowshoers on the east side, and for beginner and intermediate-level snowshoers and cross-country skiers on the west side of the park. Reservations are required and there is no additional fee beyond the regular park entrance fee.

Snowshoeing is easy to learn and opens up a new way to see the beauty of nature during its quietest season. For beginners, the snowshoe program is a two-hour exploration of the natural world of the subalpine forest. No previous snowshoe experience is required. On the east side, this walk is held on Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30 p.m. through -more- March 23. The beginner snowshoe tour on the west side is held on Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. through March 16. Beginning on February 2, an additional west side tour will be offered at 9:00 a.m. on Saturdays through March 16.

For more experienced snowshoers, a two-hour snowshoe walk is offered on the west side of the park on Sundays at 1:00 p.m. through March 10. Previous snowshoeing experience is recommended because of the elevation gain, mileage, pace and terrain covered in this program.

Ranger-led cross-country ski tours are offered on the west side of the park on Saturdays at 9:00 a.m. through January 26. Participants ski a snow-draped landscape and learn about the Kawuneeche Valley.

All snowshoe walks and ski tours require reservations. Reservations can be made in advance, seven days or less prior to the desired program. Participants must furnish their own equipment, including poles with baskets, and be at least 8 years old. To make reservations for east side snowshoe walks, call the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1206 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. daily. To make reservations for west side snowshoe walks, call the Kawuneeche Visitor Center at (970) 627-3471 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily.

Frontcountry and backcountry camping take place in the winter too! Timber Creek Campground and designated sections of Moraine Park Campground are open all winter; the fee is $14 per site per night. Water and dump stations are not available in winter at the campgrounds. Self-registration permits for backcountry camping in winter zones are available. There is no charge in the winter for backcountry camping.

Sledding activities can be enjoyed in Rocky Mountain National Park at the Hidden Valley area. Hidden Valley slopes have been contoured to enhance the safety of sledding and other -more- snowplay activities. The gentle sledding hill is especially enjoyed by younger park visitors. Facilities at Hidden Valley include a warming hut, which is open weekends, and heated restrooms which are open daily. This area is also a good base location for visitors interested in backcountry skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing in the undeveloped areas in and around Hidden Valley.

Podcasts on Winter Recreation and Introduction to Snowshoeing can be found on the park website at, Backcountry users should be aware of avalanche conditions, always check the Colorado Avalanche Information Center website at before an adventure.

Full Moon Walks are offered on the east side of the park on January 26 and February 25. Times and locations will vary each month. Reservations are necessary and may be made seven days in advance by calling (970) 586-1206.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Walnut Canyon National Monument

During our tour of the southwest this past September, my wife and I visited the three National Monuments that surround Flagstaff, Arizona. One of those was Walnut Canyon, just a couple miles east of town. The canyon is culturally and historically significant due to the ancient Sinagua people that once lived here, and the pueblos they etched along the canyon walls that still stand today.

The Sinagua, a pre-Columbian cultural group that lived in Walnut Canyon from about 1100 to 1250, constructed several cliff dwelling rooms. The best way to get an up-close view of the ancient homes is to walk the one-mile Island Trail, which loops around a rock “island”, while hugging the cliff’s edge. From the trailhead, just outside of the visitor center, the path drops 185 feet - via 240 steps! You may want to note that you’ll have to climb those same stairs on your return. Once on the loop portion of the hike you’ll pass the remains of 25 cliff dwelling rooms, as well as several plant life zones that span the west from Mexico to Canada.

The park does a great job of interpreting the historical sites and the wide variety of plant life found along the way. Here are a few of the sights you’ll see:


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge Expands

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the State of Colorado and local municipalities closed on a land exchange Monday that will allow approximately 1,200 acres of important wildlife habitat to be added to the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, increasing the refuge’s size by nearly one-third and connecting it with the region’s open space and trail system. Rocky Flats is one of three National Wildlife Refuges in the Denver metropolitan area that provide open space, wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation opportunities.

Today’s closing is an important step in establishing the Rocky Mountain Greenway, an uninterrupted trail and open space network will connect hundreds of miles of trails in the Denver metropolitan area. The Rocky Mountain Greenway will link community trail systems, Rocky Flats and Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuges, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, and Rocky Mountain National Park.

The land exchange is a part of a larger set of transactions involving private landowners and other public entities that will result in the conservation of habitat and recreation lands. Together, these transactions seek to eliminate development threats to the western edge of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, connect the Refuge’s protected plant and animal habitats to conserved land owned by local government open space programs, and buffer the Refuge near its southern boundary.

The land closing follows a favorable ruling by the federal district court in Colorado that the Service complied with the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge Act of 2001 and applicable laws. Last Friday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denied an emergency motion to block the land transaction. As part of the refuge expansion, the Service transferred a 300-foot wide strip of land on the eastern boundary of the Refuge to the Jefferson Public Parkway Highway Authority for transportation improvements. The transfer of the Indiana Street transportation corridor is required by the Refuge’s authorizing legislation.

The land exchange offers the protections of the National Wildlife Refuge System to a large, contiguous and intact tract of xeric tallgrass prairie. Xeric tallgrass prairie only exists on a narrow band of the Colorado Piedmont, east of the mountain front in Colorado. The xeric tallgrass prairie grassland on Rocky Flats and the City of Boulder Open Space nearby to the west are believed to be the largest remaining tracts of this plant community in North America. Additionally, portions of land that the Service will receive include additional riparian habit for the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, a species listed by the federal government as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1998.

Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge sits at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The refuge site played an important role in Cold War history as a Department of Energy-operated facility for the production of plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads. The refuge entered U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stewardship in 2007 following the Environmental Protection Agency’s determination that corrective cleanup actions had been completed.

For additional information on the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, please visit: