GRAND COUNTY, Colo. – Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is celebrating its 100th birthday on the anniversary of its inauguration date January 26, 1915. Though people have been visiting the area that the park encompasses for more than 10,000 years (there have been tools found from the Paleo-Indians there), the formal dedication took place on Sept. 4, 1915. Since then, Rocky Mountain National Park has been imparting peace, awe and adventure to its thousands of yearly visitors.
While there are many, many reasons to love RMNP, it’s hard to pack 100 years worth of celebrating into just one day. As a result, Rocky Mountain National Park will have a year’s worth of special events and celebratory activities. To narrow it down even more, here are the top 10 things to love about RMNP and Grand County Colorado.
Life is a Highway: Trail Ridge Road Scenic Byway (US Highway 34) is the highest continuously paved road in North America. Take a drive from Grand Lake and enjoy scenic vistas as well as sightings of some of the park’s wilder residents.
Climb Every Mountain: Rock climbing and mountaineering have become popular activities in recent years. Longs Peak, one of Colorado’s 14ers at 14,259 ft above sea level, is a popular challenge. Or, summit 12,007-foot Mount Craig for the best view of Grand Lake.
Take a Walk: The Continental Divide Trail is a 3,100-mile trail that runs from Canada to Mexico and weaves its way through the national park. Tackle just a portion of it by strolling the 30-mile segment that runs through the park.
Animal: RMNP is full of wildlife, but there’s nothing like being among the lucky few to see male bighorn sheep butting heads and locking horns during the fall rut season or listening to males bugle it out, particularly in the Kawuneeche Valley.
A Sky Full of Stars: There’s nothing like seeing the stars in the wilderness of the park; see even more through a telescope from Harbison Meadow with a ranger-led stargazing tour.
Cowboy Up: There are many ways to get your cowboy on in RMNP, from joining an outfitter on a horseback riding tour through the park’s western valleys to visiting a dude ranch in the shadow of the park’s peaks on the west side in Grand County.
Waterfalls: Powerful and awe-inspiring, waterfalls are at the pinnacle of vacation photo posing. Visit the gushing waters of Adams Falls during the height of runoff in May or see the rushing rapids of Cascade Falls, located northeast of Summerland Park.
Bicycle Race: It doesn’t have to be a race—there are plenty of ways to explore RMNP by two wheels. Explore the mountain bikes trails, particularly near Winter Park and Fraser or embark on an epic ride from Grand Lake to Estes Park and back again over Trail Ridge Road.
Gone Fishing: Cast your fly road for an unbeatable experience on Lake Granby. Whether it’s fly- fishing in the summer or ice fishing in the winter, you’ll be sure to have a tall tale to tell.
Soak It Up: All that adventuring can be taxing on poor tired, muscles. Take a side trip to Hot Sulphur Springs for a dip in the area’s famous thermal springs.
Grand Lake host mid-winter festivals with parades, bed races, snow sculptures and more:
Winter Park Resort 75th Anniversary Celebration (Feb. 7-15, http://www.winterparkresort.com)
Nine straight days of events and activities from ski races and freestyle competitions to snow sculptures at the lifts to special Village events, the entire resort will be a hub of activities. Winter Park’s Ski + Ride School will be holding camps during the week, including the popular Bob’s Bump Jamboree and Bob’s Mogul Camp, both of which specialize in how to tame Mary Jane’s world-famous moguls. The Village at Winter Park will be hopping all week long with a broomball tournament, live music, a Mardi Gras Celebration, and a much more.
Grand Lake Winter Carnival and Rocky Mountain National Park 100th year Celebration of Wilderness, Wildlife, Wonder (Feb. 7, http://www.grandlakechamber.com) – The winter carnival, in picturesque Grand Lake, features a full day – and evening – of snow- and ice-focused fun. The town, located 100 miles northwest of Denver on the shores of the largest natural lake in Colorado, becomes a snowy wonderland during the winter, with crisp, dry air, crystal-blue skies and the peaks of the Gore Range. Local residents and visitors participate in activities that range from the traditional and classic to unusual and even wacky. This year’s carnival is a celebration of Rocky Mountain National Park’s Centennial, showcasing the wilderness, wildlife and wonder of the park. Attendees will find a wild snow-sculpture contest; parent-child sled pull; a wilderness, wildlife and wonder street parade; and the ever-popular bed-sled races. For the sports enthusiast teapot curling and human bowling (complete with both kids’ and adults’ courses) are on tap. In the evening, activities move indoors with live music, awards, crowning of the snow king and queen, and a ball. The event, which is free for all spectators, concludes outdoors with fireworks over the lake.