Winter Diamonds

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Only in Winter Vision: Drifts of snow among the Christmas-tree spires of the subalpine forest
Prime Winter Activities: Cross-country skiing, hiking, wildlife viewing

Just getting to Rocky Mountain National Park is half the thrill. The roads from the east provide the winter traveler a breathtaking panorama of the high mountains.

Once you get there, you'll find the park's winter sports are glorious. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing generally take place in the lower valleys, especially the Bear Lake and Wild Basin areas. But lift up your gaze. Moderate-to-deep snow fills most high valleys from December into May, and skiable spring snow covers much of the tundra. Areas that are much too delicate to walk across during the summer become sturdier with a cushion of snow.

The park's east slopes are much drier, since most of the Pacific-born clouds are drained as they creep over the western side of the range. Snow cover is relatively light, meaning you have reasonable mobility in your hiking boots, and can eschew skis and snowshoes. The park offers several winter hiking trails.

You'll be sharing the park with the elk, who have nary a thought of Florida or even New Mexico. Birders will want to head for the Ponderosa forests, where you can witness large flocks of chickadees, kinglets, juncos, sparrows, and nuthatches. Bark-beetle infested trees are beset by woodpeckers, who add a little rhythm to the winter woods. (I wish the beat boxes of my New York City neighborhood sounded so good. . .)

More on Winter Sports at Rocky Mountain
More on Rocky Mountain National Park Main Page

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 9 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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