Rocky Mountain Playground - Page 2

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Mount Evans
A Bird's-Eye View: Sunrise on Mount Evans  (Eric Wunrow/Colorado Tourism)

Days 2-3: Estes Park into Rocky Mountain National Park (2 Miles)
The eastern entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park (970.586.1206; www.nps.gov/romo) is in Estes Park. This 265,769-acre region was designated a national park in 1915 part because its landscape captures the quintessential grandeur of the Rockies, with scenery ranging from grassy meadows at 8,000 feet to the top of imposing Longs Peak at 14,259 feet. The park has Junior Ranger and evening programs. There are five campgrounds to choose from, several open year-round. Aspen Glen, Glacier Basin, and Moraine Park campgrounds are all on the eastern side of the park; Longs Peak Campground is tents-only and primarily for those who want to rise before dawn and climb one of Colorado's famous 54 "14ers" (peaks over 14,000 feet high), while Glacier Basin has access to good trails for a variety of abilities. Campgrounds routinely fill by early afternoon in summer so reservations (1.800.365.CAMP) are a must—especially since this spot will serve as your family's base camp for two nights.

In addition to the routes from Glacier Basin and the challenges of the park's 14ers, a number of family-friendly hikes reside on the east side of the park, including walks around the Beaver Ponds for all ages, a 0.6-mile interpretive nature trail loop around Bear Lake, and trekking just over a mile (roundtrip) to thundering Alberta Falls. For families who can hike for over five miles, the roundtrip Ouzel Falls Trail has fabulous scenery and the added entertainment supplied by ouzels (a bird also known as a dipper), which plunge headlong into waterfalls and rushing streams.

Another great aspect of this park is the Rocky Mountain Nature Association (970.586.0108; www.rmna.org), which runs field seminars in the park for adults and kids. Typical classes for kids include Nature Sketchbooks, Bugling Elk, Beavers: Nature's Amazing Engineers and Surviving the Wild.

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