Summer is beautiful and busy in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colo., but visitors are discovering that autumn can be lovely and a bit quieter.
Located in north-central Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park is the 10th most-visited national park in the United States, with an annual visitation of about three million people.
Rocky encompasses about 415 square miles of glorious mountain scenery ranging in elevation from 7,800 feet at park headquarters to the summit of Longs Peak at 14,259 feet. Ninety-five percent of the park is designated wilderness, full of mountains, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, myriad species of mammals, birds, fish, and a profusion of wildflowers and butterflies.
Photo Credit Rocky Mountain National Park - FALL IN THE ROCKIES -- If Arizonans are looking for some cooler fall weather or plan to visit high-country autumn colorscapes, here is an invitation from Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park. Summer is beautiful and busy there, but visitors are discovering that autumn can be lovely and a bit quieter. Besides enjoying glorious golden aspen, they can see the elk rut in full swing from about mid-September until mid-October.
Fall comes early to the high country. Years vary, but generally in the last week of August, the first shocks of gold aspen leaves start showing up, high on hillsides.
In early September, more gold leaves can be enjoyed in the Grand Lake area. On the east side of the park, aspen trees turn gold at Bear Lake starting in mid-September, and in late-September in the Estes Park area.
Besides enjoying glorious golden aspen, visitors can see the elk rut in full swing from about mid-September until mid-October. This is the mating ritual of the elk, during which big bulls spar with each other and bellow eerie bugles to attract cows.
Elk are most active at dawn and dusk and tend to rest during the middle of the day. In the evenings, park visitors can experience the rut from meadow edges, where volunteers are available to answer questions.
Also, each evening from Sept.1 through Oct. 10, rangers present 30-minute programs called “Elk Echoes,” all about elk adaptations, migration and mating behavior. Programs are held at 6 p.m. at both the Moraine Park Visitor Center amphitheater and Sheep Lakes parking lot.
Weather can be changeable in the fall, so come prepared. It can definitely snow at higher elevations! Layers — including insulating, windproof clothing like synthetic or wool — are a great idea, and storm gear is essential. Hats and gloves are good to throw in your suitcase too. Proper footwear is important if you plan to hike.
Trail Ridge Road, the highest, continuous, paved road in the United States, crosses the park and crests at over 12,000 feet. Snow can close this road temporarily in fall, and the park tries to keep it open through mid-October. The average closing date of Trail Ridge Road is Oct. 22.
In winter, weather permitting, visitors can drive the first eight miles on the east side to Many Parks Curve, the first major overlook, and the first 10 miles on the west side to the Colorado River Trailhead.
Fall, which had been a best-kept secret of some vacationers, has been discovered. September weekends can be some of the busiest days of the year in Rocky, but weekdays remain quieter. Whatever the season, it’s always beautiful in Rocky Mountain National Park!
For more information on Rocky Mountain National Park, visit www.nps.gov/romo or call (970) 586-1206.
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