Scenic USA - Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park
|Photo by Andy Cook
Andy Cook Photography
Mountain Goat photo by Paul Winters
A success story of the early 20th century, Moraine Park was once a booming Colorado resort. Here in the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, rustic cabins grew into lodges, and inn keepers quickly continued to add more guest facilities. This resort community began in the late 1800s when the Sprague family acquired 640 acres and built a homestead in north Moraine Park. Starting out with 16 x 24 foot log cabin, guests were easily lured to this area with magnificent Rocky Mountain scenery. Years later, the Spagues sold out to partner James Stead from Chicago. Changing the name to Stead's Ranch and Hotel, it wasn't long before the acreage was covered with 27 guest cottages, corrals, barns, a swimming pool and bath house. With the huge influx of visitors, the resort required a dining hall big enough to seat 250 guests. Playing host to a city crowd, a nine hole golf course took over a meadow where the Spagues once grew timothy.
When the Rocky Mountain National Park Act was passed in 1915, park rangers moved in with a development plan to make the landscape look more natural, removing buildings, roads, irrigation ditches and fences. The resort is gone and Moraine Park is now a developed campground.
Today, park policies have evolved, initiated by significant environmental laws to help protect the rooftop of America. Covering 415 square miles, the park is listed as one of the best in the country and continues to draw in millions of visitors each year to witness this spectacular Rocky Mountain wonder.
One of the best ways to get acquainted with the entire park is a drive over the Continental Divide via Trail Ridge Road. Cresting at Milner Pass (10,759 feet), this alpine route is one of the highest paved highways in the United States. Trail Ridge Road includes a string of overlooks where park sightseers are introduced to subalpine and alpine worlds. After the grand tour, park-goers are invited to make the most of their stay. With one of the largest web of hiking trails, visitors are sure to find something new to explore and an opportunity to gather new stories to tell back home. The park's alpine lakes, cool mountain streams, huge wildlife population, waterfalls and marvelous mountaintop vistas will keep the curious entertained throughout their visit. Whether it's a short valley hike or a back-packing journey to a mountaintop, a stay in the crisp mountain air of Rocky Mountain National Park has many ways to create a lasting impression.
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