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Standing the Test of Time

Iconic Colorado Park Celebrates Centennial

The park dresses in bright yellow for fall and Trail Ridge Road is open till the first snow.

The park dresses in bright yellow for fall and Trail Ridge Road is open till the first snow.

For being a hundred years old, she looks pretty darn good. She’s well preserved, as the saying goes.

And that’s the whole point.

Rocky Mountain National Park, arguably Colorado’s most iconic destination, celebrates its centennial as a park this year. President Woodrow Wilson signed the bill to make it official on Jan. 26, 1915. 

And although that’s the actual centennial date, the park staff is making sure that visitors get in on the celebration no matter when they come. The festivities continue till September. 

“We want everyone to get in on the fun,” says Barbara Scott, a park ranger interpreter and coordinator of the anniversary events. 

Something for Everyone

In all, it’s a fairly low-key celebration, with lots of special exhibits, lectures, ranger tours and unique events.

For example, a Model T car club will do a car-camping trip reminiscent of the park’s early days.

“That’s especially appropriate here, because our earliest visitors came by car. We weren’t on a rail line like many other parks,” such as Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Glacier, Scott says. 

The grand finale will be a rededication of the park on Sept. 3 and 4. There’ll be a party, family activities and guest speakers that weekend.

“We will recommit to (its) preservation for the next 100 years,” Scott says.

Timeless Beauty

Much of the park is unchanged from when it first opened. The park has always been managed as de facto wilderness, a protection assured when it became part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 2009.

Boasting the highest continuous paved road in the nation, the park’s main thoroughfare, Trail Ridge Road, connects the towns of Estes Park on the east and Grand Lake on the west, hitting a mid-point summit at just over 12,000 feet in altitude. 

 At the summit, a path with steps leads visitors up to the pinnacle, where they get panoramic views from the top of the world.

Thinking Ahead

The park gets more than 3 million visitors a year – mainly during the few short months from about Memorial Day to the first snowfall in September or October.

And though park staff expects additional visitors for its centennial, there are already systems in place to handle the load. A shuttle system takes guests to the most popular spots, so they can leave their cars in town or near the entrance and catch a ride to popular Bear Lake or Sprague Lake, for example –two of the most heavily visited sites in the park. 

Planning to camp in the park? Make reservations early – months early. Campsites fill up fast.

Special events for this summer will include a concert of original music written for the anniversary, performed on June 12 and 13. 

To see the full schedule, visit www.rmnp100.com.