Photos: Courtesy of Rocky Mountain National Park Cub Lake // Butterfly on purple fringe // Fern Falls
Colorado is blessed to have four national parks: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park between Montrose and Gunnison, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve near Alamosa, Mesa Verde National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site near Cortez and Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park and Grand Lake. Note that none of these are in or very near big cities, but that is part of the beauty and they are indeed near great towns that are worthy destinations for groups. Mesa Verde and Rocky Mountain National Park are perhaps easiest with lodging within the parks other than camping, but all the parks also can be utilized with day trips that are filled with wonder and activities. Check out our Venue Report from a few years ago for ideas.
Of special note is Rocky Mountain National Park’s (RMNP) 100th anniversary celebration that starts Sept. 3, 2014 with the Opening Ceremonies launching with Picnic In the Park at the former Hidden Valley Ski Area and continues through September 4, 2015, when a Centennial re-dedication takes place at the same location. There are a few events scheduled after as well, including an employee and alumni reunion.
There are great hiking opportunities to link into. Colorado Mountain Club, which was instrumental in the formation of the RMNP 100 years ago, is celebrating the RMNP Centennial by offering member-led climbs of 100 of the 125 named peaks, 100-mile hike combo and wildflower hikes led by Colorado Native Plant Masters. The YMCA of the Rockies is also offering educational excursions into the backcountry starting in September. I’ve hiked and gone snowshoeing on many trails at RMNP and its grandeur never disappoints.
Grand Lake has prepared a self-guided walking tour entitled “Then and Now,” which starts at the Grand Lake Chamber and Visitor Center and highlights many of the locations that RMNP visitors have enjoyed throughout the years. A very fun way to explore is the Grand Lake Geo-cache Adventure, with caches containing 100th anniversary wooden coins.
Rocky Mountain National Park also has inspired countless artists over the years. One of the first art events to take place during the centennial is Paint Something Grand, from Sept. 21 – 30 in Grand Lake Village. Groups and visitors and can observe plein air painters at work and take part in art workshops, and the Plein Air Paint Out and Show happening Sept. 17 – 28, 2014 with artists painting throughout RMNP and displaying finished works at Fall River Visitor Center.
While there are many other unique happenings to mention, a few other things that caught my attention were a photographing wildlife and wonder of autumn workshop with well-known Colorado photographer John Fielder on Sept. 20, Trappers Wild Game Culinary Affair on Sept. 26 – 27, Vintage Time Travelers: Model T Tour of the National Park Highway on Aug. 25 of next year, and a variety of holiday events, speakers and concerts.