Fall in the Rocky Mountain parks isn’t quite as colorful as the season is back East, as they lack the endless acres of hardwood forests. But the high peaks, sometimes dusted in snow, make up for that. Watch the aspens, larch, scrub oak and maples paint the landscape with masterful strokes.
Rocky Mountain National Park
It was a beautiful late summer evening, and my family and I had spent the day hiking in Badlands National Park. As the setting sun cast a golden glow on the park’s signature peaks and plateaus, my family and I pulled into a nearby guest ranch, where we had booked a cabin for the night.
For nearly a century, a popular story has linked the origins of the National Park Service to the genius of one man. In 1914, Stephen T. Mather, a self-made millionaire in the borax industry, visited Yosemite and Sequoia national parks. Finding both of them poorly managed he wrote Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane and complained. “Dear Steve,” Lane allegedly replied, “If you don’t like the way the national parks are being run, come on down to Washington and run them yourself.”
Careless campers at Rocky Mountain National Park have left smoldering campfires behind, though fortunately rangers were able to douse them before they blew up into major wildfires. But one day they might not be able to respond so quickly.
While all national parks have abundant wildlife throughout the year, fall is prime time. Birds and animals are on the move, preparing for winter, and courting. They’re busy and plentiful.
The Rocky Mountain Conservancy is leading a fundraising effort to acquire the largest remaining privately-held property within Rocky Mountain National Park. The organization will raise $3.6 million to fund the purchase of this commercially-zoned parcel known as Cascade Cottages. The Trust for Public Land is also a partner in this effort to acquire the property for the park.
Climbing in the Tetons of Grand Teton National Park can be an exhilarating experience, but it also can be unforgiving and, at its worst, deadly. For 10 climbers who tried to summit the Grand Teton in a long one-day slog, they narrowly avoided tragedy and in the end were rescued by rangers and other climbers on the mountain.
From enjoying the park’s waters, to relishing the changing scenery and observing the raucous wildlife, autumn in Rocky Mountain National Park is full of adventures and sights you won’t want to miss.
September into the heart of November are my favorite months in the National Park System. The days aren’t quite as long as they are in July and August, but the bugs and crowds are on the wane, wildlife is on the move, and the crisp night air is perfect for sleeping under the stars, or in a cozy cabin.
A recent survey here at National Parks Traveler asked how far travelers ventured from the parking lots at national parks. I had some trouble answering that, given that I believe too many people are bound to their vehicles, while on the other hand I tend to hang out in parking lots.