Rocky Mountain National Park is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway or a day trip for hiking. With 416 square miles to explore, it holds something for everyone--including a home for the many elk, cayote, big-horn sheep, bears, and mayhaps even the occasional moose that traverse its peaks and valleys. And also it holds something for you, too. Meandering trails range from easy to difficult in hiking, and offer spectacular views. Trail Ridge Road is the highest paved road in America! It's closed for the cold months due to snow and wind, but opens during the summertime and makes for a challenging but oh-so-worth-it bike ride for those of you who also enjoy pedaling 20 miles uphill with a headwind. And for campers, Rocky Mountain National Park offers pristine locations to hike into that are established with specific camping spots so they preserve the surrounding areas, but they're areas that are tucked far enough away so that you feel completely alone with the natural world.
Things to note!
- you cannot bring your pooch with you to the backcountry or on hiking trails, but doggies are mostly allowed anywhere a car can go, and can hop out of said car if leashed. Further pet details are available.
- it costs $20 to enter the park; backcountry camping is another $20 and must be purchased at the backcountry office. It's something of a pain to get to, but very worthwhile as the Rangers there helped us re-map our entire visit and it was so much better than the route we had planned originally.
- if you have your heart set on camping (and why wouldn't you?) the Plan Your Trip page is SUPER helpful; don't forget your bear-bin!
- RMNP is only about a 90 minute drive from downtown Denver.
- Estes Park has a charming (if somewhat touristy) downtown that you can hit up if you're feeling all natured-out after a day (or several) in the park.
- most camping sites are no-fires, so pack that stove.
Here's a fun recipe, adapted from my high school days when I did revvy war interpretations (for you non-history nerds, this means I dressed and acted like someone from the revolutionary war in a living history exhibit) and cut school once a year to spend all day Friday at our local fair dressed in someone else's clothes, preparing for war by keeping calm and carrying on with making our breakfasts. I wasn't sure whether to call this particular recipe a scramble or a stew, or a conglomeration of deliciousness, so I went with a "Yum" instead.
Waterford Fair Harvest Yum
- 2 apples, cubed into quarter-inch pieces (don't go granny, get something seasonal and local if possible)
- 1 package of your favorite vegan sausage (the kind that crumbles)
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 large potatoes, cubed into quarter-inch pieces, any variety you like (i go with sweet!)
- 1-2 Tbs. olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste
- other miscellaneous herbs you favor (I like the outdoorsy, autumnal taste of sage)
In your little camp stove, heat up the olive oil for a few minutes. Add the onions and saute until translucent (5-10 minutes, depending on how crisp you like 'em). Add the vegan sausage and break up into pieces with your camp spoon. Get some of the pieces brown on one side, but keep stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Then add the potatoes and apples and put a lid on it! Sometimes I add a little water to the pot to "steam" things a bit. The potatoes take the longest so use those as your tester, and take off the lid every 5 minutes to give a stir and a taste. Throw whatever herbs you have in when you're 10 minutes from done. Once I add the potatoes it usually takes about 20 minutes for it all to cook together nicely. When the stew is at a consistency you like, add the salt and pepper to taste. Then devour.
If you have other veggies you'd like to add (parsnips? carrots?), do experiment! If you have it, this tastes phenom in a cast iron pan. But it's pretty darn good in a cook stove after a day's worth of hiking. This amount above serves two happy vegans. Sorry bears--none left for you.