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Rocky Mountain National Park Series: Mountain Bikes in the Park?

by Christa Marsh

The mountain biking community is celebrating access to a 2-mile section within Rocky Mountain National Park. The National Park Service announced that they will publish a final rule allowing mountain bikes on a roughly 2-mile section of the East Shore Trail bordering Grand Lake on the west side of Rocky.

Map clip from

Although most of Rocky Mountain National Park's trails are within designated wilderness, the 2-mile section of the East Shore Trail was outside of the wilderness boundary. The consideration to allow bikers on the trail drew sharp criticism from hikers who worried mountain bike access would disrupt the quiet environment and scare off wildlife. But, the park weighed the issues and said they will mitigate if conflicts and/or concerns arise, noting that on the adjacent Shadow Mountain Lake, motorboats and jet skis are allowed and are far louder than mountain bikes.

Photo Credit: Amy Brothers, The Denver Post

The section of trail won't provide access to most of the park, but it is a useful and safer route from a popular campground to the town of Grand Lake. It also provides a beautiful opportunity for an off-road route from the town of Grand Lake to the town of Lake Granby.

Like Rocky Mountain National Park, many National Parks allow road cycling, but mountain bikers have been kept out with the exception of California's Redwoods NP, Arizona's Saguaro NP and a few others, the full list can be found HERE.

Nearly all of Rocky Mountain National Park is, thankfully, a designated wilderness area, so you're not likely going to see mountain bikes trudging up the Flattop Mountain Trail, and hopefully we'll always be able to experience RMNP wild and free.


Need a little inspiration for driving up to the park on a cold, snowy day?

How about a challenge to identify all of Rocky Mountain National Park's seven Coniferous trees.

Coniferous trees have distinct characteristics that will help you distinguish if you're looking at a Pine, Spruce or Fir. Then you can drill down and identify the species.

Wind-shaped Limber Pine,

Needles grow in clusters of 2, 3 or 5 depending on the species.

RMNP Pines: Limber Pine, Lodgepole Pine and Ponderosa Pine


Individual needles, which are stiff, pointy and have sharp edges - they'll roll between your fingers unlike a Fir. Remember 'SSS' (spiny, sharp, spruce). Spruce cones hang mid-branch.

RMNP Spruce: Englemann Spruce and Blue Spruce


Needles grow individually on the branch, but they are soft and flat. You can remember 'FFF' (flat, fat, fir). The cones are also at the top of the branch rather than hanging mid-branch like a Spruce.

RMNP Fir: Subalpine Fir


"Douglas-firs" are not actually classified as true Firs. They are a part of an entire genus containing 6 different species!

If you remember one tree, it can be the Douglas-fir. They have a sweet tale that will help you easily identify them on future hikes.

Indigenous legend in the Pacific Northwest tells that a long time ago there was a great fire in the forest. All of the animals were fleeing before the encroaching flames. However, the tiny mice with their short little mouse-legs were not quick enough to outrun the fire. In danger of being engulfed in the flames, they asked the strong and stoic Douglas-fir trees for help. The trees were inclined to be friendly to the mice, and allowed them to climb up their thick, fire-resistant trunks and hide themselves in their fir cones. The mice gladly took shelter inside the cones, and survived the terrible fire. And even today – if you examine the cones of a Douglas-fir closely – you can see the little hind feet and tails of the mice sticking out from beneath the scales of the fir cones. Story from Heart of the West Coast

You can identify Conifers year-round in RMNP! Just another reason to strap on your snowshoes and explore this beautiful national park in our backyard! Learn more about the Conifers of RMNP here. Get to the park early on weekends and carpool if you can!



Rocky Mountain National Park - Current Conditions

by Christa Marsh

Thinking about making a trip to the park over the holiday, but unsure on conditions? What footwear do we need? Should we bring snowshoes? Is sledding open at Hidden Valley? Is the sun shining up there? I wonder what the trails are like? Look no further! :)

No excuses, head on up to Rocky! No matter what you end up doing or what the weather is like, you're bound to have an adventure, but now you can feel a little more prepared!

Weather Forecast ... psst... it's going to snow!!!!!!

National Weather Service

Many of us are more visual, RMNP has a number of Webcams

National Park Service

Check the trail conditions and come prepared. If you're planning on getting out on the trails, you're most likely going to need snowshoes or foot traction. Remember, you can rent snowshoes and other gear locally at the Estes Park Mountain Shop or The Warming House

If you're like me, you like chatting with someone about your plans. Through the winter, the RMNP Information Office is open 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Give them a call and they can help you to ensure you have a successful trip to the park! 970-586-1206

Winter Birding in RMNP

by Christa Marsh

Approximately 280 bird species have been reported in Rocky Mountain National Park and the surrounding area over the last 100 years. It has such a diverse and abundant bird population, that it's designated as a Global Important Bird Area!

While some species are just passing through, many of these feathered friends can and do choose to stick around for the winter. Birding is a wonderful RMNP winter activity and all you need is patience and a quiet location. Step it up with a good pair of binoculars, some cocoa and a cozy blanket! A few favorite birding spots in the park are: Endovalley, Moraine Park, Wild Basin, Trail Ridge Road, Upper Beaver Meadows, Lumpy Ridge, Cow Creek and Bear lake Road.

For a complete list of species observed in RMNP visit's Birding Page.

Let's get started identifying some of our hearty avian species that enjoy the snow and chilly mountain weather as much as we do!

A favorite for me because they transform to white after they molt their brown feathers in the fall. The White-Tailed Ptarmigan lives at higher elevations (at and above tree line) in the summer, but in the winter they stay lower (at or below tree line) where snow is available for roosting.

Photo Credit: NPS

The Gray Jay is another winter favorite. They puff up to stay warm and are quite social! Gray Jays live in Colorado's subalpine forests. An interesting factoid about Gray Jays- they nest in the late winter rather than Spring and mated pairs stay together all year!

Photo Credit: NPS

Okay, head on up to the park this weekend and find these fluffy, winter birdies. Share your photos and hike locations on our Facebook page @TheWinningTeamRealEstateGroup!



Let it Snow! in Rocky Mountain National Park

by Cory Dudley

Photo Credit: NPS/Ann Schonlau

The west side of the park received a little snow!
1-2 inches throughout the valley. The snow will arrive, so it's time to plan some fun RMNP adventures! 

What to do in the park this winter?

* Before heading out, check snow, avalanche and trail conditions.

Snowshoeing is a great activity for winter exploring. Snowshoes, warm boots and some poles and you're off! Most park trails are open to snowshoeing. An entirely different experience is had when winter adventuring in the mountains.

Cross-country Skiing
Ready to step it up and cover more ground? Cross-country skiing is also an option throughout the park. Some trails are steeper, so chat with a park ranger prior to heading out to ensure an enjoyable and safe excursion.

The former Hidden Valley Ski Area is your spot! It's the one place in the park where sledding is allowed. Sledding takes place on the old bunny slope area, so it's a gentle grade. Bring your own sled and walk on up. There's a warming hut and bathrooms at the base. 

Ranger-Led Snowshoe or Ski Programs
Did you know RMNP has free Ranger-Led Programs? Reservations are required. Learn more here: Ranger-Led Programs

Wildlife Watching
Winter is such a beautiful time to look for wildlife, everything shows up better against a snowy backdrop. Many park roads are open and allow for a warm, easy tour by car. Look for moose on the west side, elk and mule deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes and a number of winter bird species. 

Needing equipment?
Both Estes Park and Grand Lake have shops where you can rent winter equipment. The following sites give options for rental locations: Visit Estes Park | Visit Grand County

Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the 10 most-visited national parks in the United States, coming in at number 4 behind (1) Great Smoky Mountains NP, (2) Grand Canyon NP & (3) Yosemite NP.

Photo Credits: Michael Hodges, Jim Osterberg © 2012

The number of visitors each year (over 4.5 million this year!), specifically concentrated during the peak season (June to September), is taking a toll on the park. From roads and bridges to campgrounds and restrooms, the infrastructure is aging and the National Parks Service is proposing raising rates to fund improvements in RMNP, as well as, 17 other popular national parks.

Photo Credits: Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce

Current Rocky Mountain National Park entrance fees are $30/week and $10 dollars for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcycles. If the proposed rate increase goes into effect, it could cost $70 to enter RMNP in June of 2018.

Photo Credits: CBS Denver - CBS Local

The National Parks Service says if implemented, this increase could boost park revenue by $70 million/year. But, there's no guarantee that this will happen. A public comment period is open through November 23rd. Learn more and share your thoughts in the Comments section here:​

Visitors to the extensive trail system near or above treeline
within Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) have surely heard this sound 


Sounds a bit like a bird, but it's actually the largest member of the squirrel family (Sciuridae), the Marmot!

Specifically, in RMNP, they're Yellow-bellied marmots (AKA Rockchucks, Whistle-Pigs). They're very brave and are quite accustomed to humans; mostly because they want our trail snacks!

Here's one of my marmot friends on the trail up to Flattop Mountain this summer.
I'd like to say she's posing for this shot, but really she just wants a yummy handout.

As tempting as it is, please don't feed those critters. One reason is habituation, which happens when humans offer snacks and the creature suffers no correction for coming close to feed. Over time, they lose fear of humans resulting in nuisance behavior.
Reason two is that wild animals, when they get hooked our Cliff bars and GORP (Good Old Raisins and Peanuts), lose their natural foraging behavior and also don't consume needed nutrition.


A Few Quick Facts about Marmots:

They live in colonies of 10-20 individuals and have elaborate burrows
under the high elevation meadows and rocky talus fields.
A marmots day consists of morning and evening feedings;
the rest of the day is spent down in their burrows.
Marmots are omnivores. They eat, grasses, insects and even bird eggs.
In the growing season, they spend a majority of time fattening up for winter hibernation.
Marmots have a lifespan ranging from 2 to 7 years
What is all their chirping about?
When the colony is busy feeding, one marmot stands as a sentinel and warns the colony of any approaching danger.
They also love resting in the sunshine.


Photo Credit: NPS

Now is the time (late September to mid October) that these critters head into their burrows for the long winter's nap. They stay warm huddled together in a room insulated with grasses/hay. During hibernation, a marmots body temperature can fall to 41 degrees Fahrenheit and sometimes they only take one or two breaths per minute. They'll be out to greet us again in April or May. 

Keep an eye on our Facebook page for more tid bits on the animals that call RMNP 'home'!

Burrow of the Alpine Marmot

Reference: Wildlife Observation: The Alpine marmot
Digital image. Burrow of the alpine marmot. Bernard Fischesser. Web 24 OCT 2017




Rocky Mountain National Park Series - Stay Curious Video Series

by Cory Dudley



"I think that's what I like the best is understanding more about how things work, and what's living there, and how it interacts with all the other organisms in that system."

- Erin Borgman 


The National Park Service's video series, Stay Curious, most recently selected and interviewed one of Rocky Mountain National Park's very own. Erin Borgman is an NPS Ecologist and Field Coordinator with the Rocky Mountain Inventory and Monitoring Division. In short, her job is to keep a close eye on the vital signs and overall 'health' of important streams and rivers within the park. These bodies of water are the most important resource to the park's habitat and wildlife inhabitants, making her mission a crucial one! 


Check out the video below to learn how Erin began down the path of Ecology sciences and the advice she has for anyone else trying to discover their place in the world around them. 



Rocky Mountain National Park Series - Park Closures for Elk Protection

by Cory Dudley


Closures to protect the elk during the annual bugling season are currently in effect throughout Rocky Mountain National Park. Horseshoe Park, Upper Beaver Meadows, Moraine Park, Harbison Meadow and Holzwarth Meadow will all be closed through October 31st. In addition, fishing in the Fall River, Thompson River or Colorado River during the closure period is prohibited.


"The purpose of the closures is to prevent disturbance and harassment of elk during their fall mating period and to enhance visitor elk viewing opportunities," states Kyle Patterson, park spokeswoman.


The park reminds visitors that elk calling, shining headlights for better nighttime visibility and generally harassing the elk is not only prohibited but dangerous. The majority of issues are caused by people directly who get too closely to the elk, or "elk jams" due to so many viewers parked alongside the roads. 


In order to enjoy the rutting season and visits to the mountains responsibly, maintain your distance! 



Rocky Mountain National Park Series - Finding Fall Colors This Weekend

by Cory Dudley


Beginning in late August each year, the aspens in the highest parts of Rocky Mountain National Park embark on their annual transition of 'quaking'; a term use to describe the leave's behavior in the breeze and unique color changing process from green to brilliant golden yellows, oranges and reds. 


(Video Credit: Colette Bordelon


If you have yet to visit the park during the fall, you must add it to your to-do list! The hues painting the mountainside change with each passing day until mid to late September, accompanied by the elk's rutting season and migration down from the high country. Tourists, photographers and nearly everyone else believes the park is in it's prime during this time of year, though there are certain spots that are recommended above others if you're chasing colors....


Hidden Valley

Far from hidden, this popular spot is a favorite among wildlife enthusiasts as a place where elk gather in large numbers, backdropped by fiery colors. There are numerous viewing spots along US 34 on the SE facing hillsides. Have your cameras ready! Elk show up with little warning and you may miss the ideal opportunity if you're not prepared...



Glacier Gorge Trail

All the way up to Alberta Falls on Glacier Gorge Trail, you'll be snapping pictures and looking on in awe; this hike is a beautiful one. Aspens line the path and fallen leaves float along the creek, welcoming you with a flurry of color. 


Bear Lake Road

This road runs parallel to the Glacier Creek and is worth the time it may take to travel all the way to the end. You'll begin at Moraine Park and will want to pull off the road any chance you get because every turn will offer a new and interesting view! If you'd prefer to hike or relax at an overlook, there are many opportunities along the way for that as well. 



Twin Sisters

Because the trail head is located just outside of the park's boundary (approximately 6 miles from Estes Park), this hike is a favorite for those who prefer a more secluded experience. If you've brought your camera along, be sure to get an early start to the day for the best lighting. 


Fairview Curve

About 10,000 feet up on Trail Ridge Road you'll find the Fair Curve and spectacular views of the Mummy Range up to the north. You will have driven through the Kawuneeche Valley to reach this spot, so you can now appreciate the valley's color from above! 



Kawuneeche Valley

Argued by some as the most beautiful place in the park to photograph, you'll drive through 10 miles of Kawuneeche Valley along Trail Ridge Road between Grand Lake and the Timber Lake trail head. Give yourself ample time for stops on this route because it tends to be more lovely than one expects. 


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 35