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Rocky Mountain National Park Series: The Hexapods of RMNP

by Christa Marsh

Have you seen the little blackish bugs on the snow surface while exploring Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter? I always wonder what they are and why they're out in the cold!? 

Photo Credit: Scientific Insect Control

They're known as snow fleas, but officially they're springtails, which are not fleas at all. Springtails are hexapods and, in the summer, hundreds of thousands can populate one cubic meter of top soil. We just don't notice springtails on dark soil, but definitely notice them bouncing around against the white snow surface, particularly on warmer winter days.

Photo Credit: Farmers' Almanac

Snow fleas feed on decaying organic matter in the soil and play an important role in natural decomposition. Rocky Mountain National Park's Facebook page piqued my interest today with this video snip of springtails on the snow last week. Springtails can survive the cold temps because of a "glycine-rich antifreeze protein" I'd like some AFP for my hands and feet!

NPS Video J.McNamara


Looking to brush up on your beacon skills? Did you know Rocky has its very own beacon park?! 

The beacon training park located at Hidden Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park. 
The beacon park opened last winter. It's designed for back country enthusiasts to practice simulated avalanche searches using their own avalanche beacons/transceivers and probes. The beacon training park consists of eight transmitters/targets and can be setup for single or multiple scenarios.

Photo Credit: Rocky Mountain National Park


The beacon park is a self-serve system and is available through the winter months. Back country travelers who are familiar with avalanche rescue gear and techniques and the use of an avalanche beacon and probe are welcome to use the training park!

For more information visit
or call the park’s Information Office at (970) 586-1206.


Rocky Mountain National Park Series: Distance Learning through RMNP!

by Christa Marsh

Educators can take their students on a trip to Rocky without leaving the classroom with the Rocky Mountain National Park's Distance Learning Program!

Not that a trip to the park isn't the preferred learning experience, but winter weather, expenses, or travel can make an actual visit tough. A virtual visit is a fabulous learning tool, and could pique a student's interest in future RMNP exploration! 

The park also offers free interactive distance learning programs that classrooms can participate in virtually through Skype, Zoom and Google Hangouts - learn more in the Virtual Programs Flyer.

The Education and Outreach team at Rocky Mountain National Park has developed short videos on a range of topics in park geology, wildfire ecology and the 4 RMNP ecosystems!


As you drive through Rocky Mountain National Park and scan the landscape, you'll see incredible mountain vistas, tranquil wetlands, and wide open meadows. You might spot majestic elk, mule deer, and the occasional coyote. For the past few years, visitors also notice the large teepees of logs scattered in open areas. They're called Slash piles and they're common in RMNP; a result of fuel reduction projects and hazard tree removals.

Slash Pile

Photo Credit: Robert Kunzig, National Geographic Society

Many tree carcasses are left untouched, but the park does need to cull the trees that are along roads, campgrounds, picnic areas, etc., as they can be dangerous for park visitors. Additionally, the strategic tree thinning helps to reduce accumulation of forest fuels along the urban interface and was instrumental in confining the Fern Lake fire from Estes Park.

It seems scary to have multiple mini fires burning in a park full of trees, but the park's fire management team has their methods.

Slash burning in rmnp
Photo Credit: Rocky Mountain National Park

Currently, the park is burning slash piles that are around 2 years old, as they're now dry enough to thoroughly burn. Importantly, burning only takes place when wet or winter weather conditions allow.

The slash piles are built just like camp fires. Twigs and needles on the inside, then the branches, and the logs go on the outside. As the interior burns, the heavy stuff falls in, which helps the pile burn thoroughly and hot. Fires are lit in the morning with the goal being to burn out before nightfall.

Fire mitigation is important in our parks as well as private mountain properties. Learn more about preparing and protecting your homes from wildfire at

Thank you for keeping our communities safe Rocky!



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!



We are so fortunate to have Rocky Mountain National Park practically at our doorstep! And, Coloradans get at it no matter the weather.

Rain, snow, wind, you name it - RMNP will be busy with adventurers! So be sure to plan ahead because parking at your favorite trail head could be congested.

In the summer months, it's a little easier, as RMNP has a wonderful shuttle service. In the winter months, however, popular areas like Bear Lake are full every weekend. 

Photo credit: Rocky Mountain National Park

According to RMNP, the busiest times are between 10 am and 2 pm, but you never know, so if you can, arrive early or later for a different experience

Animal activity is different in the early and latter parts of the day, so you're more likely to have an exciting wildlife siting!

Photo credit: Cheryl Gorske, Weasel in Winter

Also, the light is more dramatic and you're likely to get me 'loves' on your Instagram feed :)

Be safe and have fun out there! The snow is starting to fall more regularly -

C'mon Old Man Winter!

Battling "Old Man Winter" - By Daniel Slack - Rockland - Camden - Knox - Courier-Gazette - Camden Herald

Who is Quinn?

Quinn is a handstand junkie, tequila aficionado and inspiring Estes Park local who suffered a severe spine injury in October that’s left her paralyzed from the waist down.

After traveling the world pushing the limits of technical free climbing for years, and saving dozens of lives in the back country as a climbing ranger in RMNP, her life path has a different direction.

When Quinn’s not traveling, inspiring or saving lives, she teaches others how to save lives as a Wilderness First Responder instructor, and has helped raise money for adaptive sports and environmental nonprofits nationwide.

On On October 11, while trying to recapture the Nose speed record, Quinn took a 100 foot fall halfway up El Capitan in Yosemite. She slipped toward the top of a formation called the Cowboy Boot Flake (which looks like a Cowboy Boot) and hit another formation called the Texas Flake. The Texas Flake is a massive feature that’s shaped like its namesake state. It’s a few feet wide and sits detached from the sheer face of El Cap by a few feet.

Valley locals for years had said this fall would be unsurvivable, but QuInndestructable proved them wrong. She lived. She broke a few ribs, had some internal injuries, and shattered her scapula — and miraculously has no brain damage. 

Info and Photo Credits from​

Join me and hundreds of others rallying around Quinn to help her continue to live to the fullest!

Saturday at 5 PM - 10:30 PM

The Ridgeline Hotel Estes Park
101 South Saint Vrain Avenue, Estes Park, Colorado 80517

Visit the Fundraiser Facebook page to purchase tickets.

This event is rapidly coming together. Your ticket will cover...

Presentation by Estes Park's own Tommy Caldwell
Live show by Write Minded
Photo booth by The ShutterBus VW Photo Booth Bus
Free Beer & Food
Silent Auction
Epic Raffle

You can also donate to Quinn directly on her YouCaring page.

REEL ROCK 12 Official Trailer

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!



Rocky Mountain National Park Series - December 3rd Full Moon Hike

by Cory Dudley

Bask in the light of the full moon in Rocky Mountain National Park this Sunday 12/3.

What better a way to get into the holiday spirit! 

Photo Credit: NPS/Russell Smith

The Rocky Mountain Rangers lead Full Moon Walks in the winter months, the first one this coming Sunday. Groups leave from Beaver Meadows at 5 pm. Reservations are required and can be made in person or you can call the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center at 970-586-1223. Maybe there will even be a little fresh snow from the system that passes through Sunday - fingers crossed!

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 32