Denver and the Rocky Mountains

The beauty and natural landforms present in Denver, CO, make this area a popular destination for tourists. With its close proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park, Denver boasts an enjoyable variety of excursions for people of all ages. Within the Mile-High City itself, Denver offers many different museums and historic destinations, including the U.S. Mint. Those who seek a more natural environment can take the direct route to Rocky Mountain National Park via Highway 66 or the scenic route via the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway. Once in the park, a multitude of activities await, including hiking, backpacking, camping, fishing, rock-climbing, and driving the scenic byways.

Brief History of Denver, CO

  • History of the Capitol: The capitol building in Denver, Colorado, initially opened in November of 1894. A gold dome sits at the top of the building, covered with gold leaves.
  • About the Denver Mint: As prospecting gained momentum in Colorado, the area needed an assay office to handle the processing of gold. The Denver Mint opened in 1863.
  • Colorado Earthquake History: An earthquake occurred in Denver on November 7, 1882, going on record as the first earthquake to occur in the state of Colorado.
  • Early Denver History: Prospectors discovered gold at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in 1858. This was the start of settlements in the Denver area.
  • The First Store Opens in the Frontier Town of Denver, Colorado: Denver received its name in 1858 after the first store opened to cater to the miners and prospectors who were flooding the area in search of gold.

All About the Rocky Mountains

Scenic Drives

Hiking in Denver, CO

  • Hiking and Backpacking the Colorado Trail: Hikers can choose day hikes that involve hiking between points over the course of one day or backpacking, which involves long-distance hiking.
  • Day-Hike Trails Map: Estes Park: Estes Park boasts a number of day-hike trails, some suitable for families and with handicap accessibility.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park Gear List (PDF): Hikers should pack lightly for alpine hiking with minimal gear. Recommended personal items include a wool base layer, a medium-weight fleece shirt, waterproof pants, a lightweight fleece jacket, hat, waterproof gloves, and hiking shoes.
  • Hiking and Mountain Biking Guide (PDF): Hiking trails will often have natural plants and flowers growing abundantly along the pathways. Hikers must remember not to pick flowers and to leave all natural items in place.
  • The Geology Along the Trails West of NCAR (PDF): Hikers can explore trails in the Rocky Mountains looking for geologic treasures such as specific land formations, fossils, and vistas.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park (PDF): A goal when hiking is to minimize the impact on the surrounding fragile environment. Hikers can achieve this goal by staying on trails and trying not to trample plants.

Wildlife in Denver, CO

  • Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goats (PDF): The Rocky Mountains are home to both bighorn sheep and mountain goats, which live in both the foothills and the higher elevations.
  • National Parks in Peril: The Threats of Climate Disruption (PDF): Animals living in the southern Rocky Mountains may be experiencing serious changes in their environment due to climate change. Some fish species, birds, and mammal populations have recently shown changes.
  • The State of the Southern Rockies Eco-Region (PDF): This eco-region has approximately 90 different mammals, 203 birds, 18 kinds of fish, 10 reptile species, and seven amphibian species living in this environment.
  • A Vision for Wolves in the Southern Rocky Mountains (PDF): A study in the 1990s indicated that the forest lands of Colorado could sustain more than 1,000 wolves, which suggested that the environment could withstand efforts to reintroduce wolves to this area.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park (PDF): Large animals living in Rocky Mountain National Park include bighorn sheep, beaver, elk, coyotes, brown and black bears, mountain lions, and bobcats.
  • Meet the Natives: Native animals of the Rocky Mountains include moose, Canada lynx, river otters, grizzly bears, bald eagles, porcupines, and wolves.

Other Rocky Mountain Information

  • Rocky Mountain Geology (PDF): The Rocky Mountains that run through Colorado feature 53 peaks with elevations higher than 14,000 feet.
  • Rocky Mountain Ecosystems (PDF): The topography of the Rocky Mountains includes basins, valleys, high plains, canyons, tundra, and glaciers.
  • Rocky Mountains: Winters in the Rocky Mountains tend to be unpredictable, with blizzards, cold temperatures, and high winds. Weather in the spring, summer, and fall is usually mild due to the elevation.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park: Rocky Mountain National Park dates back to 1915, and it boasts vistas with elevations between 8,000 and more than 14,000 feet.
  • Wildflowers of the Rocky Mountains: The flowers that grow in the Rocky Mountains are determined by the elevation, with different species thriving in different environments.
  • Top Ten Native Plants for the Rocky Mountains: Native plants growing in the Rocky Mountains include the Rocky Mountain Juniper, the Quaking Aspen, and the Dotted Blazing Star.

Hiking and Outdoor Safety Information


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