Geology Lessons at Rocky Mountain National Park

Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park provides a plethora of family activities for all ages. The majestic park is an ideal trip destination throughout the year, though it's most accessible for children during the summer months when the weather is warmer and less volatile.

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Before You Go

Rocky Mountain National Park is a vast site covering more than a quarter million acres in northern Colorado. Before you go, plan how you intend to experience the park. There are opportunities for camping, hiking, horseback riding, cycling, fishing and scenic drives. Include your child in the decision-making process, ensuring that he or she has an opportunity to pick parts of your adventure that are of particular interest.

rocky mountain national park field trip colorado long trail road view

View from Trail Ridge Road.

If you'll be hiking, note that the park includes over 350 miles of trails. Using the National Park Service website, maps or a trail guide, factor in the difficulty of any trails you are considering. Rocky Mountain National Park includes hikes that range from short, flat routes to long, challenging paths with significant climbs in elevation. Remember to bring layers of clothing since weather is unpredictable among the mountains and climates vary based on elevation. Also, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to help minimize the effects of high altitudes, which can include shortness of breath, headaches and dizziness.

Teaching Moments at the Site

For many children, viewing wildlife is the highlight of their trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. Elk are abundant throughout the park, and you may also spot bighorn sheep, moose, deer and ptarmigans. The wealth of animals creates countless opportunities for your child to study creatures in their natural habitat.

Trail Ridge Road is a popular site for a driving tour of the park. From your car, you can view rolling streams, wildlife, wildflowers and other sites. Use caution with those in your family who may have a fear of heights, because this road climbs above 12,000 feet and your car will often seem to be perilously perched on the edge of a dramatic drop-off. Those who aren't bothered by this will be rewarded with spectacular views of the mountains.

moose animals wildlife field trip nature

Additionally, the park may provide a chance for your child to enjoy nature in its most rugged and varied forms. Even in the peak of summer, Rocky Mountain National Park has many places where the snow never melts. Your child may delight in playing in the snow just a short drive from 90-degree temperatures in Denver or Boulder.

The Ride Home

As you leave Rocky Mountain National Park, ask your child to observe how the landscape changes. For example, you may quickly descend from above the tree line, where little to no plant life survives, into an area where only pine trees can grow. Shortly thereafter, you'll begin to see leafy trees in increasing numbers. If you travel east from the park, the landscape changes from massive mountains to flat plains in the span of a few miles. Before your child realizes it, you may have descended more than 7,000 feet, leaving behind a wondrous park that rewards its visitors year-round.

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