Travel for the Soul: Exploring the National Parks – Colorado

Colorado is home to the Rocky Mountain National Park, where you can drive on Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous highway in the U.S.  It is also home to Black Canyon National ParkMesa Verde National Park, and Great Sand Dunes National Park.  We just returned from our trip to Colorado and totally loved it.  

Rocky Mountain National Park:

Rainbow Curve Overlook                                     Trail Ridge Road
    
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights         Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights 
reserved.                                                                                      reserved.

Rocky Mountain National Park is located in the north-central region of the Colorado.  It features beautiful mountain views, lots of wildlife, and different climates and environments—from wooded forests to mountain tundra —and easy, moderate and strenuous trails.  The park is split by the Continental Divide, and it contains over 60 peaks higher than 12,000 feet.  The quaint town of Estes Park is at the eastern entrance of the park.

General information:  http://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/index.htm;
                                    
http://rockymountainnationalpark.com/
                                     Estes Park – http://www.estesparkcvb.com/

Accommodations:    Solitude Cabins in Estes Park
                                    
http://www.solitudecabins.com/
                                    http://rockymountainnationalpark.com/pages/where_to_stay_estes_park.html

Black Canyon of the Gunnison:

Painted Wall shows ancient lava flow.                Black Canyon’s wild flowers.                        
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights       Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights  
reserved.                                                                                      reserved.

Black Canyon National Park is so named because of its steepness which makes it difficult for sunlight to penetrate very far down the canyon, and as a result, the canyon walls are most often in shadow, so this causes the rocky walls to appear black.  The Gunnison River is primarily responsible for carving the Canyon into that extreme steepness and depth.  This Park is the least visited of all National Parks, and on any given visit, it can feel and seem like you are the only one there.  You can see a vast variety of wild flowers there, as well as wild life.  The main attraction of the park is the scenic drive along the south rim. 

General info.:   http://www.nps.gov/blca/planyourvisit/index.htm
                          http://www.americansouthwest.net/colorado/black_canyon_gunnison/national_park.html
                                 
Accommodations:   
http://blackcanyonofthegunnison.areaparks.com/hotels.html
                                   http://www.go-colorado.com/Montrose/Hotels/

Mesa Verde National Park:

Cliff Palace                                                        Mesa Verde Plateau
   
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights      Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights 
reserved.                                                                                   reserved.
 

Mesa Verde National Park was established in 1906 as concern grew over the archaeological well being of its ruins.  The Park features numerous ruins of homes and villages built by the ancient Pueblo people known as the Anasazi, who made these stone villages their home in A.D. 1200s. The Park is best known for several spectacular cliff dwellings, these structures built within caves
and under outcroppings in cliffs.  One of these dwellings, Cliff Palace, is thought to be the largest in North America.  

General information:   http://www.nps.gov/meve/
                                      http://www.visitmesaverde.com/
                         
Accommodations:  http://www.visitmesaverde.com/lodging-dining/index.cfm
                                 Inside the Park accommodations:                                 
                                 http://www.visitmesaverde.com/lodging-dining/far-view-lodge.cfm 
                                

Great Sand Dunes National Park:

View of the dunes from the Visitor Center      View from atop one of the dunes
  
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights    Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights 
reserved.                                                                                 reserved.

Great Sand Dunes National Park contains the tallest sand dunes in North America.  They rise about 750 feet from the floor of the San Luis Valley, and cover about 19,000 acres.  The dunes, which are believed to be about 12,000 years old, were formed from sand deposits of the Rio Grande flowing through the San Luis Valley.  Over time, west winds picked up sand from the river and as the wind lost power before the range, the sand was deposited on the east edge of the valley. This process continues today, and the dunes are slowly growing.  The shape of the dunes change dailey because of the winds.

General info.:   http://www.nps.gov/grsa/planyourvisit/index.htm   
                          http://www.americansouthwest.net/colorado/great_sand_dunes/national_monument.html

Accommodations:  http://greatsanddunes.areaparks.com/hotels.html


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