Rocky Mountain National Park, with an area of 265,765 acres (107,551 hectares), is located in the US State of Colorado.
It has been the home to Native Americans for at least the last 12,000 years. The remains of all the known prehistoric cultures, except Folsom (ca. 10,000-8000 years ago), have been found in the park.
The major inhabitants of the park area in historic times were the Ute and Arapaho. The Apache appear to have been in the park for at least 400 years, as based on the presence of their pottery and historical accounts of a battle with the Arapaho in the 1830s in Upper Beaver Meadow.
Thirty-six place names in the park are of Arapaho origin. By about 1880, the Ute had been moved to reservations in Colorado and Utah, and the Arapaho to Oklahoma and Wyoming.
Because of the high altitude and severe winters, occupation for these hunter-gatherers in the park was confined to the warmer months. Major occupation may have been in the fall of the year when the high altitude elk game drives were in operation.
Historic archaeological sites include the remains of roads, resorts, ranches, mines, mining towns, cabins, sawmills, water control structures, three CCC camps, signs, and several old National Park Service campgrounds and entrance stations.
About 400 prehistoric and 600 historic archeological sites have been recorded in a five-year survey of the park by the University of Northern Colorado.
Cultural resources in Rocky Mountain National Park include historic structures (for example, roads and bridges), cultural landscapes, prehistoric and historic archaeological sites, museum artifacts, and historic buildings and trails.
The park also works with Native American groups to understand and protect those resources in the park that are important to native cultures.
When the US Congress passed the Rocky Mountain National Park Act in 1915, the legislators focused on Rocky’s scenic and natural wonders. Yet, what became the park held many cultural treasures, including ancient trails, game drives, cattle ranches, and lodges.
Early superintendents tried to develop roads, backcountry cabins, and trails to blend with the surroundings. Rangers manipulated the landscape to look more “natural”: by suppressing fires, by planting seedlings, and by controlling predators.
The National Park Service purchased private lands and removed buildings, roads, post offices, driveways, irrigation ditches, and fences.
After World War II, with park visits increasing across the country, the National Park Service implemented Mission 66, a nationwide development and improvement program.
Rocky Mountain Park, like many parks, suffered from outdated facilities. Mission 66 brought new comfort stations, overlooks, employee housing, campgrounds, and visitor centers to the park.
Every year since the 1960s, more cultural resources are identified and protected in Rocky Mountain National Park. Today, a team of cultural and natural resource specialists work together to protect the park’s resources.
Rocky Mountain is the highest national park in the US, with elevations from 7,860 ft (2,134 m) to 14,255 ft (4,2672 m).
More than one-fourth of the park is above treeline (11,200 ft [3,3528 m]-11,500 ft [3,359 m]), and tundra is a primary protected resource of the park.
Topping out at 12,183 ft (3,658 m), Trail Ridge Road is the highest, continuous, paved road in the United States, with eight miles above 11,000 feet in elevation.
See maps of this park.
(This page was updated in November 2012.)