Posted on

Best Things To Do In Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park’s 415 square miles encompass and protect some of the world’s most spectacular mountain environments. Trail Ridge Road – which crests at over 12,000 feet offers awe-inspiring overlooks to see these subalpine and alpine worlds. With more than 300 miles of hiking trails, and wildflowers, wildlife, and starry nights — in a world of superlatives, Rocky is on top!

My name is Rob Decker and I’m a photographer and national park enthusiast. In fact, I’ve been to more than 40 of our amazing national parks. Rocky Mountain National Park is literally in my backyard, and I have explored almost every area of the park — so I’m ready to help! Whether this is your first time to Rocky Mountain, or if you are returning after many years and would like to be re-introduced to the park — this list of the best things to do is just for you!


Rocky Mountain National Park has 355 miles of hiking trails. They range from flat lakeside strolls to steep mountain peak climbs. If you are new to the park consult with rangers at the visitor centers and backcountry office. They can provide advice about trails which are appropriate to different fitness and experience levels.

As you plan your hike, keep in mind that park elevations range from 7,500 to over 12,000 feet. Even very fit individuals coming from lower elevations may experience altitude problems. Symptoms include headaches, shortness of breath, insomnia and rapid heartbeat. After a few days your body will have made some physiological adjustments to higher elevations, but full acclimation may take weeks. To minimize symptoms drink plenty of fluids, avoid alcohol, don’t skip meals and get plenty of rest.

If you have never hiked before or are traveling with children, check out the recommended accessible trails. Ranger-led walks are free and can increase your confidence while you learn more about the park. Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place to discover how traveling by foot brings you closer to nature.


Lily Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park

Sport fishing is permitted in Rocky Mountain National Park. Fishing activities are balanced with efforts to restore and perpetuate natural aquatic environments and life. Fishing was popular with early settlers and visitors in the Rocky Mountains.

In an attempt to improve the sport, many streams and lakes were stocked with non-native species of trout. Waters with no sport fish were also stocked. The National Park Service stocked non-native Yellowstone cutthroat trout as late as 1969. The only trout native to the park are the greenback cutthroat and the Colorado River cutthroat. These efforts to enhance recreational opportunities in National Park areas were reconsidered in the 1970s. Since 1975, native greenback cutthroat and Colorado River cutthroat trout are being restored to park waters and exotic or non-native fish are being removed.

Wildlife Viewing

Rocky Mountain National Park visitors have a passion for viewing wild animals, especially the big ones. With an elk herd numbering between 600 to 800 in the winter, about 350 bighorn sheep, numerous mule deer and a small population of moose calling the park home, it’s no surprise that wildlife watching is rated the number-one activity by a vast majority of Rocky’s three million annual visitors.

Elk - Rocky Mountain National Park

Wildlife Viewing Tips

The park’s great large-animal population makes it one of the country’s top wildlife watching destinations. But there is much more to see than these so-called “charismatic megafauna.” Also found are nearly 60 other species of mammals; more than 280 recorded bird species; six amphibians, including the federally endangered boreal toad; one reptile (the harmless garter snake); 11 species of fish; and countless insects, including a surprisingly large number of butterflies.

Some basic knowledge of animal habits and habitats greatly enhances prospects of spotting Rocky Mountain’s wild residents. A few park favorites:

  • Elk can be seen anytime, a popular viewing period being the fall rut, or mating season. Look for elk in meadows and where meadow and forest meet.
  • Bighorn sheep are commonly seen at Sheep Lakes from May through mid-August.
  • Moose frequent willow thickets along the Colorado River in the Kawuneeche Valley on the park’s west side.
  • Otters were reintroduced into the Colorado River area and are doing fairly well. These animals are difficult to spot.
  • Mule deer are common and can be seen anywhere. They are most often found at lower elevations in open areas.
  • Bats feed over lakes and ponds at dawn and dusk.
  • Marmots and pikas favor rocky areas. Marmots are best seen on the alpine tundra along Trail Ridge Road. Pikas – small, light-colored mammals – are common in rock piles. Listen for their sharp, distinctive bark and watch for movement.
  • Clark’s nutcrackers, Steller’s jays, golden eagles and prairie falcons can be seen along Trail Ridge Road.
  • White-tailed ptarmigans, some of the most sought-after birds in Rocky Mountain National Park, are common but difficult to spot. For best results, hike on the tundra and look carefully. Ptarmigans usually remain still, relying on their natural camouflage for protection.
  • American dippers, or water ouzels, can be found along most streams. Listen for their loud call, similar to the rapid clicking of two stones together, as they fly up and down their territories.

Despite their good intentions, some wildlife watchers are loving park animals to death. Feeding junk food to wildlife reduces its ability to survive the long mountain winter. When they panhandle by roadsides, animals fall easy prey to automobiles. As they become habituated to humans and lose their natural fear, the animals become aggressive and may be destroyed. Harassing or feeding wildlife is illegal in all national parks.

Horseback Riding

Horses have been part of Rocky Mountain Park’s tradition since its designation in 1915. Recreational pack animal use is balanced with other recreational uses such as hiking. Packing is managed to maintain the natural resources and unique ecosystems in the park. Horses, mules, ponies, llamas, and burros are allowed on park trails. No goats are allowed on park trails.

For overnight camping, stock is permitted at established backcountry campsites designated for stock use. There are two stables located within the park: Glacier Creek Stables and Moraine Park Stables. There are many stables outside the park. Find contact information for the various stables in the area.

There are two Estes Park stables open in the winter: Sombrero Stables and Aspen Lodge Stables. Approximately 260 miles of trails are open to commercial and private horse use, which makes up about 80% of the total trail network in the park.

Wilderness Camping

Rocky Mountain National Park offers some unique camping experiences and here are some things to consider when choosing your wilderness campsite. The first step in planning your trip: decide where you want to camp and for how long. I suggest purchasing a Rocky Mountain National Park topographic map to choose a destination and route. Then, use the Wilderness Campsite Map and Wilderness Designated Site Details to select wilderness campsites. Remember to consider the abilities of the least experienced member of your party and the distance and elevation gain from the trailhead to your destination.


Rocky Mountain National Park is a high elevation park. If you live at sea level, it will take you several days to become acclimated. Most trails begin above 8,000 feet and climb abruptly higher. If you are not acclimated, you can get acute mountain sickness. Rangers recommend spending at least one night at 7,000–8,000 feet prior to setting out. This will allow your body to begin to adjust to the elevation.

Weather and Clothing

When you visit or call the park, discuss your plans with a ranger. Find out if snow has melted from the trails and destinations where you hope to hike. Check the weather forecast before starting your trip. Mountain weather changes very quickly. Within just a few hours, bright sunny skies may give way to raging storms. High winds often occur in the high country. Wind chill accelerates the lowering of body temperature which can result in hypothermia.

Proper clothing is your first line of defense against cold. Plan to dress in layers so you can regulate your temperature by bundling up or peeling down. Be sure to pack rain and storm gear. Remember, you assume complete responsibility for your own safety and that of your group while hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Ranger-Led Evening Programs

All evening programs are free and open to the public and are held at several locations throughout the park during evening hours. Both the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and Kawuneeche Visitor Center are in non-fee areas of the park.

East Side Locations:

Beaver Meadows Visitor Center Auditorium (Hwy 36) is located approximately three miles west of the town of Estes Park. Evening programs are held mid- May through mid-June and intermittently throughout the year.

Aspenglen Campground Amphitheater is located at the Fall River Entrance (Hwy 34) approximately 4 miles from downtown Estes Park. Evening programs will resume mid-June, 2019.

Glacier Basin Campground Amphitheater is located along Bear Lake Road approximately 8 miles from downtown Estes Park.Evening programs will resume mid-June, 2019.

Moraine Park Campground Amphitheater is located along Bear Lake Road approximately 5 miles from downtown Estes Park. Evening programs will resume mid-June, 2019.

West Side Locations:

Kawuneeche Visitor Center Auditorium is located approximately one mile north of the town of Grand Lake (Hwy 34). Evening programs are held on Saturday nights throughout the summer. Please stop at a the visitor center for more information on specific topics.

Timber Creek Campground Amphitheater is located in the Kawuneeche Valley (Hwy 34) approximately eight miles from the Grand Lake Entrance. Evening programs are held throughout the summer and into September. Please stop at a the Kawuneeche visitor center for more information on specific topics.

Kids Activities

Bear Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park

Kids are born naturalists. They access the natural world by asking questions, which sometimes come in bunches. Introducing children to the outdoors can begin at any time, but why not begin early? And why not start them out in Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the country’s premier outdoor wonderlands.

Infants can be carried in a front pack, which can be tucked inside the jacket if it’s chilly. Hike anywhere. Your kids will be enthralled by the stunning scenery and the fresh mountain air, so enthralled that he or she will fall asleep in short order.

When they reach the toddler stage, children begin to more actively interact with nature. It is a time of observation, of making initial connections and stockpiling notes. It is a wonderful time to introduce them to one of the many discovery trips found around the park. A few suggestions.
Explore the edges of Bear Lake while enjoying the guidebook-guided trail tour that explains the area’s natural and human history. Water holds an amazing variety of plant and animal life that will pique a child’s curiosity.

Discover Rocky Mountain’s amazing array of wildlife. At particular times during the summer (ask a park ranger), the bighorn sheep come down to Sheep Lakes. Kids especially enjoy watching them cross the road after the lambs are born. Find a ponderosa pine forest and watch for Abert’s squirrels. Their dark color and busy activities catch a toddler’s eye for contrast and movement.

Kids that are a bit older develop a more complex understanding of the world around them. While some children might enjoy expending energy hiking along a trail, most seem happiest thoroughly exploring a smaller area. On any hike with three to five year olds, it’s a good idea to include a magnifying glass in the backpack. Textures of trees, plants, bugs and rocks are exciting close-up.

In the early summer, enjoy the amazing floral colors found along the trail to Cub Lake. Have the youngsters keep an eye out for hummingbirds that may be visiting the flowers. Watch for beaver along the way in the Cub Creek drainage. Beaver dams are easy to spot in this area and stream banks are ideal places to look for animal tracks.

The park has a “Rocky’s Junior Ranger Program” for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. Emphasis is placed on park preservation, flora and fauna facts, and environmental education. When kids complete the Junior Ranger booklet, they earn a badge. Check at a visitor center for information.

These are but a few of the things you can do at Rocky Mountain National Park. Check with the park rangers when you arrive to see what activities are available, what wildlife might be easiest to see, or where the wildflowers are blooming.

I’ve created three posters for Rocky Mountain National Park — one that features a view of Moraine Park, one for Cub Lake, and one for the iconic Longs Peak.

Rocky Mountain National Park Moraine Park

Click here to see the Rocky Mountain National Park, Moraine Park poster.

Rocky Mountain Cub Lake

Click here to see the Rocky Mountain National Park, Cub Lake poster.

Rocky Mountain Longs Peak

Click here to see the Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak poster.

Rob Decker is a photographer and graphic artist who had the rare privilege of studying under Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park when he was just 19 years old. Now, Rob is on a journey to explore and photograph all 61 of America’s National Parks. He’s creating WPA-style posters to help people celebrate their own national park adventures — as well as encourage others to get out and explore!

Share this with Friends, Family & Followers
Posted on

Muir Woods National Monument Celebrates its 111th Anniversary January 9th

Muir Woods

Muir Woods National Monument is located on Mount Tamalpais near the Pacific coast, in southwestern Marin County, California. It is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and is 12 miles north of San Francisco. It protects 554 acres of which 240 acres are old growth coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) forests, one of a few such stands remaining in the San Francisco Bay Area. At Muir Woods, visitors are invited to step back in time to the days of one of the earliest park advocates.

Walk among the soaring old growth coast redwoods, cooling their roots in the fresh water of Redwood Creek and lifting their crowns to reach the sun and fog. Federally protected as a National Monument since 1908, this primeval forest is both refuge and laboratory, revealing our relationship with the living landscape. Immerse yourself in the sights that inspired John Muir to be such a strong voice for the preservation and conservation of America’s most special places.

Muir Woods has a rich and varied history, from its use by the Coast Miwok people, to its early days of tourism and the Mount Tamalpais Mill Valley Scenic Railway, to an era of conservation, to modern preservation. In each era, the forest has been affected by the actions of humans, for better or for worse.

The incredible diversity of flora and fauna at Muir Woods can be daunting some times, elusive at other times. The redwoods themselves dominate the scene, but the Steller’s jay often steals the show. Ladybugs clustering by the thousands on ancient horsetail ferns boggle the imagination, while the slimy banana slug is able to disgust and fascinate all at once. Plants adapt to low light levels on the forest floor, while whole plant and animal communities bustle in the canopy above our heads.

The Muir Woods National Monument is an old-growth coastal redwood forest. Due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the forest is regularly shrouded in a coastal marine layer fog, contributing to a wet environment that encourages vigorous plant growth. The fog is also vital for the growth of the redwoods as they use moisture from the fog during droughty seasons, in particular the dry summer.

The monument is cool and moist year round with average daytime temperatures between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Rainfall is heavy during the winter and summers are almost completely dry with the exception of fog drip caused by the fog passing through the trees. Annual precipitation in the park ranges from 39.4 inches in the lower valley to 47.2 inches higher up in the mountain slopes.

Muir Woods National Monument

Click here to see the Muir Woods National Monument poster

Share this with Friends, Family & Followers
Posted on

Join me on this 3-minute Seaplane Flight to Dry Tortugas National Park

In March of 2016, I visited Dry Tortugas National Park and photographed it for one of the next National Park Posters. I took the seaplane flight from Key West to Dry Tortugas — a 25 minute flight — but I’ll get you there in 3 minutes!

Enjoy the flight!!!

I also visited Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park so there will be a full set of posters for Florida.

Share this with Friends, Family & Followers
Posted on

Celebrating Redwood National Park’s Anniversary!

Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park is known as the home of the tallest trees on Earth. Redwoods grow from the seeds the size of a tomato seed, yet can weigh 500 tons and stand taller than the Statue of Liberty. Its foot-thick bark makes the tree all but impervious to fire and insects.The parks also protect vast prairies, oak woodlands, wild riverways, and nearly 40 miles of rugged coastline. For thousands of years people have lived in this verdant landscape. Together, the National Park Service and California State Parks manage these lands for the inspiration, enjoyment, and education of all.

Keep on reading!

Share this with Friends, Family & Followers
Posted on

How Can You Support America’s National Parks? Here are 6 Easy Ways!

Our national parks have taken center stage recently, and for good reason. Today, America’s national parks need our support more than ever. With an existing backlog of work and impending budget cuts, we need to lend our support to preserve America’s Best Idea. So how can you help? It’s actually very easy. Here are a half dozen ways you can contribute to these incredible places so the next generation can enjoy them, too!

Volunteer: There are so many ways you can help out your national parks through volunteering — just figure out which role is right for you.

Donate: Simply donating to the National Park Foundation will contribute to the 400 national parks in the country. We have 84 million acres of land to protect!

Purchase an America the Beautiful Pass: Honestly, this one’s a no brainer! At a cost of just $80 ($20 for Senior Pass), there’s no better value on the planet than these annual passes. Get all the details at the National Park Service site and start visiting America’s National Parks!

Contribute to the Conservation and Preservation Charities of America: This foundation trains people to protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and preserve historic places. It works to protect the nation’s hiking trails, fisheries, rivers, coastal areas and oceans.

Become a Member: You can become a member of one of the many national, regional or local organizations, associations and conservancies that support our national parks. If you’re already a member, renew for next year!

Share your Park Experience with Others: The only way to spread the word about the beauty and importance of national parks is to show other people just how wonderful these places are. Share your stories and pictures with friends, family and on social media and encourage others to find their park!

I’m trying to make a difference by giving back to the amazing organizations, associations, trusts and conservancies that support the National Parks. I feel that it’s important to protect America’s special places, and to connect people with nature. And it’s up to all of us to pitch in. Perhaps more importantly, we need to inspire the next generation of park stewards. Learn about our Giving Back Program here…

So you can see how easy it is to support America’s national parks! Now it’s time to hit the road and start exploring!

Share this with Friends, Family & Followers
Posted on

Black Friday Savings; National Parks Typography Poster FREE!

59 National Parks Typography Poster

#BlackFriday is November 25! But if you use the coupon code: BlackFriday — you’ll get the National Parks Typography poster absolutely FREE when your order any posters, collections or Artist Proofs at

The National Parks Typography poster features the names of all 59 National Parks. And the poster celebrates the National Park Service Centennial — the seal reads “100th Anniversary” and “1916-2016”.

Choose from some of the more popular parks, like Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Yellowstone & Yosemite…

Or from some of the newest offerings, like Cuyahoga Valley, Mammoth Cave, Sequoia, Kings Canyon & Pinnacles…

Use the coupon code: BlackFriday and you’ll get the National Parks Typography poster absolutely FREE when you order any posters, collections or Artist Proofs at

No need to wait until #BlackFriday. Get posters of your favorite parks and the FREE National Parks Typography poster right now! Just use coupon code: BlackFriday at:

Share this with Friends, Family & Followers
Posted on

Celebrating the Wright Brothers, Dayton and the History of Aviation!

This week, we celebrate the anniversary of the The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, which was was opened on October 16th, 1992.

Last week I visited the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, and was fortunate enough to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the old Wright Company factory, where the Wright brothers produced approximately 120 airplanes in 13 different models. It’s amazing the factory buildings still stand after more than 100 years, and they have gone through many transitions as other companies in the aviation and automotive industries have retrofitted and used them for their operations.

The Wright Company factory is closed to the public now…but work is underway to open it to visitors as a unit of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) and his brother Orville (1871-1948) built their first experimental airplanes in the back of their bicycle shop at 1127 W. Third St. They formed the Wright Company in November 1909. The company operated briefly in rented space until Building 1 was completed in 1910. Building 2 was erected in 1911.

The Wright Company factory was the first in America built for the purpose of manufacturing airplanes. Once restored and open to the public, the factory will complete the story of the Wright brothers’ invention, development and commercialization of the airplane in Dayton.

If you’re interested in the Wright Brothers, Aviation, Dayton and/or the National Parks, I encourage you to sign up for my newsletter at:

and you’ll be the first to know when new posters are released. And, there will be a new poster for the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Site! So stay tuned…

The images here show what the site looks like today (black & white photos) and a couple of renderings of what the new facility will look like!





Share this with Friends, Family & Followers
Posted on

The National Park Poster Project featured in 5280 — Denver’s Mile High Magazine

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Daliah Singer, Senior Editor at 5280 Magazine. Today, her article — Local Artist Recreates National Parks Posters for the Centennial — about The National Park Poster Project appeared on

Here’s a sneak peek…

Bring the trails home with you, thanks to Longmont-based artist Rob Decker’s National Park Poster Project.

AUGUST 4 2016, 12:05 PM

Arches National Park - Rocky Mountain National Park

Rob Decker’s national park posters are nostalgia at its best.
—Photos courtesy of the artist

You don’t have to visit a national park this month in order to celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th birthday—though we’ll jump at any reason to explore Colorado’s great outdoors. (Find some inspiration with our two-minute guide to the Centennial State’s national parks and this national parks road-trip map.) But if you simply can’t make it to the trails, you can still bring them home with you thanks to Longmont-based artist Rob Decker’s National Park Poster Project.

Share this with Friends, Family & Followers
Posted on

Hot Springs National Park Posters Features Historic Bathhouse Row

Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park was first called Hot Springs Reservation — and was initially created by an act of Congress on April 20, 1832 — even before the concept of a national park existed. It was the first time that a piece of land had been set aside by the federal government for the people as an area for recreation. For centuries, the hot spring water was believed to possess medicinal properties — and the subject of legend among several Native American tribes. Following federal protection, the city developed into a successful spa town and has been home to Major League Baseball spring training, illegal gambling, speakeasies and gangsters such as Al Capone, horse racing at Oaklawn Park, the Army and Navy Hospital, and 42nd President Bill Clinton.

The park includes portions of downtown Hot Springs, making it one of the most accessible national parks. Bathing in spring water is available in approved facilities and the entire Bathhouse Row area is designated as a National Historic Landmark District. It contains the grandest collection of bathhouses of its kind in North America, including many outstanding examples of Gilded Age architecture. The row’s Fordyce Bathhouse serves as the park’s visitor center and Buckstaff and Quapaw still operate as bathhouses.

I’ve just released the Hot Springs National Park poster, which features Historic Bathhouse Row, and I wanted you to know about this early release offer!

America's National Parks Map

Share this with Friends, Family & Followers
Posted on

National Park Service Loses Early Battle over Yosemite National Park’s Trademarked Names

Yosemite National Park

As you may have read, The National Park Service lost an early legal battle over Yosemite National Park’s trademarked names.

Click here to see the

Last week, the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board put the park service’s request to cancel certain Yosemite-area trademarks on hold.

In a procedural move that might shape the final outcome, the board’s decision led to a U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge rejecting the park service’s request to postpone consideration of a legal challenge by the previous concessionaire, Delaware North Corporation (DNC).

DNC, which managed Yosemite’s major lodging and recreation concessions until March 1st of this year, secured trademark protection for some popular Yosemite-area names.

The National Park Service, however, has renamed these properties and the Ahwahnee will become the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, and Curry Village will become Half Dome Village. The Yosemite Lodge at the Falls will turn into Yosemite Valley Lodge; Wawona Hotel will become Big Trees Lodge; and Badger Pass Ski Area will be called Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area.

And we may not be able to call Yosemite National Park by that name either!!!

I’m not sure how long I will be able to offer the WPA-style poster that bears the name Yosemite National Park. I’ve heard some estimates that say it may take two years to get this resolved. But there’s no telling what the outcome might be.

So, if you’ve been thinking about the Yosemite National Park poster, I’d encourage you to take a second look before they are sold out.

There are fewer than 100 Limited Edition prints remaining…and I am not sure when, or if, I will be able to reprint.

Click here to see the

Share this with Friends, Family & Followers