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Happy birthday, Rocky Mountain National Park! Colorado's most popular national park turns 107

Under Longs Peak_Rocky Mountain National Park
Fern Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park
Posted at 11:23 AM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-27 16:11:48-05

Wednesday marks the 107th birthday for Rocky Mountain National Park, the most popular national park in the state and one of the most popular in the country.

According to the park's website, on January 26, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Rocky Mountain National Park Act, which established the land as a national park — the 10th of its kind at the time. The park was dedicated on Sept. 4, 1915.

Rocky Mountain National Park, also known by its abbreviation RMNP, has astounded visitors in the decades since its creation with its vastness, wildness, and beauty across its 265,807 acres. Of that total acreage, 94.9% is designated wilderness and includes 20 peaks above 13,000 feet (and one above 14,000 — Longs Peak), 147 lakes, a variety of ecosystems, 66 species of mammals, 280 species of birds, and 1,100 species of vascular plants, according to the park. Visitors can enjoy about 355 miles of hiking trails and wind their way around 92 miles of paved road.

Before it was a national park, the RMNP land was home to countless wildlife, and then Native American tribes, including the Ute, Apache, and Arapaho. The U.S. government acquired the land with the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. The first known non-Native American people to enter the land, according to records, were the members of Stephen A. Long's expedition in the 1820s, according to the park's website. Skip ahead about 100 years, and it was officially a national park.

Fall River Road, a narrow, unpaved, single-lane road, was constructed around this time and allowed travelers a path over the Continental Divide between Estes Park and Grand Lake. But drivers had trouble on this road and clearing snow from shaded areas was difficult. Soon after it was completed in 1920, park officials started planning a replacement.

And so came Trail Ridge Road, which started construction a few years later and was completed by 1932. Today, it remains the highest continuous highway in the country.

In 2020, about 3.3 million people visited RMNP, making it the fourth most popular out of the 423 national parks in the United States.

Planning on visiting? Remember, you need to make a reservation for park entry anytime between May 27 and Oct. 10. In addition, if you want to camp overnight in RMNP's backcountry, you will need to use the park's new permit reservation system.

You can read more about the past 107 years — and beyond — of history at RMNP on its website by clicking here or here.

Happy birthday, RMNP!