Rising from 7,800 feet to 12,000 – even 14,000 feet in some places – RMNP is a high-elevation park and if you don't give yourself time to adjust to the thinner atmosphere and lower oxygen levels, you could run the risk of getting the headaches, nausea and disorientation characteristic of altitude sickness. Along with taking a day or so to acclimate to the high altitude, you should make sure to consume plenty of water and food to ward off symptoms.
Become immersed in Rocky’s pristine landscape on some of the park’s 355 miles of hiking trails. Choose from flat lakeside walks to steeper, more challenging mountain climbs. The easy .6-mile Bear Lake trail is a popular hike featuring an interpretive nature trail hugging a subalpine lake at the end of Bear Lake Road. For a stunning waterfall hike, make your way to Alberta Falls or Ouzel Falls.
Some of the highlights along the way are the towns of Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride. Set at more than 9,300 feet and surrounded by mountains, Silverton has one main street with a few shops and restaurants. In summer, it can be ridiculously busy, but in winter, most of the establishments are closed, and the place can feel like a ghost town. On the edge of town, Silverton Mountain is an old school ski "resort" with great backcountry downhill skiing for advanced skiiers. Ouray, with a sign at the main lookout calling it the "Switzerland of America," is another mountain town, known for its hot springs. If you choose to do the Skyway, you can stop in at Telluride. Known for the Telluride Ski Resort, this is one of the most beautiful mountain towns in America, with a traditional main street and gorgeous mountain scenery. You can take a free gondola up the mountain for a better look over the area.
Precambrian metamorphic rock formed the core of the North American continent during the Precambrian eon 4.5–1 billion years ago. During the Paleozoic era, western North America was submerged beneath a shallow sea, with a seabed composed of limestone and dolomite deposits many kilometers thick. Pikes Peak granite formed during the late Precambrian eon, continuing well into the Paleozoic era, when mass quantities of molten rock flowed, amalgamated, and formed the continents about 1 billion–300 million years ago. Concurrently, in the period from 500–300 million years ago, the region began to sink while lime and mud sediments were deposited in the vacated space. Eroded granite produced sand particles that formed strata—layers of sediment—in the sinking basin.
The Olives Aspen restaurant, run by Chef Todd English, serves Mediterranean-inspired cuisine with a local flare. The Lobby Lounge features beautiful views, and offers a light menu with cocktails, aperitifs, wines, and beers. Doubles from $725 per night. The hotel is located 10 minutes from the Airport. You can contact the hotel to arrange transportation. Doubles from $725 per night. The hotel is located 10 minutes from the Airport.
About 300 million years ago, the land was uplifted creating the ancestral Rocky Mountains. Fountain Formation was deposited during the Pennsylvanian period of the Paleozoic era, 290–296 million years ago. Over the next 150 million years, the mountains uplifted, continued to erode, and covered themselves in their own sediment. Wind, gravity, rainwater, snow, and glacial ice eroded the granite mountains over geologic time scales. The Ancestral Rockies were eventually buried under subsequent strata.
Brian and I descended back to ~7,000 feet for dinner in a small-town Indian restaurant in Nederland, Colorado, west of Boulder. By then, both our heads ached like a bad hangover, and my lungs literally burned when I tried to inhale anything but shallow breaths. Add generalized joint pain, and I had a full-blown case of altitude sickness. Given that I am a noted hypochondriac, I expected the worst.