Rocky Mountain Gateways
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The Front Range, carrying the continental divide, is a gnarled and jagged rampart of snow-splashed granite facing the eastern plains, from which its grim summits may be seen for many miles. Standing out before it like captains in front of gray ranks at parade rise three conspicuous mountains, Longs Peak, fifty miles northwest of Denver, Mount Evans, west of Denver, and Pikes Peak, seventy miles to the south. Longs Peak is directly connected with the continental divide by a series of jagged cliffs. Mount Evans is farther away. Pikes Peak stands sentinel-like seventy-five miles east of the range, a gigantic monadnock, remainder and reminder of a former range long ages worn away.
Though many massive mountains of greater altitude lie farther west, the Front Range for many reasons is representative of the Rockies' noblest. To represent them fully, the national park should include the three sentinel peaks and their neighborhoods, and it is earnestly hoped that the day will come when Congress will recognize this need. At this writing only the section of greatest variety and magnificence, the nearly four hundred square miles of which Longs Peak is the climax, has been thus entitled. In fact, even this was unfortunately curtailed in the making, the straight southern boundary having been arbitrarily drawn through the range at a point of sublimity, throwing out of the park the St. Vrain Glaciers which form one of the region's wildest and noblest spectacles, and Arapaho Peak and its glaciers which in several respects constitute a climax in Rocky Mountain scenery.
Thus carelessly cropped, despoiled of the completeness which Nature meant it to possess, nevertheless the Rocky Mountain National Park is a reservation of distinguished charm and beauty. It straddles the continental divide, which bisects it lengthwise, north and south. The western slopes rise gently to the di-vide; at the divide, the eastern front drops in a precipice several thousand feet deep, out of which frosts, rains, glaciers and streams have gouged gigantic gulfs and granite-bound vales and canyons, whose intervening cliffs are battlemented walls and monoliths.
As if these features were not enough to differentiate this national park from any other, Nature has provided still another element of popularity and distinction. East of this splendid rampart spreads a broad area of rolling plateau, carpeted with wild flowers, edged and dotted with luxuriant groves of pine, spruce, fir, and aspen, and diversified with hills and craggy mountains, carved rock walls, long forest-grown moraines and picturesque ravines; a stream-watered, lake-dotted summer and winter pleasure paradise of great size, bounded on the north and west by snow-spattered monsters, and on the east and south by craggy wooded foothills, only less in size, and no less in beauty than the leviathans of the main range. Here is summer living room enough for several hundred thousand sojourners from whose comfortable camps and hotels the wild heart of the Rockies may be visited afoot or on horseback between early breakfast and late supper at home.
This plateau has been known to summer visitors for many years under the titles of several settlements; Moraine Park, Horseshoe Park, and Longs Peak, each had its hotels long before the national park was created; Estes Park and Allen's Park on the east side, and Grand Lake on the west side lie just outside the park boundaries, purposely excluded because of their considerable areas of privately owned land. Estes Park, the principal village and the distributing centre of all incoming routes from the east, is the Eastern Gateway; Grand Lake is the. Western Gateway.
And still there is another distinction, one which will probably always hold for Rocky Mountain its present great lead in popularity. That is its position nearer to the middle of the country than other great national parks, and its accessibility from large centres of population. Denver, which claims with some justice the title of Gateway to the National Parks, meaning of course the eastern gateway to the western parks, is within thirty hours by rail from Chicago and St. Louis, through one or other of which most travellers from the east find it convenient to reach the west. It is similarly conveniently located for touring motorists, with whom all the national parks are becoming ever more popular. From Denver several railroads lead to east-side towns, from which the park is reached by motor stages through the foothills, and a motor stage line runs directly from Denver to Estes Park, paralleling the range. The west side is reached through Granby.