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Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
The snow-mantled peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park offer many ways to experience nature in its entire splendor. The park preserves one small section of the mighty range, measuring roughly twenty five by fifteen miles. A tenth of the size of Yellowstone, the park attracts the same number of visitors, and with the bulk of those coming in summer, the one road through the mountains can get incredibly congested.
In spite of the problem of overcrowding, the park is undeniably beautiful, crossing the Continental Divide at elevations often well in excess of ten thousand feet. A third of the park is above the tree line, and large areas of snow never melt; the name of the Never Summer Mountains speaks volumes about the long, empty expanses of arctic-style tundra. Lower down, among the rich forests, are patches of lush greenery; if you are lucky, you might stumble upon a mountain meadow full of blooming flowers.
The park has often been compared with the European Alps. This is helped by the heavy-handed Swiss and Bavarian themes of the region's motels and restaurants. Approaching the park from the east, you barely penetrate the foothills of the Rockies before you arrive at the gateway town of Estes Park. The park headquarters and visitor center are located here.
To reach the western entrance, a small detour beyond the junction takes you to Georgetown, the starting point of the Georgetown Loop Railroad. On this line, you can see a 1920s steam train running a tortuous six mile round-trip.