B E R G H O L D T . C O M

|    HOME    |   ABOUT ME    |   DESTINATIONS   |   IMAGE GALLERY    |    LINKS    |    WEBMAIL    |  
 


|   ROCKY MOUNTAINS   |   US EAST-COAST   |   JAPAN   |   RUSSIA   |

 
 


ROCKY MOUNTAINS - A ROUND TRIP

 
 

DENVER (1) - ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK (2) - CHEYENNE (3) - FLAMING GORGE NATIONAL RECREATION AREA (4) -
GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK (5) - YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK (6) - HELENA (7) - GLACIER NATIONAL PARK (8) -
NATIONAL BISON RANGE (9) - HELL'S CANYON / SNAKE RIVER (10) - BOISE (11) - HAGERMAN FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT (12) -
SALT LAKE CITY (13) - ZION NATIONAL PARK (14) - BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK (15) - CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK (16) -
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK (17) - CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK (18) - NATURAL BRIDGES NATIONAL MONUMENT (19) -
MONUMENT VALLEY NAVAJO TRIBAL PARK (20) - MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK (21) -
BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK (22) - ROYAL GORGE BRIDGE (23) - PIKES PEAK (24).

 
     
   
 

THE CAPITOL BUILDING IN DENVER, COLORADO.

 
     
  INTRO: I CAME TO THE USA IN LATE DECEMBER 1993 WHERE I STAYED FOR JUST OVER A YEAR. I WORKED AS AN AU PAIR IN WARRENTON, VIRGINIA FOR FOUR MONTHS AND EIGHT MONTHS IN AYER, MASSACHUSETTS. IN BETWEEN THE TWO JOBS, I STAYED 14 DAYS AT AN AU PAIR AGENCY REPRESENTATIVE IN BURLINGTON, VERMONT.

IN October 1994 IT WAS TIME FOR A VACATION, SO I FLEW FROM BOSTON TO DENVER AND drove through the Rockies in a rented Buick Century visiting National Parks, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas, privately owned parks and state capitols in 8 different states. I started and ended the round trip in Denver, Colorado, (spending most time in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Utah and only little time in Washington, Oregon and Arizona). When I was done, after 21 days, I had driven a total of 5,500 miles or 8,500 km. and seen 19 Parks and 5 capitol cities.

 
     
  DENVER, THE CAPITOL CITY OF COLORADO, IS ALSO CALLED "THE MILE HIGH CITY". FROM THE TOP OF THE CAPITOL BUILDING, YOU HAVE A GREAT VIEW OF THE CITY WITH THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS IN THE BACKGROUND.

I WENT TO THE CAR RENTAL COMPANY RIGHT AFTER I LANDED IN DENVER. IT WAS SITUATED RIGHT NEXT TO THE AIRPORT. THEY DIDN'T HAVE THE SMALL COMPACT CAR I HAD ASKED FOR, SO THEY UPGRADED ME TO THE BUICK CENTURY, WHICH I DIDN'T MIND, SINCE IT WAS A BETTER CAR WITH A SIX-CYLINDER ENGINE. THE PRICE INCLUDING TAXES, INSURANCE AND UNLIMITED MILEAGE WAS SOMEWHERE AROUND 1.250,- DOLLARS.

AFTER PACKING EVERYTHING INTO THE CAR, I STARTED MY DRIVE NORTH TOWARDS ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK.

 
     
   
 

TRAIL RIDGE ROAD IN ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, COLORADO.

 
     
   
 

MY RENTAL CAR - BUICK CENTURY - PARKED NEAR A VIEW POINT IN ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, COLORADO.

 
     
  ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK. About 70 miles (112 km.) north-west of Denver, Colorado, you’ll find Rocky Mountain National Park. The park was founded in 1915 and has some of the most spectacular scenery you’ll find in the Rocky Mountains. More than 70 peaks rise above 12,000 feet (3,650 meters) the highest, Longs Peak, reaches 14,255 feet (4,345 meters).

The Trail Ridge Road (photo ABOVE) is probably the biggest feature of the park, at least if you plan to spend only 24 hours in the park as I did. The Trail Ridge Road takes you through the park from Estes Park in the east to Grand Lake in the west. It’s about 50 miles (75 km.) long and takes you 12,183 feet (3,713 meters) above sea level where you’ll encounter forms of life and climatic conditions found at the Arctic Circle. Along the way you’ll get a chance to stop at some of the many overlooks. If you do that, you might just see one of the bighorn sheep or bears that live up here. You’ll also get a chance to see the diverse plant life.

As you climb the Trail Ridge Road you’ll see the plant life change, at the top the alpine tundra predominates. In fact one-third of Rocky Mountain National Park is above treeline. More than 3 million people visit Rocky Mountain National Park every year. So if you want to get away from the crowds and enjoy the silence you might want to follow one of the many hiking trails that are found here. Rocky Mountain National Park has more than 355 miles (570 km.) of trails providing access to the remote sections of the park.

There are no hotels or motels in the park only campgrounds and they have no showers or electricity. So bring along a tent and a sleeping bag or sleep in the car as I did. You also have to bring along your own food. Wood fires are permitted only in fire grates in campgrounds and picnic areas. Permits are required for fires outside these areas. If you need more luxury than a campground can offer, go to Estes Park or Grand Lake.

 
     
   
 

THE CAPITOL BUILDING IN CHEYENNE, WYOMING.

 
     
   
 

STATUE BEHIND THE CAPITOL BUILDING IN CHEYENNE, WYOMING.

 
     
  CHEYENNE, THE CAPITOL CITY OF WYOMING, HAD ITS HUMBLE BEGINNING IN 1867 WHEN THE UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD TRACKS WERE LAID THROUGH THIS SITE ON ITS WAY TO THE WEST COAST. TODAY IT IS BEST KNOWN FOR ITS YEARLY RODEO, THE "CHEYENNE FRONTIER DAYS" IN THE LAST WEEK OF JULY. THEY CALL THE RODEO "THE BIG DADDY OF 'EM ALL" SINCE IT DOESN'T GET ANY BIGGER THAN THIS. THEY START IT OUT WITH A GRAND PARADE.  
     
   
 

THE GREEN RIVER IN FLAMING GORGE NATIONAL RECREATION AREA, WYOMING / UTAH.

 
     
   
 

THE FLAMING GORGE DAM IN FLAMING GORGE NATIONAL RECREATION AREA, WYOMING / UTAH.

 
     
  FLAMING GORGE NATIONAL RECREATION AREA, This stunning national recreation area was established in 1968. It is located in the south-western corner of Wyoming and part of it is in Utah. The Flaming Gorge Dam and the 90-mile-long (144 km.) reservoir behind it make up the biggest part of this recreation area. The dam was built between 1958-64, at a price of $65,196,716 and generates a total average of 533,000 MW-hours annually. The electricity produced here is sold as far away as California.

The explorer, John Wesley Powell, named the Flaming Gorge in 1869 when he led an expedition down the Green River to the Colorado River and into the Grand Canyon. They were the first white men to explore this part of the country. The Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area offers lots of activities to the visitor. Water sports are popular here. Near the dam, in Utah, is a visitor’s centre were you can get all the information you need.

Don’t forget to drive through the Sheep Creek Canyon Geological Area. Located not far from the dam, it is full of twisted and upturned layers of rock and is a spectacular place. Campgrounds and lodges are not far apart.

 
     
   
 

THE GRAND TETONS IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING.

 
     
   
 

CHAPEL OF THE TRANSFIGURATION IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING.

 
     
  GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK: Just south of Yellowstone National Park or about 170 miles (272 km.) north of Rock Springs, Wyoming, is Grand Teton National Park. The park was founded in 1929 and enlarged in 1950 and the most eye-catching feature has to be the Teton Range.

The whole area is full of wildlife, if you like hunting or fishing then this is the place to be. You’ll find animals such as elk, moose, buffalo, bears, eagles, swans and trout. But remember poachers are not welcome so follow the rules when you go hunting.

When you visit Grand Teton National Park take a hike around one of the lakes. Jackson Lake, Jenny Lake and Leigh Lake are nice to hike around and it gives you time to take in the beauty of the park. The Teton Range is visible from all over the park, many of its peaks reach more than 12,000 feet (3,650 meters).

More than 4 million people visit Grand Teton National Park every year and it is not possible to reserve a campground. If you want to be sure to have a place to stay, try a hotel or motel in Jackson or visit in October, as I did.

 
     
   
 

OLD FAITHFUL GEYSER IN YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING.

 
     
   
 

LOWER FALLS, GRAND CANYON OF THE YELLOWSTONE, YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING.

 
     
   
 

BISON / BUFFALO UP-CLOSE, YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING.

 
     
  YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, is situated in the north-western corner of Wyoming. Part of the park is in Montana and Idaho. Founded in 1872, it is the first National Park IN the world. Until 1916, when the American Congress established the National Park Service, the US Army was in charge of the park, making sure that nobody settled or hunted inside the park.

Yellowstone National Park has a good mix of mountains, rivers, canyons, waterfalls, forests, wildlife and lakes but first of all people come here to experience the geysers and the buffaloes or bisons as they are also called. Old Faithful (photo ABOVE) is the most famous of the geysers, it spouts out water EVERY 90 MINUTES and has done so for centuries. But Old Faithful is far from the only geyser in Yellowstone National Park and believe me, when you have seen one, you want to see more.

Almost every attraction in Yellowstone is accessible by car but if you visit during summer you should be prepared to encounter traffic. Some of the attractions are accessible only on foot but hiking trails are well marked so try them out. Yellowstone National Park has plenty of campgrounds, inns, and other lodging facilities so bring along a couple of friends or your family and enjoy yourself.

If you visit in October, as I did, you’ll have the park for yourself. It’s a wonderful feeling to be the only one around, just you, the wildlife and a lot of space. No matter how you do it, you are sure to have fun in this tourist paradise. If you only have time to visit one national park in your life, then this should be the one. It’s a must-see.

 
     
   
 

THE CAPITOL BUILDING IN HELENA, MONTANA.

 
     
   
 

GRAIN SILOS ON THE MONTANA PLAINS NEAR HELENA, MONTANA.

 
     
  HELENA, THE STATE CAPITOL OF MONTANA MUST SURELY BE THE SMALLEST CAPITOL CITY IN THE USA. IT IS DEFINATELY THE SMALLEST I HAVE BEEN TO. FROM THE LAWN IN FRONT OF THE CAPITOL BUILDING YOU CAN SEE ALL THE WAY TO THE END OF TOWN.  
     
   
 

LAKE ST. MARY IN GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, MONTANA.

 
     
   
 

MOUNTAIN PEAK IN GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, MONTANA.

 
     
  GLACIER NATIONAL PARK: In north-western Montana on the US-Canadian border lies Glacier National Park. It was created in 1910 and joined together with Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, in 1932 to form Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

Glacier National Park has only one road going through it, the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The road is very narrow and large vehicles are not allowed on it. The road takes you over Logan Pass at 6,646 feet (2,025 meters). This part of the Going-to-the-Sun Road closes about mid October. From the road you have some great views of the park, but if you want to see more of the park, you have to put on your hiking boots. There are more than 700 miles (1100 km.) of hiking trails in Glacier.

Apart from the beautiful snow-capped peaks, the park offers about 200 small and large lakes. The 1.7 million people who visit Glacier National Park each year get a chance to see the largest population of grizzly bears in the US, not counting Alaska. The chance of seeing a mountain goat is also higher in Glacier than most other parks in the Rocky Mountains. In October, bald eagles swarm to feed on spawning salmon. Campgrounds are available along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. There are backcountry campgrounds for hikers, throughout the park. You need a special permit for backcountry camping.

 
     
   
 

BISONS / BUFFALOS AT NATIONAL BISON RANGE IN MONTANA.

 
     
   
 

A PRONGHORN IN THE NATIONAL BISON RANGE, MONTANA.

 
     
  The National Bison Range is an area set aside to protect some of the bisons of North-d>

The Red Sheep Mountain self-guided drive is one of the roads that take you through the range. It is a dirt road but you don’t need a four-wheel-driven car to drive through the range. On the way you will see other animals as well, the range is home to several different animals.

There is a visitor’s centre at the entrance. Here you can find information on the range and the animals that live here.

 
     
   
 

THE BEAMER'S LANDING HELL'S CANYON TOURS JET BOAT, SNAKE RIVER, IDAHO / WASHINGTON / OREGON.

 
     
   
 

GOING UP RIVER ON THE SNAKE RIVER, IDAHO / WASHINGTON / OREGON.

 
     
  HELL'S CANYON / SNAKE RIVER: Beamer's Landing Hell's Canyon Tours has the contract to deliver the US mail to remote ranches in Hell's Canyon. Besides this they arrange jet boat tours up the Snake River. Hell's Canyon is 1 mile (1.6 km.) deep which makes it the deepest gorge in North-d>

The canyon is located on the borders between Idaho, Washington and Oregon and is part of the 1,000-mile (1,600-km.) long Snake River. I went on a half-day trip with about 8 other people. October is not a very busy time for Beamer's. They have jet boats that are a lot bigger than the one we took, which was the smallest they had.

The mountains around Hell's Canyon are very rugged and have a very unusual colour, brown. The ranch owners in the canyon have no other way of getting out of the canyon than the river, no roads lead into the canyon. The trip started in Clarkston, Washington, and took us 40 miles (64 km.) up river. First stop was Copper Creek Lodge where we stopped to stretch our legs. Cache Creek Ranch, which is a museum today, was the next stop. Then we turned around and went back down river to Heller Bar Lodge, where we had lunch. All-together, it was a pleasant trip with some great vistas.

Beamer's Landing arranges many different trips into Hell's Canyon, both rafting and fishing trips are among their offers.

 
     
   
 

THE CAPITOL BUILDING IN BOISE, IDAHO.

 
     
  BOISE (PRONOUNCED BOY-SEE) IS, WITH ITS JUST UNDER 200.000 INHABITANTS, STILL A SMALL CAPITOL CITY BY AMERICAN STANDARDS. THE CITY IS GROWING RAPIDLY THOUGH, WITH MORE AND MORE PEOPLE COMMING IN TO ENJOY THE RELATIVELY MANY NEARBY RESORTS AND OTHER SITES OF INTEREST. THE OLD IDAHO PENITENTIARY, BUILT IN 1870, WAS USED UNTIL 1974. THE LACK OF IMPROVEMENTS FOR PRISONERS LED TO REBELLIONS. A FINAL REVOLT IN 1973 PROMPTED A MOVE TO MORE MODERS FACILITIES. TODAY IT IS A MUSEUM AND THE CELL BLOCKS HAVE BEEN LEFT EXACTLY AS THEY WERE AFTER THE RIOT. TAKE A SELF-GUIDED TOUR AND "ENJOY" THE VIEWS.  
     
   
 

HAGERMAN FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT, IDAHO.

 
     
   
 

THOUSAND SPRINGS SCENIC BYWAY, IDAHO.

 
     
   
 

ME "PLANTING THE FLAG" AT BRUNEAU CANYON BETWEEN BOISE AND HAGERMAN FOSSIL BEDS, IDAHO.

 
     
  Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument protects the world’s richest known fossil deposits from the late Pliocene time period about 3.5 million years ago. The monument was established in 1988 and is located in Hagerman, south Idaho, about 100 miles (160 km.) south-east of Boise. There is a visitor’s centre where you can get the information you need but apart from that there are no other facilities.

There are many other natural wonders in the area, Thousand Springs is one of them. Dozens of springs pour out of the north canyon wall. The water probably comes from mountains to the north and has been on this ‘journey’ for up to 100 years. Shoshone Falls is a waterfall higher than the Niagara Falls but the many dams that dot the Snake River have, unfortunately, reduced the water flow to Shoshone dramatically.

The Bruneau Canyon, located halfway between Boise and Twin Falls, is an 800-foot (246-meter) deep canyon. When you drive along the gravel road that leads to the canyon, you want to make sure that you don’t miss the sign. If you miss it, as I did, you end up in a USAF gunnery range. I didn’t get shot at but who knows what could have happened.

 
     
   
 

THE CAPITOL BUILDING IN SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH.

 
     
   
 

THE MORMON TEMPLE, SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH.

 
     
  SALT LAKE CITY: The state capitol of Utah is named after the large salt lake that lies right next to it. This is also where you will find the famous Bonneville race track where many speed records have been set. OF COURSE, THIS IS ALSO THE WORLD CAPITOL FOR ALL MORMON PEOPLE AND THEY ARE NOT GOING TO LET IT PASS YOU BY. AS SOON AS YOU ENTER THE TEMPLE AREA, YOU ARE "ATTACKED" BY MISSIONARIES WHO WOULD LOVE TO TELL YOU ALL ABOUT THE MORMON FAITH.  
     
   
 

TWO VIEWS FROM WITHIN ZION NATIONAL PARK, UTAH.

 
     
  Zion National Park in south-western Utah was established in 1919. About 2.5 million visitors come to the park each year. There are three paved roads and one dirt road leading into Zion. All the paved roads are open year-round. The Kolob Canyons Road takes you to the Kolob Canyons Viewpoint. From here, you have a great view of the Finger Canyons of the Kolob.

The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is probably the most used road within the park. This road winds through the canyon right next to the Virgin River and ends at the Temple of Sinawava. Many of the park's hiking trails start or end along this road. The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway takes you through the park from the south entrance to the east entrance. On the way, you’ll pass through a mile-long tunnel constructed in 1930. Large vehicles cannot pass due to the rather small size of the tunnel.

Not far from the east entrance is the Canyon Overlook, from here you have a great view of the Zion Canyon. If you enjoy Imax-theatres you should go to the south entrance. Here they show an Imax-movie about the park and its history. The Kolob Terrace Road is the only dirt road in the park. It takes you to a part of the park that is otherwise only accessible by foot. The road takes you to the Lava Point campground, one of three in Zion. The other two campgrounds are both located at the south entrance. The Kolob Terrace Road is closed during winter. Apart from the beautiful scenery, Zion offers mountain lions, mule deer and lots of hiking fun.

 
     
   
 

TWO VIEWS FROM WITHIN BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK, UTAH.

 
     
   
 

A ROCK FORMATION CALLED HOODOO, BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK, UTAH.

 
     
  BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK: About 85 miles (136 km.) north-east of Zion National Park, in south Utah, is Bryce Canyon National Park. It was established as a national park in 1928 and has more than 1.7 million visitors each year.

Bryce Canyon is actually not a real canyon but was created due to erosion when the earth’s crust was pushed upwards. The park is an explosion in colours and shapes and is very different from Zion. There is only one road leading through the park. It is about 18 miles (29 km.) long and takes you along the plateau rim. You should stop at some of the overlooks to enjoy the view but don’t forget to take a hiking tour of the park. Bryce Canyon offers about 50 miles (80 km.) of hiking trails. From these hiking trails you can truly enjoy the unusual rock formations also called hoodoos.

The park offers little wildlife compared to other national parks in the Rocky Mountains but there are many other attractions that make this park worth visiting. There are two campgrounds in Bryce Canyon and a number of backcountry campsites. It is also possible to stay at the Bryce Canyon Lodge and eat at its restaurant or do some shopping at the general store.

 
     
   
 

THE WATERPOCKET FOLD - SCENIC DRIVE, CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK, UTAH.

 
     
   
 

PETROGLYPHS ON ROUTE 24, CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK, UTAH.

 
     
  CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK: Approximately 115 miles (184 km.) north-east of Bryce Canyon National Park is Capitol Reef National Park. Just about 700,000 people visit each year. The park features a giant ridge of rock called the Waterpocket Fold. These ‘wrinkles’ in the earth’s crust stretch for 100 miles (160 km.) through the park.

There is a scenic drive that takes you past part of the Waterpocket Fold. Most roads within the park are dirt roads though, on some of these you need a four-wheel-driven car with high clearance. Capitol Reef is a very desert like place. The rivers within the park seem to be the only place where life can exist. If you don’t own an off-road car, drive to the end of the scenic drive into Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge. From here there are hiking trails leading to some great overlooks.

There are two campgrounds within the park, both are open year round. At the Fruita Campground (off the scenic drive) you’ll find restrooms and drinking water but you have to bring everything else yourselves.

 
     
   
 

DELICATE ARCH, ARCHES NATIONAL PARK, UTAH.

 
     
   
 

LANDSCAPE ARCH, ARCHES NATIONAL PARK, UTAH.

 
     
  Arches National Park is located in south-eastern Utah. It has been a national park since 1971 and today receives about 860,000 visitors a year. The park has the greatest density of natural arches in the world, more than 1,500 are catalogued. The largest is Landscape Arch measuring 306 feet (97 meters) from base to base. The best known of them all is probably Delicate Arch with the La Sal Mountains in the background.

There is only one road leading through the park. It is 21 miles (33 km.) long and ends at Devils Garden Campground, the only one within the park. There are no lodging or restaurant facilities in the park. Drive south to Moab for this. This national park has some great hiking trails. You should be prepared to walk, since the main road only takes you part of the way.

 
     
   
 

GRAND VIEW POINT, CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK, UTAH.

 
     
   
 

PARK OVERLOOK, CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK, UTAH.

 
     
  CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK: Established in 1964, Canyonlands National Park in south-eastern Utah is one of the most desolate areas in the Rocky Mountains. The Green River and the Colorado River have shaped this national park together. The canyons that they created are breathtakingly beautiful.

Two roads lead into the park but most of it is accessible only by foot or four-wheel-driven vehicles with high clearance. The views you get from the overlooks are well worth the drive though, so don’t forget to visit if you are in the area. Most visitors who come to Canyonlands do it to float down the rivers, but the park is also a backpacker’s paradise. Hiking trails take you to all corners of the park.

If you prefer to stay inside a car you can do that too. The 100 mile (160 km.) long White Rim Trail is the most popular of these backcountry roads (four-wheel-driven cars only). Remember to bring along water and food yourselves, no drive-through restaurants have opened here yet. There are two campgrounds within the park but few facilities are available.

 
     
   
 

TWO VIEWS FROM WITHIN NATURAL BRIDGES NATIONAL MONUMENT, UTAH.

 
     
  Natural Bridges National Monument was established in 1908, which makes it Utah’s first National Park Service area. It attracts about 135,000 visitors a year. The Bridge View Drive is a 9-mile (14-km.) long loop that takes you past the three natural bridges in the park.

The bridges are visible from the road but you should follow the trails down to the bridges to get the best view. At the bottom of the canyon, you might get a glimpse of some of the animals that live here. Birds, rabbits and lizards are common here but larger animals will try to evade you.

There is a visitor’s centre and a campground near the entrance. The monument also has another interesting sight. In 1980, the National Park Service built a bank of solar panels near the entrance, to supply the monument with electricity. When it was built, it was the largest solar-energy system in the world. Route 276, near the monument, makes driving fun.

 
     
   
 

ONE OF MANY MONOLITHS IN MONUMENT VALLEY NAVAJO TRIBAL PARK, ARIZONA.

 
     
   
 

THE ABOVE VIEW FROM A DIFFERENT ANGLE, MONUMENT VALLEY NAVAJO TRIBAL PARK, ARIZONA.

 
     
  Monument Valley NAVAJO TRIBAL PARK, in north-eastern Arizona, is part of the Navajo Indian Reservation. A dirt road takes you through this park where huge monoliths and spires of red sandstone loom high above the desert floor. There are guided tours for those who want to hear about the history of this place. Four-wheel-driven cars take you to parts of the park that are otherwise closed to the public.

There is also a place where you can buy indian artefacts. The Navajo Indians are the largest group of Indians in the US, about 165,000 in all. Mitten View Campground, near the entrance, is the only campground in the park. Drive 22 miles (35 km.) south to Kayenta for lodging facilities. If you always dreamt of becoming a cowboy like John Wayne then this is the place to come. Many movies have been filmed here.

 
     
   
 

CLIFF PALACE, MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK, COLORADO.

 
     
   
 

BALCONY HOUSE, MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK, COLORADO.

 
     
  Mesa Verde NATIONAL PARK is located in the south-western corner of Colorado. It is the first national park in the US established to protect something created by humankind. The park itself was established in 1906 but people have lived here since 600 AD. It is the buildings of these people (called Anasazi) that this park was established to protect.

Local cowboys about a century ago discovered these ‘cliff dwellings’ (photo ABOVE). Ever since, archaeologists have tried to uncover the life of the Anasazi. Mesa Verde is Spanish for ‘green table’. The Anasazi were farmers, they grew their crops on top of the plateau and lived under the overhanging cliffs. They left this area in the late 1200s. Nobody knows why.

Mesa Verde has lodging and restaurant facilities including a gas station and one campground. Few facilities are available year round. Silverton is one of the nearby towns, a place where you have the feeling of being in the old west. From Silverton you may take a scenic train ride to Durango and back. The train follows the Animas River and is very popular with turists.

 
     
   
 

THE "BLACK CANYON" IN BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK, COLORADO.

 
     
   
 

INFORMATION BOARD, BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK, COLORADO.

 
     
  The Black Canyon of the Gunnison NATIONAL PARK is located in west-central Colorado about 250 miles (400 km.) south-west of Denver. It haD been a National Monument since 1933 but changed status to National Park in October 1999. Less than 250,000 visitors come here each year.

The canyon was given its name because of the little amount of sunlight that reaches the bottom during the day. The Gunnison River, which runs through the canyon, drops 95 feet (29 meters) each mile making it one of the steepest in the US. Erosion has created this 2,200 feet (610 meters) deep canyon that is 1,100 feet (335 meters) WIDE at the top and only about 40 feet (12 meters) WIDE at the bottom.

The lack of sunlight makes it hard for plants to grow in the canyon and for animals to survive. Some people actually climb down into the canyon. You need to be skilled to do this though and in possession of a climbing permit which is available at the visitor’s centre. The South Rim Road provides access to the canyon and has some great overlooks. There are two campgrounds within the park - one on each rim.

 
     
   
 

THE HIGHEST SUSPENSION BRIDGE IN THE WORLD, ROYAL GORGE BRIDGE, COLORADO.

 
     
  ROYAL GORGE BRIDGE: This is probably what some people would call a tourist trap. But in fact, 500,000 people come to see the bridge and the Royal Gorge each year. That’s twice as many as visit the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park just an hour away.

The Royal Gorge Bridge is the highest suspension bridge in the world – 1,053 feet (300 meters) above the Arkansas River. Build in 1929, it has a deck of 1,300 wooden planks, which makes driving over it a very bumpy and scary experience. An incline tramway was built in 1930-31. It takes you down into the gorge at an angle of 45 degrees. This makes it the steepest incline tramway in the world.

If that wasn’t enough, they built an aerial tramway across the Royal Gorge in 1968-69 to please the people who enjoy hanging from a wire 1,200 feet (369 meters) above the ground. In the 1870s two railway companies fought for the right to build tracks at the bottom of the gorge. When silver was found nearby in Leadville the two companies started a ‘war’ that ended in court. Since there wasn’t space enough for two lines in the narrow gorge one had to give in. The tracks are still there today.

The area is privately owned and an admission is charged.

 
     
   
 

VIEW FROM THE CARRIAGEWAY, PIKES PEAK, COLORADO.

 
     
  Pikes Peak is a 14,110 feet (4,374 meter) high mountain just west of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The beauty of this place has attracted many visitors since Zebulon Pike first discovered it back in 1806. A carriageway was built in 1889 to bring people to the summit but in 1891 a more comfortable cog railway was built.

It was not before the early 1900S, when the motorcar was invented, that it again became popular to take the road to the summit. You can still take the cog railway to the summit. It takes about 3 hours to cover the 9-mile (14-km.) long drive. It is also possible to climb Pikes Peak by car. The Pikes Peak Highway, as it is called, is 19 miles (30 km.) long. Once a year a race is held here to see who can drive the 19 miles in the shortest time.

The Pikes Peak Highway and cog railway is privately owned and a fee is charged if you want to see the summit this way. You can hike to the top for free, the only cost is your effort. By the way, I never made it all the way to the top. Late October snow closed the road about halfway.