CNN recently selected five life-list places to visit, but with an urgent caveat attached: You should visit all these locations before "global warming messes them up." A lot of them are exotic, far-flung locales like The Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon rainforest, and the glaciers of the Alps. But two of the locations are right around the corner: Rocky Mountain National Park and New Orleans.
New Orleans could flood permanently within the next several hundred years, but Rocky—practically in BACKPACKER's Boulder backyard—might only stay in decent shape for the next decade. An epidemic of pine beetles has turned large tracts of formerly green forest into swaths of brownish-red dead trees. Warmer winters have spared pine beetles their usual seasonal die-off, enabling them to run rampant.
Some sections of the park have healthy forests, but it won't stay that way for long. Even worse, someday those forests are likely to go up in a monumental forest fire sometime in the very near future. The clock is ticking for RMNP as we know it.
"Come soon. It's happening quickly," says Bob Henson, author of "The Rough Guide to Climate Change" and a writer at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.
Hoping to get a glimpse of the classic park before the forests die and burn down? Check out our comprehensive guide to trails, maps, and all things Rocky Mountain National Park.