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August 1997

Rocky Mountains, Defined

Exploring the wilder, uncrowded reaches of our highest national park.

QUICK TAKE: Wild Basin, Colorado

DRIVE TIME: Rocky Mountain National Park is about 65 miles (roughly 11/2 hours) northwest of Denver.

THE WAY: From Denver, take US 36 northwest to Boulder, drive north to Lyons and continue west to Estes Park. Then take CO 7 south 12 miles through the village of Meeker Park, turn right (west) at the Wild Basin sign and drive for about 2 miles to Wild Basin Ranger Station.

TRAILS: Wild Basin district is plied by seven trails totaling 32 miles.

ELEVATION: Hikes in Wild Basin involve elevation gains of 1,400 to 3,000 feet; roughly 5,000 feet for peak baggers going after summits.

CAN’T MISS: The floral display in late summer can be a real scene-stealer.

CROWD CONTROL: Weekend dayhikers rarely venture past Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls. The least traveled and most remote areas are Cony Creek and Hunters Creek Crosscountry Zones.

MAPS AND GUIDEBOOKS: Trails Illustrated publishes Rocky Mountain National Park, #200 ($8.99, 800-962-1643). Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park, by Kent and Donna Dannen ($12.95, from The Globe Pequot Press, 800-243-0495), is a good all-purpose guide.

PIT STOP: Plop down on the outdoor deck at Estes Park Brewery in Estes Park and soak up a Stinger Wild Honey Wheat beer along with a majestic view of the Rockies. The bratwurst is not to be missed.

WALK SOFTLY: Where there are trails, use them. In trailless areas, walk lightly, spread out so footprints aren’t concentrated, and rock-hop where possible.

MORE INFORMATION: Backcountry Office, Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, CO 80517; (970) 586-1399. You must have a backcountry permit ($15) to camp overnight in the park from May 1 to October 31.

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