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The Rockies Draw Groups Year Round

No matter, spring, summer or fall — the Rockies welcome your group with world-class outdoor activities.

Hiking, jeep tours and wildlife viewing are the order of the day during warmer months; winter brings abundant skiing and snowshoeing. The golden hue of autumn beckons those who enjoy a quieter season of scenery and transition.

Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park and Denver remain perennial favorites. And a journey on the spectacular Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad spans Colorado and New Mexico. Farther west, Glacier National Park’s scenery and wildlife rank as some of the nation’s most stunning, and the mountain town of Whitefish, Montana, makes a terrific hub for groups touring the area. Yellowstone National Park preserves the majority of the world’s geysers. In winter, Ogden Valley, Utah’s smaller crowds, fabulous snow and relaxed vibe attract groups that prefer to ski.


Colorado Rockies

Always popular, Rocky Mountain National Park and the surrounding area have it all: sophistication, nature and plenty to do. Trendy Denver sits at the base of the Colorado Rockies. This not-to-be-missed gateway to the mountains boasts fabulous museums and first-Friday art crawls. A thriving culinary scene and numerous brew pubs roll out the welcome mat just 65 miles southeast of Estes Park.

Adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park has recovered from the flood damage of September 2013. Groups can take jeep rides, historic trolley tours, guided hikes and wildlife-viewing expeditions. The Estes Park Events Complex, which opened in June, hosts a wide variety of events, including rodeos and car shows.

“Another must-do is scenic Trail Ridge Road that can be navigated by motorcoach or jeep,” said Brooke Burnham, director of communications and public relations for Visit Estes Park. “Each open-air jeep holds about 10 to 15 people, and the guides are very knowledgeable.”

Estes Park Historic Tours began operating in April. Tours were developed and scripted by a local historian and run four times daily on two antique trolleys. The journey through town highlights the original Estes homestead, the Stanley Hotel and the MacGregor Ranch, the area’s last remaining working cattle ranch.

The Rocky Mountain Nature Association announced several new 2014 seminars, all aimed at highlighting nature that’s native to the area. Most classes include an in-the-park component that covers biology, geology and history. New adventures include “Escape to Bear Lake: An Educational Adventure” and “Secret Places in Rocky Mountain National Park.”


Glacier National Park

Montana’s Glacier National Park is a veritable ecological wonder, with 25 glaciers, 1,000 species of plants, grizzly and black bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and moose. Naturalist programs feature fireside talks, hikes and boat cruises. Groups can learn the history of the glaciated landscapes, mountain peaks and varied climate zones.

The park’s highlight, Going-to-the-Sun Road, is a National Historic Landmark built in the 1920s and 1930s. It slices through the park’s wild interior for 50 miles. In spring and autumn, the road closes to vehicles and opens to bikers and walkers. During winter, it beckons cross-country skiers and snowshoeing enthusiasts.

“Groups can travel the road by a narrated ‘jammer’ red bus, whose canvas roof folds down in good weather,” said Brian Schott, communications manager for Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Drivers are incredibly knowledgeable and stop along the way for photos.”

Just 25 miles from Glacier National Park, Whitefish offers great shopping, award-winning cuisine and a lively performing arts and culture scene. Tuesdays during the summer, the Downtown Farmers Market pulses with live music and 150 vendors selling local products.

Whitefish Mountain Resort’s summer chairlifts and enclosed gondolas whisk groups to the 7,000-foot summit of Big Mountain. At the mountain’s base, Walk in the Treetops follows a boardwalk that in some places is suspended 70 feet above the forest floor. A zip line and an alpine slide satisfy those with a need for speed. Golfers will want to head to Whitefish’s 36-hole golf complex, which offers exceptional views; the historic 1936 Whitefish Lake Restaurant sits next to the first-tee box.

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.