Rocky Mountain National Park is a living laboratory. Everyone from preschoolers to Ph.D.'s can study their favorite natural sciences while enjoying the breathtaking beauty of this park. 150 lakes and 450 miles of streams are the basis of the riparian ecosystem in the park. Lush plant life and dense wildlife are the hallmarks of these wet areas that speckle and divide other ecosystems. Forests of pine and grassy hillsides dominate the mountain ecosystem in the park. These areas may be drier than riparian areas but life still abounds. Look for critters leaping or creeping from tree to tree or poking their heads from underground. As you gain elevation, you leave the mountain areas and enter the subalpine ecosystem. The bent and gnarled bodies of spruce and fir trees tell the story of hard summers and harder winters near the mountain tops. If you keep going up, you'll emerge on the alpine tundra. This land is too harsh for trees and appears barren at first glance. But take a closer look. Nestled close to the ground is a dense carpet of plants and animals. Life persists even here in one of earth's most extreme environments.
No matter what ecosystem you are in, you will be in the company of animals. Elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep, coyotes, black bears, cougars and hundreds of smaller animals make a living in the park. Many visitors have been spellbound while watching the daily activities of the wildlife. Underlying the bounty of life in the park is the literal foundation of the Rocky Mountains. The towering peaks and deep valleys are all composed of igneous and metamorphic rock. The same glaciers that sculpted the mountains have widened many valleys in the park. One inescapable element of the park is the weather. Sunny summer mornings frequently give rise to formidable afternoon thunderstorms. Hold onto your hat during the snowy winter months when winds in the lowlands hit 60 miles per hour and wind-monitoring equipment in the highlands gets blown away. The many aspects of the park are all inseparably interrelated. No matter what ology' interests you, Rocky Mountain National Park is a captivating place to study and enjoy.