The Rocky Mountains, commonly known as the Rockies, are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than 4,800 kilometres from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States. Within the North American Cordillera, the Rockies are somewhat distinct from the Pacific Coast Ranges and the Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada which all lie further to the west.
The Rocky Mountains are commonly defined as stretching from the Liard River in British Columbia south to the Rio Grande in New Mexico. Other mountain ranges continue beyond those two rivers, including the Selwyn Mountains in Yukon, the Brooks Range in Alaska, and the Sierra Madre in Mexico, but those are not part of the Rockies, though they are part of the American cordillera.
The Rocky Mountains are notable for containing the highest peaks in central North America. The range's highest peak is Mount Elbert located in Colorado at 4,401 metres above sea level. Mount Robson in British Columbia, at 3,954 metres, is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.
The Continental Divide of the Americas is located in the Rocky Mountains and designates the line at which waters flow either to the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans. Triple Divide Peak (2,440 metres) in Glacier National Park is so named because water that falls on the mountain reaches not only the Atlantic and Pacific, but Hudson Bay as well. Farther north in Alberta, the Athabasca and other rivers feed the basin of the Mackenzie River, which has its outlet on the Beaufort Sea of the Arctic Ocean.
Calgary is one of the main gateways to the Rocky Mountains and home to the worldfamous Stampede held every summer in July. In 1988, it was the host for the Winter Olympics and the nearby mountains prove why this was the perfect location. Still, the city itself has a great vibe and is one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
Denver, Colorado, is the main city in the US part of the Rocky Mountains. The Mile High City is a pleasant city to spend a few days en route towards some of the natural wonders nearby.
Perhaps one of the better known attractions in Montana, Glacier National Park, together with Waterton Lakes National Park (across the border in Canada) is a World Heritage Sight in northwestern Montana.
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Grand Teton National Park is located in the northwest of Wyoming, south of worldfamous Yellowstone National Park, its big neighbour. The park was established much later though compared to Yellowstone, only in 1929. Although Grand Teton can be visit as a daytrip from Yellowstone if you are short on time, spending a week alone is possible as well, especially if you go on one of the beautiful backcountry hikes.
Between Lake Louise and Jasper in Alberta, the Icefields Parkway is one of the world's most beautiful routes to travel by car. It winds its 200 kilometres long way on an average hight of about 1,700 metres, travelling along dozens of glaciers, through an impressive part of the Rocky Mountains. Jasper National Park and Banff National Park are two parks in the region not to be missed either!
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Rocky Mountain National Park in northern Colorado was USA's tenth national park, a status it achieved in 1905. The park is approximately 25 miles (40 kilometres) from north to south and 20 miles (32 kilometres) east to west and covers a particularly wild and scenic part of the Colorado Rockies. Much of the area is over 12,000 feet (over 3,600 metres) above sea level and here the landscape resembles the arctic tundra. Main access is via Estes Park on the eastern side and the smaller Grand Lake on the west. These are the only towns bordering the region and both offer a good choice of accommodation. As its name suggests, the main feature of the park are the Rocky Mountains themselves with the continental divide ridge passing more or less through the middle of the park. The rivers on the eastern side flow eventually to the Atlantic while for those on the west, the Pacific is a final destination. The only road in the park to cross the divide is Trail Ridge which does so at Milner Pass. The altitude varies from just over 7,000 feet (over 2,100 metres) around Estes Park to over 14,000 feet (over 4,200 metres) at the summit of Longs Peak.
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Yosemite National Park is a massive national park, with 95% designated as a wilderness area, covering over 761,266 acres in several counties in east central California. Over 3.5 million people visit this park every year to see its stunning beauty. Its main attractions are its amazing granite cliffs, waterfalls, pristine streams, Giant Sequoia groves and stunning biological diversity. Resting across the Sierra Nevada Mountains the elevation ranges from 600 to 4,000 metres (2,000 feet to 13,114 feet), which covers 5 distinct major vegetation zones. If looking for the drive by experience, car camping fun or the intense back country hiking and rock climbing Yosemite National Park has something for any outdoorsy junkie. Remember to watch out for black bears. The park consists of 5 areas: the Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Road/Area, Tioga Road and Tuolumne Meadows, Wawona and Hetch Hetchy (the least visited).
There are a wide range of environmental factors in the Rocky Mountains. The Rockies range in latitude between the Liard River in British Columbia and the Rio Grande in New Mexico. Prairie occurs at or below 550 metred, while the highest peak in the range is Mount Elbert at 4,401 metres. Precipitation ranges from 250 mm per year in the southern valleys to 1,500 mm per year locally in the northern peaks. Average January temperatures can range from -7 °C in Prince George, British Columbia, to 6 °C in Trinidad, Colorado. Therefore, there is not a single monolithic ecosystem for the entire Rocky Mountain Range.
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