The Surprising Role of Lichen: How RMNP was Made

Colorful Lichen on a Rock

Perhaps one of the most under-appreciated lifeforms in Rocky Mountain National Park are the large variety of lichens growing on the rocks and trees.  Not only are lichen colorful and an important food source for the park's beloved elk, but they actually played an important role in creating RMNP as we know it. 

Lichen are an amazing combination of fungus and algae that take in nutrients from the air, as well as through photosynthesis.  But it is the role lichens played approximately 16,000 years ago that we owe a little respect.  At that time, the glaciers receded from the lower parts of the park.  Lichens were some of the original colonizers on the newly exposed rocks.  Over time, lichens' small threads (called hyphe) that attach them to their rocks grow into the smallest cracks in the rock.  Gradually these cracks get larger and allow water to freeze and thaw thousands of times.  This process is what eventually breaks the largest rocks into tiny pebbles.  Breaking down rocks this way is what allows plants and tress to move into an area that was previously barren rock.

Even though lichens play a vital role in the ecosystem by creating soil and providing a hospitable environment for plants, and essential nutrients to many of the park's fauna, most people won't give them a second glance.  Maybe next time you are out exploring Rocky Mountain National Park, you'll take a moment to appreciate the beauty and power of the humble lichen. 

Blog post and photo provided by Jared Gricoskie of Yellow Wood GuidingFind out how you can book your own guided tour of RMNP by visiting

Give your Valentine a Unique Summer Adventure: A Heart-Revving Romance in the Colorado Rockies!

ATV near Estes Park

Sometimes the best way to experience an area is by asking a local what they like to do.  Andy Hitch is one Estes Park area local with some great ideas for experiencing the Colorado Rocky Mountains! Owner of Backbone Adventure Rental, Andy and his family live on property “nestled in the Colorado forest” near a beautiful trail system.  Backbone Adventure Rental was born out of their love for riding these trails, whether on an ATV, dirtbike, Jeep, or mountain bike.  When you venture into the backcountry on these trails, you’ll find unrivaled seclusion, stunning views, wildlife and good times.  You can even rent a Harley or Jeep to cruise through the canyons and over mountain passes like Trail Ridge Road (the highest paved road in the contiguous US) – just imagine how cool that would be! 

Estes Park has always been a popular destination for couples looking for romance in the Rocky Mountains.  With Valentine’s Day around the corner, Backbone Adventure Rental has you covered with a totally unique gift that will thrill both you, and your special someone.  How about presenting your Valentine with a summer Couples Getaway in the Colorado Rockies?  Here’s the special Backbone offers:

Couples Getaway – A romantic day and night in the mountains full of adventure.  Do something different for your baby.  We’ll make it a safe and comfortable experience.  We set everything up for you.  All you have to do is bring the food and meet us there.  We’ll run you through everything you need to know, and leave you for 24 hours.  We’ll only be a short ways away, camping ourselves.  Here’s what you get:

  •  1 or 2 machines of your choice, gassed and ready to ride
  • Tent for 2 (set up for you)
  • Clean cots, sleeping bags, and pillows
  • Fire pit (stocked with wood)
  • Table, grill, utensils, cooler, and 2 chairs
  • Water & coffee
  • Beautiful camp surroundings with very limited people, if any at all
  • $329

Backbone Adventure Rental takes pride in their customer oriented approach to business.  “We are very different from our competitors.  Rather than pack 30 people into one day, we prefer to deal with only one or two families [or groups], and it’s rare that we’ll allow more than one.  We like to focus our attention on you.  It’s not about making big money, it’s about customer service, enjoying what we do and offering you the best possible ATV ride and equipment,” Andy explains.  With Backbone Adventure Rental’s help, you’ll find the best views, advice on a wide variety of trails, a local’s account of the real backwoods of the Colorado Rockies, and quite possibly a sense of freedom like none other.  Be sure to visit their website for more incredible ideas for seeing Estes Park the way the locals do!