Mike Nelson's Colorado- Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park With John Fielder

Fielder shares secret places in park

Photographer John Fielder has hiked, explored and photographed across the State of Colorado.

But one of his favorite places is close to the metro area, Rocky Mountain National Park.

"I get asked often what is my favorite place," says Fielder. "And I have a hard time because I have seen all of these places; whether the plains, mountains, or the western river canyons of Colorado and the West. Under the most magnificent moments of light and in those conditions, every place is glorious and beautiful, but (he points to the peaks in the park) I don't think it gets much better than this."

Fielder has seen the park like few have. To create the book "Rocky Mountain National Park, a 100 Year Perspective," Fielder was given unique access to the backcountry; a two-year pass to hike and camp at the highest peaks and backcountry lakes.

"Pretty much all the high country you see above timberline, I've stepped on," Fielder said.

Fielder spent nearly 60 nights in the backcountry taking pictures. He covered much of the 400 square mile park on foot.

After exploring so many nooks and crannies, Fielder doesn't keep secrets. He's willing to share his favorite places so others can enjoy them too. "Immediately below Long's Peak is a massive drainage called Glacier Gorge, with a series of lakes, creeks, cascades and waterfalls, that one could lose oneself in for a week at a time."

And if you really want to get away, Fielder says, "One of my other favorite places, especially if you want to lose everybody else on the trail, is the Mummy Range, to the north of Rocky Mountain National Park, probably the most remote peaks and drainage's, like Ypilson Peak and Chiquita Peak, and Spectacle Lakes." (To see Fielder's pictures of Rocky Mountain National Park, click here.)

While Fielder has spent the last 30 years hiking and skiing across Colorado photographing the landscape, he wasn't born here. A visit to Rocky Mountain National Park as a teenager changed his life. Fielder explains how it happened. "I was 14, a middle school student from North Carolina on a field trip with a science teacher in the summer of 1964." He says it was on that trip he got his first view of Long's Peak and he told himself "this is the place that I belonged for the rest of my life." 

Fielder's concern now is protecting the park for the future. He says, "Number one, we have to reduce the elk population in the park and make sure too many elk are not eating up the willows and the aspen trees like I witnessed in two summers here."

You can see what Fielder is talking about in Moraine Park. The banks along the Big Thompson River used to be home to willows and aspen, now the elk have eaten it all away. Fielder says, "Secondly let's make sure this place is protected forever." While the park has been managed as a wilderness area, it doesn't have that official designation yet. Fielder explains, designating the park a wilderness areas is "The only legal way we have to protect wild places from commercial development, grazing, mining, building, even motorized and mechanized vehicles are not allowed in wildernesses. So to make sure we don't have a second Trail Ridge Road someday through Rocky Mountain National Park, which could be done administratively, this place which is 90 percent wild anyway, needs to be legally designated wilderness." You can get involved by writing, calling and e-mailing your congressional representative and senators, telling them your feelings. 

John Fielder has photographed more than 30 books. You can get more information on Fielder's books, his workshops and gallery, click here.