As you travel the backwoods at Rocky, look down at your feet. The trail on which you walk was carefully designed to blend with the natural environment. In order to protect the character of trails, a park researcher recently researched what makes them special. As a result, the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places officially designated two of Rocky's trails, the East Inlet and the Fern-Odessa Trail, as historic properties. More nominations will follow.
Fern Lake exemplifies an early, very popular trail that was constructed and maintained by lodge keepers and local tourism boosters before the national park was established. Natural and built features—i.e., lodges, bridges, waterfalls, creeks and lakes—identified the path. Even though the alignment shifted in its early days, the trail continued to connect these important features. The East Inlet trail retains many features of its original Civilian Conservation Corps construction. The Longs Peak trail is significant as a legendary trek to the top of a prominent front range Fourteener, attracting hardy tourists since the 1860’s. The trail is also where Enos Mills developed and honed his naturalist skills, preparing him to become the most vocal advocate for the creation of RMNP.
The researcher found that maintenance on park trails has not changed significantly over time, which has protected the historic character of trails. Placing properties on the National Register has two benefits: it helps the park leverage funding for maintenance and it assures that the park’s trails will maintain their historic integrity well into the future.