Rocky Mountain National Park and surrounding regions have always attracted artists. Across the Front Range, it is hard to find cities that don't have an overabundance of art galleries, live theater, and museums. Stretching north to south the towns of Estes Park, Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs are all hotspots. One of those towns in particular, Estes Park, is also where many early artists resided during the early days of Rocky Mountain National Park. In the 1800's it was not uncommon to run into painters spreading out their canvas above Moraine Park and the Kawunceeche Valley. One of these artists, Albert Bierstadt, is known for his dramatic paintings of the West's most spectacular vistas.
During the early 1900's more and more artists started to flock to Estes Park and it became common for personal artists to set up shops and galleries throughout the region. Women also became more accepted in the art scene and could be seen trudging through the park looking for the perfect overlook. While visiting Estes Park make sure to check out the gallery of Albert and RobertWands, a father/son team producing some of the most sought-after artwork of the park. Their gallery, which is still open in Estes Park, is the oldest continuously opened gallery in the region.
If you're out to shoot some photographs yourself take note of what these artists mostly focused on. Longs Peak, Kawunceeche Valley, the expansive views of the Never Summer Mountains from Trail Ridge Road, and alpine lakes near Glacier Gorge and Bear Lake. On the western side of the DivideGrand Lake, and the headwaters of the Colorado River by Lulu City provided ample opportunities to take in turning aspens, seasonal wildflowers, and rich sunsets.
Outside of Rocky Mountain National Park and the immediate surrounding areas, artists have consistently used Colorado as a subject. If you're into photography then head up into the Indian Peaks Wilderness on the Fourth of July Trailhead and try to time it right so the seasonal wildflowers will blanket the path creating a rainbow of colors.
Then of course there is Summit County up by the mountain town of Breckenridge. Though currently hit hard by the destructive Pine Beetle, Summit County is known as some of Colorado's most spectacular high country. Extensive 4-wheeling and easy-to-access backcountry lakes provide artists of all mediums the opportunity to get back into the mountains and explore.
Cutting west the Maroon Bells dramatically rise above the valley floor looking as though they are constructed by thousands of layers tightly held together by an invisible force. Extremely popular with photographers and artist plan on shooting the Bells from Maroon Lake and during autumn when the lake reflects the Bells while being wrapped in golden quaking aspens. Springtime also brings a unique perspective as the Bells are still covered in snow, but the lower-lying valley is lush and green with springtime vegetation.
Other popular spots for photographers, painters, and other artists are the San Juan Mountains, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and the western slope near Colorado National Monument. Moving west the terrain changes dramatically from hardrock peaks, to crumbling mesas and flat desert plain. Sunsets are routinely spectacular here, and shooting north from Colorado National Monument artists are able to capture the Bookcliff Mountains across the valley.
If you're looking for inspiration then just pick up any book by photographer John Fielder, a premiere Colorado-based photographer who has produced some of the most beautiful photography Colorado has ever seen. His books are constantly then-and-now photographs enabling readers to see how parts of the state have evolved, while other sections have hardly changed at all.