RMC Offers Unique Outdoor Recreation and Education Opportunities for Women in RMNP

August 10, 2023  |  Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

The Rocky Mountain Conservancy invites women and those who identify as female to explore a new series of Field Institute courses at Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) called “Bettie Courses.” These educational opportunities are designed to encourage women to experience the outdoors while learning about the natural environment, conservation efforts, and building confidence in outdoor skills.  

Bettie Courses honor the legacy of Dr. Beatrice “Bettie” Willard, a ground-breaking scientist in the field of alpine ecology and botany. Willard spent 40 years in RMNP researching plant life and impacts of visitor use on RMNP’s delicate tundra. Willard authored “Land Above the Trees: A Guide to American Alpine Tundra,” influenced public policy, and was also instrumental in securing protective designation for the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument located west of Colorado Springs. Her research plots located at Forest Canyon and Rock Cut along Trail Ridge Road are included on the National Register of Historic Places because of the influence of her work. 

“Dr. Bettie Willard overcame numerous institutional barriers in her life and career to become a noted expert on the alpine environment and pioneer outdoor education,” said Carlie Bangs, education director for the Conservancy. “She was the first instructor in the Rocky Mountain Conservancy’s Field Institute—and thus the first in the National Park System--in 1962. She was as passionate about sharing her knowledge with the public and policy makers as she was in protecting the environment, especially the alpine tundra.” 

Dr. Beatrice “Bettie” Willard, RMNP alpine research pioneer (Chase Davies, NPS Photo) 


In her name, new courses focus on building outdoor skills and knowledge to connect women to the environment and to foster a conservation ethic in a welcoming and encouraging setting. For example, on multiday fishing courses, participants learn about stream ecology, fish and macroinvertebrate identification, and riparian habitat creating a holistic understanding of the waterways. A local guiding company, Rambling Ruby Rose, provides expert instruction in casting and fishing techniques. 

Registration for courses is available at www.RMConservancy.org/learn-with-us/ and selecting the button for upcoming Bettie Courses.  

Late summer and fall courses include: 
-August 19-20, “Up and Over” Bear Lake to Grand Lake 
-August 26, Black Lake Guided Hike 
-Sept. 5-6, Stream Ecology and Fly Fishing 
-Sept. 9-11, Summiting Longs Peak 
-Oct. 7-8, Intermediate Climbing 

Fees are nominal, but scholarships are available by contacting the Field Institute directly. These scholarships are funded through the Magnificent Mountain Women Scholarship Fund in honor of Janet Robertson, author of the classic book “The Magnificent Mountain Women, Adventures in the Colorado Rockies” who herself is an expert on many of the trail-blazing women whose stories are intertwined with RMNP and a dear friend of Dr. Bettie Willard. 

In addition to honoring the life of Bettie Willard, the Conservancy will also host learning opportunities this fall to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lady Isabella Bird’s notable visit to the Estes Valley. Visit Estes Park sponsors historical tours that will be offered throughout October and November. Dr. Ruth Alexander will give a history of women in Rocky Mountain National Park on October 21 at the Estes Valley Community Center. Tickets for Dr. Alexander’s presentation and more information on Rocky Mountain Conservancy Field Institute and educational programs are available at www.RMConservancy.org.


The Rocky Mountain Conservancy promotes stewardship of Rocky Mountain National Park and similar lands through education and philanthropy. Since 1931, the Conservancy has raised more than $35 million to enhance and protect the park’s trails, lands, youth education, historic structures, and more.