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Enos Mills (1870 - 1922)

Writer, speaker, and conservationist best known as "The Father of Rocky Mountain National Park." 

Early Life

Enos Abijah Mills was born on a Kansas farm April 22nd, 1870. Before Enos was born, his mother and father tried to become miners in Colorado. They came back to Kansas because they could not make enough money mining.

His parents had many memories of their time in Colorado, and Enos grew up hearing stories about the mountains. 

Enos loved being outdoors, but he was very sick as a child. Doctors told Enos to stay inside as much as possible. 

No doctors were able to figure out why Enos was sick, or how to make him better. When Enos was thirteen, a doctor told his parents that since no one could diagnose Enos, he was not going to live very long.

Enos' parents decided he should move to Colorado. In the 1880s, Colorado was a place where many sick people went to recover from illnesses. They hoped being in the mountains would help Enos get better. 

Enos in Colorado

The Mills family was very poor, so Enos hitchhiked from Kansas to Estes Park, Colorado. In Colorado, he worked cleaning for distant relatives who owned a lodge

Enos loved living in the mountains, and spent most of his time outside as he got better. He got to know the mountain trails very well, and began giving tours as a nature guide.

Enos wanted to earn enough money to buy land of his own. He was a nature guide in the summer, and lived in Montana during the winter to work as a runner in a mine. Runners were teenage boys who spent their days delivering tools and supplies to miners.

After working for a year, Enos had the money to buy a small piece of land by Longs Peak. Longs Peak was Enos' favorite mountain - he climbed it two hundred and ninety-seven times during his life! 

Enos built his own cabin on the land when he was only fifteen years old. 

Enos Becomes a Conservationist

Enos never went to school, but he used libraries to teach himself different subjects. He was able to earn a promotion to engineer in the mine, even though many other engineers were college educated.

When Enos was twenty years old, there was a fire that destroyed the mine, and Enos lost his job. Enos decided to go traveling with the money he saved from his two jobs. 

Enos traveled throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. He even visited Alaska, which wasn't part of the United States yet.

Enos wanted to camp in the wilderness instead of visiting cities or tourist destinations. He liked to travel alone, and spent his time writing stories about his adventures in nature. 

Enos spent several weeks camping in California, and became friends with the famous conservationist John Muir. 

John Muir told Enos he could use his stories to teach people about the importance of nature. Enos decided to return to the Rocky Mountains and become a conservationist as well.  

Enos Returns to Colorado

When Enos came back to Colorado, he was hired by the United States government to record how much snow fell in the Rocky Mountains. No one else wanted to spend months living alone in the mountains, but it was the perfect job for Enos.

Since Enos was all alone, he had plenty of time to write.

He sent some of his stories off to be published in magazines. They became very popular, especially with people in cities who did not have a chance to visit the mountains.

Enos wanted to give people the chance to experience nature themselves. He bought the lodge where he once worked and renamed it Longs Peak Inn, after his favorite mountain. 

Longs Peak Inn became a famous vacation spot. Enos led hikes in the mountains during the days, and gave talks about nature in the evenings.

His talks were so popular that Enos was invited to travel around the country to teach people about the Rocky Mountains.


Enos Sees a Problem

Enos began to worry as more people started to visit the Rocky Mountains. Many people were not respecting the natural environment.

Tourists dug up flowers and plants. Loggers and miners cut down trees and dug huge holes in the earth. 

Enos knew that unless he did something, the plants and animals in the mountains could be destroyed forever. 

The Father of Rocky Mountain National Park

Enos' friend John Muir protected the giant sequoia trees in California by making Yosemite a national park. Enos and John Muir decided the best way to keep the Rocky Mountains safe would be to make the Rocky Mountains into a national park as well.

Enos spent years trying to convince the government and businesses that making a national park in the Rocky Mountains was a good idea.

John Muir died in 1914, but Enos continued working to protect the Rocky Mountains.

In January 1915, Enos was successful. Congress and President Woodrow Wilson created Rocky Mountain National Park.

From then on, Enos was known as the Father of Rocky Mountain National Park.

After Rocky Mountain National Park

Enos showed people how important it was to enjoy nature, and how to be respectful of the mountains. Many people became conservationists because of Enos. 

In 1918, Enos married Esther Burnell. Esther was the first person to ever be named a professional nature guide by the National Park Service. They had one daughter, Enda. 

In 1922, Enos was visiting New York City to give a talk about the Rocky Mountain National Park. He was in a subway accident, and got badly hurt. Although he continued working for months afterward, he never really recovered. 

Enos passed away on September 21st, 1922. 

Esther and Enda continued to share Enos' writing and message. Enda's descendants still run the Enos Mills Museum in Estes Park.

Because of Enos Mills, thousands of people enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park each year. 

Word Bank

diagnose – to identify what sickness someone has based on their symptoms

recover – when someone gets their health back after being sick or hurt

hitchhike – traveling by asking people for free rides

lodge – a house or cabin open to visitors and guests

nature guide – a person who leads groups for hikes and camping trips

engineer – someone who supervises a mine including workers, equipment, and location. An engineer decides which minerals are valuable and should be kept.

conservationist – a person who works to protect and preserve wildlife and the environment

national park – a part of the country protected by the government to preserve wildlife. National parks guarantee that the wilderness will be undisturbed so people can enjoy nature.

descendants – later generations of a family

Get Thinking!

Have you ever been to Rocky Mountain National Park?

  • If yes, what do you remember about it?
  • If not, what would you expect to see there?

Would the state of Colorado be different today if Enos Mills had not created Rocky Mountain National Park? Why or why not?

Enos Mills loved the Rocky Mountains so much that he spent his entire life teaching others about them. What are the things in your life you like to share with people around you?

More Enos Mills Information
At the Denver Public Library

Enos Mills Manuscript Collection  (Primary sources including photographs, articles, and speeches written by Enos Mills. The Enos Mills collection can be seen in person on the 5th floor of the DPL Central Branch)

Biography Clipping Files (Newspaper, magazine, and journal articles about Enos Mills that can be seen in person on the 5th floor of the DPL Central Branch)

Books about Enos Mills at the Denver Public Library: 


Around the Web

Enos Mills Cabin Museum

Enos Mills Biography and the story of the Founding of Rocky Mountain National Park from the National Park Service 

Large Enos Mills Photo Collection on the Enos Mills Cabin Museum Tumblr page

Enos Mills: Father of Rocky Mountain National Park from Colorado Virtual Library 

Biography of Enos Mills from the Sierra Club


I would like to inquire whether the library has a copy of Enis mills book titled “the story of Estes Park and a guidebook”. I have a first addition, signed, copy in decent condition. I have had no luck finding a value for the book online and I’m hoping to find an institution that will value, care for and preserve the book.

Hello Christine! Thank you for your comment. Our collection development policy is to take two copies of items. We are fortunate enough to have two first edition copies of "The Story of Estes Park and a Guidebook" in our collection. You may want to check with your local history society to see if they are interested! 

my likey

The Rocky Mountains should be one of the Natural Wonders of the World. My first sight produced a feeling of awe, majesty and respect for nature. The degree of impression that first sight ingrained in my memory will be part of me, forever.

where did you get all this information because I¨m doing this project so where dd you get this info

Hi Ezequiel. We got this information about Enos Mills from the library's collection of Enos Mills' original papers and photos, and from the books he published (these are old books, but you can find them in the Western History and Genealogy Dept.) I hope this biography helps you with your project! Let us know if you have more questions for your project. 

all of this is true


Please fact-check your death date: "Enos passed away on September 22nd, 1922."
Most sources, like Wild and Esther Mills, say September 21, 1922.

Michael Mills Kiley, Ph.D., M.P.H., Enos Mills' surviving grandson.
2921 GOVX Special Projects Coordinator, New Mexico State Ethics Commission

Thank you so much for finding this error, Michael. I have corrected the date after checking obituaries. Your grandfather remains a hero for many of us in Colorado. 

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