Started from the Bottom: Rocky’s First Female Superintendent


This week I am going to share a little bit about Rocky Mountain National Park’s FIRST female Superintendent.


Photo Courtesy NPS
Darla’s Retirement Party

When I say Darla started from the bottom, I mean it. She didn’t become a Superintendent overnight, hours and HOURS of hard work was put in to get to where she is. I don’t think it really exists anymore, but she started off as a GS-2!!! For a little context, positions now start at a GS-5. 

Growing up, the first and only National Park Darla was ever exposed to was coincidently Rocky Mountain National Park! Although her family was not into the great outdoors, something in her said to volunteer for the U.S. Forest Service in 1986. And the rest, as it is said, is history. After starting as a Student Conservation Association (SCA) volunteer, Darla hopped around doing seasonal work for a few years with different National Parks. In 1994, she landed a coveted ‘permanent’ position while at Zion National Park. Over the years, she has worked at National Monuments, Historical Parks, National Parks, and even in Washington D.C. Prior to her move to the mountains of Colorado, she was in the deserts of Arizona acting as the Superintendent of Saguaro National Park.

In 2016, Darla found her way back to Rocky Mountain National Park where she became their first female Superintendent. This park was designated in 1915, it took 100 years for this to happen! Her time at Rocky was well rocky at times. This park was originally designed to support 200,000 visitors annually, but with more than 4 million visitors a year, Darla set into motion a time-entry day pass to help mitIgate the influx of visitors. She has also had to manage the park through a pandemic and TWO back-to-back wildfires that burned 10% of the park.

Sadly, after a 30+ year career, Darla Sidles time with the NPS is coming to an end as she is set to retire in late June. I have spoken with several park staff and everyone has very kind words to say about Darla. I personally have felt heard and respected when speaking with her. She always has such a big smile, saying words of appreciated and gratitude to us volunteers and interns.


Opening of Trail Ridge Road for the 2023 Season

What are SOME of the MANY hats Darla Sidles has worn? 
-Wilderness Ranger (North Cascades NP)
-Trail Crew Member (North Cascades & Big Bend NP)
-SCA Interpretive Ranger (Arches NP)
-Dispatcher (Denali NP)
-Biological Technician (Zion NP)
-Vegetation (Zion NP)

-Wilderness Management and Planning 
(Zion NP)
-Deputy Superintendent (Independence National HP)
-Assistant Monument Manager (Grand Canyon Parashant NM)
-Associate to the NPS Director (Washington D.C.)
-Superintendent (Grand Canyon Parashant NM, Saguaro NP, Rocky Mountain NP)


Check out my previous blog post of this summer season  —> Project Reveal Time

If you want to learn about my time as an intern at Congaree National Park last summer check out my other blogs —>  2022 Blog Posts

Until next time!
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