This post is a follow-up to a post on May 27th which covered the eastern part of the scenic crown jewel of Rocky Mountain National Park, Trail Ridge Road (AKA US 34). That post covered Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park to the Alpine Visitor’s center, about 25ish miles. If you’d like to know some of the history and details about this amazing road, you can go back and read that post here. This post covers a bit of the eastern portion again briefly because my sister and her friend were visiting and we had to show them some of the highlights! 🙂 Then we carry on to the western region of the park on Trail Ridge Road.
We started out fairly early, at 8 AM, after a quick stop in Estes Park for picnic supplies. By the time we reached the Bear Lake area, the park’s most popular hiking trail-head, the parking lot was already full. Fortunately, there is a Park and Ride with shuttle service to Bear Lake, so we parked and got in line for the bus. The line was substantial, and I believe we got on the third bus to come through the park and ride. That’s summer in Rocky Mountain National Park, folks!
Our original intent was to just walk around Bear Lake, but as we discussed the options, the group opted to hike to Nymph Lake, about one-half mile. It is a gentle incline to Nymph Lake, so we enjoyed the scenery there and decided to press on to Dream Lake, the second lake of three on the Emerald Lake trail.
We stopped at the overlook above Nymph Lake for a photo opp…
Just before Dream Lake, Tyndall Creek forms a waterfall, and Lisa detoured to investigate. Click then hover over each photo for the captions.
Then we reached beautiful Dream Lake. These photos are from a slightly different perspective than those I took on our Emerald Lake hike on June 4th. You can go back to read that post, if you like, at this link.
We walked the length of Dream Lake and discussed the fact that to reach Emerald Lake was only about seven-tenths of a mile more, so we agreed to press on. After all, Lisa and Reed’s time here was limited, no time like the present, etc. etc. Lisa swears I said it was all flat, but I don’t recall saying that. 😉
Just before we reached Emerald Lake, this lovely lady graced us with her presence. She was VERY close to the trail, and just grazing in a relaxed manner. If you zoom in, you will see she has a tracking collar, which the park service uses to track the movement of elk herds throughout the year.
And then we reached the end of the trail, at beautiful Emerald Lake! Lisa and Reed agreed it was worth the effort! 🙂 I will only share two photos here, although I know they took many more.
We rested in the shade on the rocks above the lake before heading back down the trail since we had a lot of ground to cover this day. Just a few scenes from our hike back to Bear Lake.
We were collectively ravenous, so we chose a beautiful spot for our picnic beside the Big Thompson River where it goes under Bear Lake Road, in a tumult of rushing water and enormous rocks.
And now a short video, because a photo just doesn’t do it justice.
And then at the turn from Bear Lake Road to Trail Ridge Road, it happened…our first bear sighting! We were all SO excited! I guess that’s why they call it Bear Lake! 😀
Heading west on Trail Ridge Road, we made a stop at Many Parks Curve so Lisa and Reed could admire the view. I captured them for posterity as well.
Our next adventure involved cars lined up for probably a mile, crawling along at walking speed. We were perplexed because we could see cars in the distance moving freely until we arrived at the location of two Park Rangers, who were keeping traffic moving (albeit slowly) just below a huge bull elk who surveyed his territory from a bluff. Even I didn’t have the nerve to try to stop for a photo!
Our next stop was at Forest Canyon overlook, which is beautiful, but the gale force wind made for a short visit. Fortunately, the Alpine Visitors center had parking available for a stretch break and to refill our water bottles. Often in the summer rangers have to wave people on when the lot is full.
We surveyed the gorgeous scenery on Trail Ridge from the car until we reached Farview Curve, a very aptly named overlook high above the western edge of the park. At 10,120′ in elevation, with a drop dead gorgeous view of the Never Summer Mountain range, the only volcanic range in Rocky Mountain National Park, this overlook is a must-see. Below, the Kawuneeche (Arapahoe for Coyote) Valley was shaped by glaciers and the flow of the Colorado River. This mighty river that carved the Grand Canyon has its headwaters on the west side of the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Along Trail Ridge Road in the Kawuneeche Valley, we encountered this huge bull elk resting in the trees. He was majestic even partially obscured.
After a run down to Granby for dinner, we passed by Grand Lake on our return trip.
A small crowd on the side of the road indicated the presence of wildlife and we hit another jackpot with a female moose grazing in the wetlands!
Another stop in the valley was at the Holzwarth Historic site, home of an early 1900s homestead and lodging site. It was almost dusk, and the elk were everywhere. Just breathtaking…they crossed the road right in front of us!
It was truly a wildlife night…on Trail Ridge at about 12,000 feet, these two guys made an appearance, one crossed right in front of our car!
Last, but not least, was a stunning sunset viewed from Medicine Bow Curve.
We arrived back in Estes Park after dark, 12 and a half hours after we started out, tired but happy. So much beauty in one enormous park! Trail Ridge Road is a challenge to experience in one day, but it must be done if you have limited time in the area. My opinion, anyway. Thanks for visiting this national treasure with us.
If you’d like to read more about our adventures in RMNP, you can go directly here.