Rocky Mountain NP: Trail Ridge Road Part III

Ok, no, I never tire of Rocky Mountain National Park, and Trail Ridge Road in particular. As proof, I offer the previous two installments about this topic. 😀

If you’d like to see what I mean, you can go read Part I, or Part II, or even this post about the fabulous trio of lakes we hiked recently. It is all spectacular, you really have to see it for yourself! But until then, I humbly offer my take on this paradise for your viewing pleasure.

So, I am WAY behind on sharing all the fun we’ve had…over a week ago, our dear friends Pam and Eric (co-travelers on our Alaska adventures last year) arrived in Estes Park, bringing along our motorcycles, inflatable kayak, truck and Ironhorse Motorcycle trailer! We were thrilled to see them all! 😉 Especially Pam & Eric! ❤

On Saturday and Sunday evenings, we had to work at our home away from home, Estes Park Campground at Mary’s Lake, but Pam & Eric entertained themselves in town until time for dinner at Che KokoMoto.

Monday dawned cloudy in the Estes Valley, but we optimistically headed for Trail Ridge road anyway. We briefly visited the Alluvial Fan, but took no photos, as it is much better viewed from above on Trail Ridge Road. This formation was created when the dam for Lawn Lake, four miles up in the mountains, failed in 1982, releasing 29 million gallons of water, forcing trees, boulders, and tons of earth down the mountain, killing 3 people and flooding the town of Estes Park.

We met a young lady at the entrance to Fall River Road who was looking for a ride up to the Alpine Visitors center and she advised that it was beautiful and sunny at the top of Trail Ridge Road. She had been up there to park her car, bicycles, and husband so they could ride the bikes down the gravel Old Fall River Road, which was then still closed to vehicle traffic, bikes only. It has since opened to one-way vehicle traffic, up hill only. Anyway, she rode up with us to Rainbow Curve, the first overlook in the sun. She then found another ride on up to Alpine Visitors center…we hope they had a wonderful downhill ride on their bikes! This is the view we were rewarded with when we arrived at Rainbow Curve! We couldn’t see the Alluvial Fan, due to the clouds, but it was still an awesome experience.


Rainbow Curve Panorama

I have to mention here that we feel so fortunate to be able to see Rocky Mountain NP through the different seasons. We saw tons of snow and snow-capped peaks in May, we’ve seen the wildflowers of spring appear and then multiply in June, and now we’ve seen clouds covering the valleys with magnificent peaks towering above. And to top it all off, we’ve been able to share all this beauty with family and dear friends! We are truly blessed. ❤

We then went on to Forest Canyon overlook and took a few pics and a video. Hahaha…I have shared views from all these places before, but every visit is different…really!


Panorama at Forest Canyon overlook, much less snow



We stopped next at the 12,000-foot Tundra Communities trail and hiked across the treeless tundra to a rock formation that includes a memorial to a previous much-loved Rocky Superintendent, Roger Toll. The view from here is spectacular! And again, the wildflowers are more abundant, and the views are different than even one week prior!


Panorama from the Tundra Trail




Next stop was the Alpine Visitors Center, the highest elevation for a visitors center in the whole National Park system at 11,796 feet! It was crowded, so we filled our water bottles, and went outside for the views.

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We continued on Trail Ridge Road to the west side of the park and stopped at the Continental Divide, a place I have not shared before. It is a beautiful stop, with great views of lovely Poudre lake.


Panorama of Poudre Lake at the Continental Divide


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Our next stop was another new experience for all of us, the Lake Irene picnic area. And I must say, we hit the elk jackpot! I took SO many pictures but will try to show a little restraint here.  Ha. This is how it started, with a few elk coming down into the valley next to the picnic area. Despite tons of people, they just kept coming! In the last photo below, the elk was just 5 feet from me when I took his photo! :-O

The crowds gathered, so we took a walk down to the beautiful Lake Irene.


And by the time we walked around the lake and back to the picnic area, the elk had arrived and were totally unconcerned by the people! It was a surreal experience to be so close to these majestic animals!


Such spectacular beauty!


Crossing the path as if we weren’t even there :O


Ok, now we have his attention

It was really breathtaking to see these incredible creatures so close and so calm.

Continuing on Trail Ridge Road, our next stop was at Farview Curve…I know, I have shared this before, but I am going to do it again. Much less snow, even here in the Never Summer Mountain range. 😀


We then stopped at the Holzwarth Historic site, home of an early 1900s homestead and lodging site. I have shared a few pictures of elk at this location before but neglected to share the details of this special place. The site is actually the location of two distinct businesses operated by the Holzwarth family from about 1919 to the early 1970’s when the land was sold to the Nature Conservancy and subsequently transferred to Rocky Mountain National Park.  The family first decided to open a guest ranch, which they called the Holzwarth Trout Lodge, and then about 10 years later the family began development of a dude ranch on the east side of the Colorado River, which became known as the Never Summer Ranch. The Never Summer Ranch buildings near Trail Ridge Road were subsequently removed in order to return the site to its natural state. The buildings at the Holzwarth Trout Lodge complex, however, were retained as a representation of early dude ranching in the Rockies.

It was behind the trout lodge buildings that we encountered one of the highlights of our day, a mama moose, and her darling little calf! Forgive the blurry photo, but they were a good distance away. This is why I need a real camera and long lens!!!


The calf is the little brown creature in the right third of the photo!

Soooo adorable! Pam and I were both wishing ever so hard to see a moose, and we got our wish, plus a baby!

We headed down Trail Ridge in the Kawuneeche Valley a bit further, passed the west entrance to the park, and turned to visit the Grand Lake historic lodge. There were tons of cars on the main road just past the turn, and lo and behold, another moose!!! Bingo!

We couldn’t believe our luck…a moose trifecta! We rewarded ourselves with a cold craft beer on “Colorado’s Favorite Front Porch” at the 1920 Grand Lake Lodge. They do indeed have a million dollar view!


View from the swing to Grand Lake


The view beyond Grand Lake to Shadow Mountain Lake

And a peek at the Lodge lobby…really commanding and beautifully decorated.

On the way back north in the Kawuneeche Valley, we stopped to admire the Colorado River, barely 10 miles from its headwaters. Hard to believe this is the same river that carved the Grand Canyon.


We drove the rest of the way through the park in solitary bliss, the crowds having long headed back to rest and sup in their respective vacation locations. We drove right into the normally crowded Bear Lake parking area and enjoyed a leisurely stroll around the lake at about 5:30 PM, with gorgeous early evening light.

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Our last stop on this magical day with special friends was Sprague Lake. Again, the light was spectacular and we were rewarded with otherworldly reflections as we, in turn, reflected on our incredibly good fortune to be in this place at this time!


Please join us again next time as we continue to explore and enjoy Colorado paradise!

If you’d like to read more about our adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park, you can go directly here.

18 thoughts on “Rocky Mountain NP: Trail Ridge Road Part III

  1. Wow. I read this on my phone, but will revisit later for sure using a larger device. I would never tire of those views either, or of seeing the critters. Moose are always extra exciting. And bears! Elk are awesome, too, especially up close. Heck, even small birds are fun to see. I particularly enjoyed the river video. Thanks for sharing! As stunning as your photos are, I know they don’t do the place justice. There’s just something about being there, an insignificant speck amidst all the grandeur, that you need to be there to FEEL.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. WOW!!! Awesome post and pix!!! Love your restraint LOL. Those elk are gorgeous as is the scenery I never get enough of the mountains. Isn’t it funny when wildlife comes strolling in everything just stops.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Lynn,
    Loved reading your blog … you and your friends had an epic day in Rocky Mountain National Park! Yesterday we bought another Kawasaki Z125 so we can both ride. Today we are going to take your mega tour of the park on the bikes!
    Have a great day,

    Zenda Smith
    Campgrounds Manager
    Estes Valley Recreation and Park District
    660 Community Drive
    P.O. Box 1379
    Estes Park, CO 80517

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Richard! I just can’t seem to get enough of this incredible place, and the wonderful wildlife. The elk have such expressive eyes, and it is mindblowing to be so close to them!


  4. Beautiful pictures again Lynne! That is one beautiful elk, and so awesome that you were able to see moose! I have yet to see any and have been living up and down the Front Range since 1997!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh thank you, MV, and I hope you do get to see a moose! We saw another cow and calf, but I haven’t had a chance to share that one yet. The west side of Rocky is definitely the best for seeing moose!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, amazing photos. These pictures are making me miss the Rocky Mountain National Park but since I did it as a solo trip and had already experienced altitude sickness, I didn’t get to see Forest Canyon Overlook! I was also originally going to stay around Grand Lake but I guess for sure next time I will see those things.


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