Yup, more Trail Ridge Road! Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is so vast and so incredible, and changes with the season, the time of day, the light, the weather, etc., that I will continue to write about it…probably as long as we are here!
If you’d like to see what I mean, you can go read Part I, or Part II, Part III, or this post about the fabulous trio of lakes we hiked earlier this season. There is no end to the sights to see, trails to hike, and wildlife to view, so I hope that you get to experience it for yourself one day. In the meantime, I will try to share the best of RMNP yet again!
As usual, I am WAY behind on sharing all the fun we’ve had. Last month, our dear friends from Dahlonega, Angie and Jim came to Estes Park to visit, following a family wedding in Denver! Yay!
We made plans to spend a day in RMNP, of course, and took off early-ish on a Sunday to explore! I won’t repeat all the places that I have shared before, but here are the highlights! 🙂
At Forest Canyon overlook:
Of course, we walked the Tundra Trail at 12,000′ in elevation. The spectacular rock formations, miniature wildflowers, and scenic views are just too special to pass by. Alpine tundra begins where trees cannot survive the extremes of cold, wind and a short growing season. In Rocky Mountain National Park this zone roughly begins at elevations between 11,000 and 11,500 feet.
The extreme weather and frost heaving moves rocks around and results in sorting of rocks and pebbles such that larger rocks move outward from the heaving site, and irregular patterns based on rock size appear on the tundra surface. It makes for an interesting and otherworldly landscape.
At the end of the trail is an interesting rock formation you can climb on for amazing views of the tundra and mountains beyond. We had a little fun here with photos on the rocks. 🙂
The rock formations and intricate geologic patterns here never cease to amaze me!
And then, after our hike, as we gazed at the landscape south of the Tundra parking area, we realized this Big Horn Sheep was right below us! :-O He was shedding his winter coat, and nearly camouflaged in the grayish-brown surroundings!
Our next stop was at the Colorado River Trailhead. Until this summer, we didn’t know where the headwaters of the Colorado River was. Now we know, it is in the northwest portion of RMNP! We did not walk the entire headwaters trail, but we did cross the mighty Colorado and take a few pics! 🙂 Thanks to Angie for the photos of us together!
After all the hiking and sightseeing, we were ready for a festive adult beverage, so we headed to our favorite westside watering hole, the Grand Lake Lodge. Sense a pattern here? Hike, sightsee, hike more, stop for beers. 😀
Following the relaxing stop on the porch of Grand Lake Lodge, our patience was rewarded with a wildlife sighting! We decided to try a new, unmarked dirt road off Trail Ridge and as we rounded a bend, we could see many cars parked on the side of Trail Ridge that we hadn’t seen before the dirt road. We scurried over and there were Mama Moose and her adorable baby just grazing in a field, probably 50 years from the road!!!
We watched them graze for a while, with huge smiles on our faces, until some dummy set off their car alarm and Mama Moose led the way at a strong trot into the forest. If only I had thought to video their departure! So sweet!
We closed out the evening with a lovely dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants and were treated to this beautiful night sky from the patio!
What could be more perfect than a gorgeous day in nature with great friends? ❤
Our next venture into the park involves Old Fall River Road, an alternative to Trail Ridge. If you’d like to go directly to that post, you can click here.