As I have said several times about Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), despite being here in Colorado for THREE months (!), we never tire of the park and all its many incredible features! Today I will tell you about a lovely summit hike (just over 10,000′) that is only 6.9 miles from our campsite, Deer Mountain. I am still trying to catch up the blog; this hike was completed on July 31st.
Just about 4 miles up the road from our campground is the beautiful Lily Lake, just on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). We have been there a number of times during our time in Estes Park, to hike the lake loop, the Lily Ridge Trail, or have a picnic lunch, but I have not written about it since this post early in our stay. Recently, we had heard about several bull moose sightings at Lily Lake, and a bull moose was still on our must-see wildlife list. 🙂 On a recent evening, we took our camp chairs and went on a moose hunt.
As I type this post, in early August, we are beginning to notice hints of fall in the Rockies, although the crowds in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) still scream of summer! 😉 Today I will describe a hike on July 24th, a Tuesday, where we got an early start which allowed a peaceful and uncrowded hike up to Twin Sisters Peak, but then we encountered the masses going up as we headed down in the early afternoon. Yes, it was a long hike!
Due to its high elevation and severe weather conditions, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) has to carefully manage snowfall on the park roads. In this process, they do massive amounts of snow removal, and lately, they are assisted by Mother Nature and the sad fact of climate change, which produces less critical snowpack each year. This year, the crown jewel of RMNP roads, Trail Ridge Road, opened all the way across the park on the Thursday before Memorial Day. But the original road, known as Old Fall River Road, didn’t open to vehicle traffic until June 23rd to accommodate grooming of the gravel.
Since the summer season is in full swing in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, we have been trying other options for hiking to avoid some of the crowds. We have had several recommendations for Kruger Rock, another nearby mountain summit with spectacular views, so last Tuesday, we headed east on US 36 to the Hermit Park Open Space, home of Kruger Rock.
As usual, I am trying to catch up on sharing the wonderful experiences we have had here in Colorado this summer. On June 23rd, between visits from friends, and exactly a week after Eric & Pam so graciously delivered our motorcycles to us in Estes Park, we decided to break the no riding spell with a doozy! Mount Evans Scenic Byway has long been the highest paved road in North America, at 14,130′, and it is approximately 100 beautiful, curvy, and twisty miles from Estes Park!
With the exception of my somewhat cryptic announcement of our summer plans to work camp here at Estes Park Campground at Mary’s Lake back on May 8th, I have spent all my blog capital since sharing the beauty and nature here in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. No surprise, since this is one of the most beautiful areas in North America.
Today (June 6th) was our third day off in a row, and our one month anniversary here in Estes Park! Day off #1 (Monday) we hiked the Emerald Lake trail in Rocky Mountain NP, Tuesday we did a scenic day trip to Fort Collins (sorry, FB or Instagram posts only), and today we hiked nearby Lily Mountain trail. Several of our fellow work campers had hiked Lily Mountain and gave us the 411 so we knew it was a serious hike, despite being only 4 miles roundtrip.
Today, since it was Monday, we decided to brave Bear Lake and hike to the trifecta of popular Rocky Mountain lakes, Nymph, Dream, and Emerald. I say ‘brave’ because the “season” has definitely begun here in Estes Park. Locals say that the lines going into the park in summer can be miles long. This morning, fortunately, that was not the case. Bear Lake is the most popular area to saunter around Bear Lake or begin many other hikes, and the parking area there is generally closed to traffic by 8:30 or 9 on a summer day. You can still go there, but you must park at the Park and Ride, and catch a shuttle to the Bear Lake trailhead. Well, we found exactly that situation before 9 AM on a Monday. Hmmm. So that is what we did.
Prepare to be awed! This post is a compilation of two visits to the scenic crown jewel of Rocky Mountain National Park, Trail Ridge Road (AKA US 34). The first visit was prior to Trail Ridge opening for the season when we could only drive as far west as Rainbow Curve from Estes Park. The second visit was ten days later, the day after the road opened to cover the 48 miles between Estes Park on the park’s east side and Grand Lake on the west. This is part one of (at least) two since we only made it as far as the Alpine Visitor’s center on the second visit, about 25ish miles.