After dropping off Matt at the Denver airport to fly back to college in Penn I headed for Rocky Mountain National Park. When I arrived on the 25th the National Park Service was celebrating it’s 100 Birthday and so all National Parks were offering free admission over the next four days to celebrate. Great idea to get the public interested in parks! The crowds were not too bad Thursday and Friday but Saturday the parking lots filled up fast.
First full day in the park included a drive up Old Fall River Road. A one way dirt road leading up to the top of Fall River Pass and the Alpine Visitor Center. What a great drive that was, kudos to the National Park Service for maintaining and keeping this road open to the public. A leisurely drive with a couple stops for short hikes up to some incredible viewpoints.
Just before the end of the dirt hiked an unsigned (yet well worn) trail up to a view point at 11,950’ elevation. The reward was great views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
A quick visit to the Alpine Visitor Center at the top then joined the hordes of visitors on the paved roadways of the park.
A slight detour partway down the other side to once again cross the Continental Divide then back on the paved Trail Ridge Road toward the East side of the park. On a recommendation from the Ranger in the VC
I stopped to hike the Tundra Communities Trail up to the top of a rock outcropping.
Fortunately I had a rain jacket and layers as halfway up it began to snow.
The weather and the clouds made for some beautiful photos.
On the second day in Rocky I took advantage of a special Ranger led walk celebrating the Centennial. The walk was advertised as a 5-7 mile hike exploring beautiful destinations in the park. We joined the crowds on the shuttle bus from the park and ride lot to the Bear Lake trailhead. This area is so popular that the parking lot a Bear Lake routinely fills by 8:00 every morning and hikers park at the park in ride down the hill to ride the shuttle in. It seemed a little surprising to hear from the ranger that Rocky Mountain is the third highest visitation of all the National Parks (behind Great Smoky Mountains and Grand Canyon). Being fairly close to some major population centers and having great hiking and outdoor activity has created a big demand on this park. Enjoyed a good hike with Ranger Carolyn around Bear Lake then down to Sprague Lake. The trail we hiked was one of the lesser used, which made for a good hiking experience. At Sprague Lake I took the opportunity to forgo the shuttle and hike the remainder of the way back to Glacier Basin campground. There were some great photo opportunities along the trail including spotting some wildlife!
Side note: I have been very happy with the photos taken by my iPhone – it makes it much more convenient rather than buying and carrying expensive and heavy camera equipment!
While at Rocky Mountain I camped at the Glacier Basin Campground inside the park. It was dry camping (no hookups and no Wi-Fi or cell service) but had great views and was accessible to park trails and roads. The weather was a good introduction to fall with thunderstorms, hail, snow and cold night temps. Although there were many folks in tents in the campground I was glad to have the hard sides and the furnace!
Sunset view from my campsite in Glacier Basin.