Happy Independence Day!
Rocky Mountain National Park is a stunning part of Colorado, filled with rugged mountains, dense forests, powerful rivers, and freezing tundras where summer never comes. It is the home of Long’s Peak, the highest mountain in Colorado as well as the source of the Colorado River, which makes its way through the country, eventually winding its way through the Grand Canyon. It is one of my favorite places to hike and camp, or just take a day trip to drive around and see the beautiful views. An entrance to the park is located just outside of Estes Park, Colorado.
I recently camped in the park to explore and get some higher altitude hiking in before I hike my first fourteener (also known as mountians that are at least fourteen thousand feet in elevation). Please note that Rocky Mountain National Park is a high elevation park. Make sure to stay hydrated and watch for signs of altitude sickness, which can be life threatening. If you are from a much lower elevation than most of Colorado I would reccommend taking a few days to acclimate to the elevation in a place with access to medical assistance before attempting a hike in the park.
The first hike I did was to Fern Lake, I got caught in the rain so I didn’t make it all the way to the lake, but the views were incredible and the foliage and wildflowers were beautiful. Make sure to bring bug spray and wear long pants/sleeves, the mosquitoes were fierce.
The second hike I did was in the Wild Basin area the trail passes a series of waterfalls and ends at a lake. Again, I got caught in the rain so I didn’t make it all of the way to the lake but I made it five miles in and saw three of the waterfalls.
Before you leave the park, make sure to drive over Trail Ridge Road. It is the highest paved road in the United States and takes you through all of the various eocsystems in the park. The first is Montane, the thick mountian forests with a large diversity of animal and plant life. Next is Subalpine, which is located just before and after treeline, where the elevation makes it too difficult for trees to grow. The last is Alpine Tundra, summer seems to never come here and there is always snow on the ground.
While on Trail Ridge Road we stopped near the trail head for Mt. Ida, there was a short trail above this lake that was quite lovely.
I never realized before this trip that there is a National Scenic Trail along the Continental Divide that goes all the way from New Mexico, through Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho, to Montana. Backpacking along that trail is definitely something that I want to do in the next five years.
I hope you enjoyed this and got another idea for your next visit to Colorado!
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