From the wooded forests to the mountain tundra in scenic Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park offers stunning beauty that must be seen and enjoyed.
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Introduction to the Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is visited annually by millions of people eager to see the famous beauty of the Colorado region that contains the Rocky Mountains. It is currently the third most visited park in the U.S., falling behind only the Smoky Mountains and Grand Canyon national parks. The park has five different visitor centers with the main headquarters located at the Beaver Meadows visitor center, which is also a National Historic Landmark. At the centers, visitors can find restrooms, a bookstore full of books and gifts, exhibits, schedules of hikes, talks, and programs, get maps and area information and have any questions answered. There are three ways to get in the park. Visitors can enter by U.S. Highway 34, 36 or State Highway 7. The mountain views, mountain lakes, wooded forests and general scenic beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park attracts millions to see what all the talk is about.
Colorado winters are cold and snowy. If you visit the park during this time, be prepared for certain areas and roads to be closed due to inclement weather. This national park receives the majority of its visitors during the summer months of July and August when the park can be fully explored, and its wondrous summer beauty took advantage of. The winter time offers snowshoeing and skiing opportunities that Colorado is popular for. Snowstorms can still occur in the late spring months, so check the park website as it will have alerts for closures, weather, and updated information before you visit.
Bear Lake is considered the heart of the park and is one of the most popular places to visit. There is a trailhead here as well that it is also a visitor favorite. The stunning lake surrounded by green trees lies below Hallett Peak, which provides a beautiful mountain backdrop. The hike around the lake is beautiful and also a photographer favorite because wildlife can often be seen. The trial is well maintained and is considered an easy hike, so families with small children can enjoy the walk and the view as well. Bear Lake is the place to go if you don’t want something too strenuous but wants to see those outstanding Rocky Mountain views.
Trail Ridge Road
This road connects the very famous town known as Estes Park with Grand Lake. The road climbs in elevation to stretch above the tree line for short distances for fantastic views of the park and scenery. Trail Ridge also connects to the Alpine visitors’ center which is another favorite stop for many people. There are pullouts along the way and some short trails too for those wanting to venture off a little more or get some great photos. Pull over to walk on the Alpine tundra and watch for herds of elk that visitors report seeing. The drive is paved and well maintained. Bring a light jacket or coat because it gets colder the higher in elevation the trip goes. This drive is one of the top scenic things to form the comfort of a vehicle, and you won’t be disappointed.
Emerald Lake Trail
Emerald Lake Trail is another favorite hike that most people can do. It does climb uphill, but it is not so strenuous to deter people. The walk may take a few hours round trip, and many visitors report bringing a lunch to eat by the lake. There are three lakes along the walk and guests have a chance to see both Dream Lake and the Nymph Lake, which are both before Emerald Lake. Watch for multiple waterfalls along the way. Bring water as the uphill climb will make you thirsty! Guests can park at the visitor centers to catch a free shuttle to the trail. Parking is limited at the trailhead, and it fills up quickly. Snow can still be seen as late as June, but this trail is beautiful and well maintained, and you get to see some of the best of the park.
This hike is a bit strenuous but still can be accomplished. The length is approximately 9 miles round trip, so it is lengthier and somewhat more challenging. With that being said, the hike offers a path through the pine, aspen and spruce forests, as well as some tundra at the top near two beautiful lakes. The mountaintop circle above and visitors report the best views they’ve seen in the park are from the upper part of Sky Pond. The final waterfall climb to Sky Pond can be done, but use caution as the rocks are slippery.
A free shuttle is available if you park at the Park N Ride parking lot. The shuttle will take you to the hike, so you don’t have to worry about finding a space for your vehicle. There aren’t many trails you can take where the final ascent is to scale rocks next to a waterfall. Sky Pond trail is one amazing hike, and the views reward you for your journey.
The Alberta Falls is a hike to see a stunning waterfall within Rocky Mountain National Park. Alberta Falls is another good walk to use the free Park N Ride shuttle on because parking is limited. The hike is an about a mile one-way and at the final destination hikers will be treated to views of the 30-foot Alberta Falls as it thunders down into Glacier Creek. Large boulders provide excellent picnic opportunities and the tree-lined pathways make it a nice fall hike as well. The trail is rated as “easy,” and is a beautiful example of a natural water feature in a national park.
The Sprague Lake and the trail are another easy hike and are approximately one-mile roundtrip. The trail is maintained and is relatively flat, making it a good hike for those with children and the entire family. The path is broad and maintained and is considered wheelchair user accessible as well. The ever-present mountains can be seen, along with the calm, smooth waters of the lake surrounded by forests and greenery. Visitors have said to have an excellent lunch here or even tried some fishing for the trout in the lake. There is a rather large picnic area available by the lake if you have a large group or family with you. At night, some visitors report seeing the Milky Way quite clearly as there is little to no light pollution in the area. Sprague Lake is another beautiful area visitor’s love in Rocky Mountain National Park.