Rocky Mountain National Park

We fell in love with Rocky Mountain National Park. We only had one day to spend, but we busted out five short hikes, saw tons of animals, and we’ve already started planning our trip back! Rocky Mountain reminds us so much of Yellowstone, which is our favorite place in the world.

Bear Lake Road
The wildflowers lining Bear Lake Road were amazing in June.

The park is laid out in three general areas. The east side is called Bear Lake Road. It is small and extremely busy because it is so beautiful. There are several kid friendly hikes, which we explain in our hike round-up post. There were also a lot of animals. We saw several elk, including three big bulls. There were a few mule deer, too. We even saw a doe with her tiny fawn.

We saw these two huge heads sitting near the road.
Then this huge elk ran across the road right in front of us.
We always love seeing baby animals.

A few things that you should know about this area of the park is that there is very limited parking. For this reason, they sometimes shut the road down and shuttle people in. We started out Bear Lake Road at 7 am and found the Glacier Gorge parking lot full and the larger parking lot by Bear Lake filling fast. Around dinnertime it was much better. If you do end up at the park and ride, the shuttles come every fifteen minutes, so plan a little extra time. Vehicles over 25 feet are also prohibited to drive all the way to the end of this road.

Bear Lake was shrouded in fog the morning that we hiked around it.
The views are beautiful even from the parking lot at Glacier Gorge.

Hikes we did in this area:

Trail Ridge Road to Alpine Visitor’s Center
The road is cut into the mountainside. You can see how windy it is.

The second area of the park we explored was the summit. A road loops around the north end of the park and gains elevation fast. It has several busy pullouts that give breathtaking views of the wide glacial canyons below. At one point, we were looking down on the clouds. There were also alpine animals on this drive including elk, bighorn sheep, pika, cool bird’s like stellar’s jay and clark’s nutcracker, and marmots.

Huge herds of elk were hanging out up near the Alpine Visitor Center.
We also saw a bunch of Marmots running around in the rocks in these high elevations.
The spring runoff was amazing to see as it came down the mountains right onto the road.

The road finally reaches the Alpine Visitor’s Center at around 12,000 feet! There is a café and gift shop, as well as bathrooms and information. We also took a short hike to the top of the mountain and stood by the 12,005 foot sign. This road can be pretty difficult to navigate with a large vehicle, too. If you’re a nervous driver, be careful. It is straight down to a certain death on one side, and the road is narrow and winding.

We were so high that we looked down on to the clouds.
The mountains are very majestic.

Hikes we did in this area:

Alpine Ridge Trail: 1/3 mile, but a steep, uphill climb to at 12,000 feet

Kawuneeche Valley
The valley is a beautiful area and the perfect place to hike.

The last part of the park that we saw was the west side. We did several hikes through the wide valleys and saw a half dozen moose munching meadow grass along the Colorado River. This area was much less crowded than the other two, and we liked seeing the animals at the lower elevations.

We saw a bunch of moose in this valley.
They were all right by the road.

This valley is beautiful to drive and hike through. There are gorgeous green meadows and the Colorado River winds through the valley. It is very different than the high mountain peaks just a few miles away.

This is along the Coyote Valley Trail. Picture perfect!

Hikes we did in this area:

Coyote Valley: 1 mile, flat and easy

Adam’s Falls: 1.2 miles, easy

We highly recommend Rocky Mountain National Park. We love all of the national parks, but this one shot to the top end of our list fast!

We loved spending a day in Rocky Mountain National Park.


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