Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most beautiful parks in the United States. Every time you go there, you can find new places to explore.

When our kids were small, we loved to go camping to national parks on vacation. Rocky Mountain was one of those parks.

Now many years later we are living in Loveland, CO for the summer and only an hour from Estes Park which is considered the “gateway’ to the park on the eastern side. The western border of the park is Grand Lake – Colorado’s largest national lake – and it is beautiful.

Just driving to Estes Park from Loveland is beautiful through Big Thompson Canyon. The thirty- two mile drive follows the river and you go through rugged cliffs and high mountains. You go through small towns and you can find campgrounds along the way. It is just a beautiful drive.

BigThompson Creek

Road through Big Thompson Canyon by the stream.

Then you come out above Estes Park with the town below and the mountains in the background. It really is a wonderful scene. Estes Park itself is a great place to spend some time. There is a lot to do with the stores and activities.

Once you get to the park stop at the visitor’s center for where to go of interest to you. On several occasions, we have found places to go we did not know about from just asking for different hikes or drives.

One of the places everyone likes is Bear Lake and we always go there. This time we stopped at Sprague Lake, which is before Bear Lake, and we really liked it. With the background of the mountains, it makes it very picturesque. Sprague Lake is 8,710 feet and has several hiking trails starting from it – some short and some moderate. You also can just walk around the lake, which is easy and peaceful.

Estes Park Picture

Looking down on Estes Park with Rockies in background.

Bear Lake also has many trails. The easiest is Nymph Lake Trail and to Alberto Falls. The others are harder and they are: Emerald Lake, Lake Mills and Flattop Mountain.

Trail Ridge Road of course if everyone’s destination. (You start at either Estes Park side or Grand Lake on the other side of the mountain.) It is a wonderful drive, 50 miles that goes through the park to the top – “the land above the trees” down the other side.

Trail Ridge RD, Rocky Mountain National Park

Trail Ridge Road - was snow up there yet in June.

It is the highest continuous paved highway in the United States. Trail Ridge Road reaches eleven miles above the tree line – 12,183 feet above sea level. It will take you three to four hours because of all the stopping you will want to do.

If you started at Estes Park then you will end up at The Village of Grand Lake. You will find all the outdoor activities you want wit campgrounds and motels.

There is also the Old Fall River Road, which is a one-way, winding, steep, dirt road that is nine miles long. It has marvelous scenery and you will see Chasm Falls.

There are so many places to go – like:

  • Lily Lake – where you can take a nice leisurely walk around the lake
  • Wild Basin Area – lovely expanse of sub alpine forest with stream and a lake, which is in the southwest part of the park.
  • Longs Peak – the highest peak in the park and the toughest to climb.
  • Lava cliffs
  • Rainbow Curve – panoramic views r4om Longs Peak to Mummy Range
  • Moraine Park – wide-open plains carved by glaciers.
  • Horshoe Park – Alluvial Fan – In 1982 a dam on Lawn Lake at 11,000 feet broke releasing about 228 million gallons of water, which surged down the mountain. It continued to Estes Park and the Big Thompson causing destruction along the way. It went through Horseshoe Park and left many big rocks but also the river comes down there with a neat waterfall. There is a bridge to walk across the smaller part of the river and places to put your feet in the water. It seems to be a popular destination.

    Of course, it is great to happen upon an animal like moose, elk, mule deer or bighorn sheep. There are a small number of black bears in the park and mountain lions but they are rarely seen. But whatever you see is exciting because where else would you see animals in their natural habitat but a national park?

    Elk Picture

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