Rocky Mountain National Park July 2019 - Tom Liles

Our first hiking trip to Colorado was very late this year:  the second half of July!  Colorado got a ton of snow last winter, delaying the start of the high country hiking season.  We decided to visit Steven and Amanda in Erie (a Northern Denver suburb) thus the pick of Rocky Mountain National Park.  Stef and I visited RMNP 35 years ago so high time for a return visit.  The park is gorgeous but we would NOT recommend the summer time.  Way Way too crowded!

Our first day was in the most popular area of the park:  the Bear Lake corridor.  We lucked out and got the last spot in the huge parking lot, just because others had just left.  The ranger said the lot first filled up at 7:15am.  We did a 7+ mile hike to 5 lakes:  Nymph, Dream, Emerald, Haiyaha and of course Bear Lake.  All were gorgeous in their own way.  Great mountain scenery with patches of snow and the wildflowers were blooming.  Clear skies early in the morning, then the clouds start to build up.  First thunder at 12 noon with rain and hail shortly thereafter.  We were prepared with our rain gear!

The second day of hiking was in the Glacier Gorge area.  Not quite as crowded as yesterday at Bear Lake but still a lot of people.  We had to use the Park and Ride bus shuttle to the Glacier Gorge lot, waiting in the long line as several buses came and went.  7.5+ miles today to a waterfall and two more beautiful lakes.  Alberta Falls rushes down a narrow canyon.  It probably had more power than usual with the large snow melt.  The Loch and Mills Lake had stunning mountain views.  The wildlife highlight was several Elk bedding down in the trees right next to the trail.  We normally don't get that close!  Thunder didn't start today until 1pm.  No big rain, just a couple of sprinkle times.

Our third and last day in the park was quite different:  all above-tree-line walking.  We drove up Trail Ridge Road, stopping at various places for viewpoints and hiking.  Lots of marmots today as they like tundra and rock piles.  The Ute Trail was the "long" hike of the day:  a relatively easy 4 miles with non-stop views.  Two more short walks of less than a mile each at Tundra Communities and the Alpine Visitor Center.  Can you believe there was a big hoodoo along the Tundra Communities walk!  And tons of wildflowers too.  No thunder today, yea!  Clear skies gave way to partly cloudy but no rain.  Only issue encountered was the parking scarcity problem.

A beautiful park and well worth the visit, but again, too crowded in the summer.  September would be the ideal month, though you might encounter early snow (that just makes it prettier!).  We enjoyed our visit with Steven and Amanda and the dogs and cats!  Hope everybody enjoys the pictures.

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