We woke up really early to head into Rocky Mountain National Park. We were headed to the Bear Lake trailhead, one of the most popular in the park, and reputed to fill its parking lot by 8:30am. We made it by 8am, and got a parking spot! The place was hopping and there were like 10 rangers sitting around, I guess anticipating visitors needing help. One nice ranger had a display of various bones and antlers, so the boys had fun trying to lift them and imagine what life would be like if they had to carry those heavy things around on their heads!
We were planning to hike about 3.6 miles past Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake. The boys were in good spirits, and the hike was a fairly gradual uphill to the first lake. It would be a relatively long hike for us, but since they were well-rested and we had snacks in our bag, we figured we could do it (despite being at over 9,000 feet in elevation).
We had a nice walk to the first lake, Nymph Lake. There was some snow on the nearby hills from the snowstorm they had earlier in the month, which dumped around 2 1/2 feet of snow in the park, which was cool to see. We also got glimpses of the mountains as we walked.
After about half a mile, we arrived at Nymph Lake. It was lovely.
After a stop for pictures, we continued on to our next destination: Dream Lake. We started getting snow on the path. It would alternate between gravel and snow, so it was kind of slow going, but we didn’t have much of a problem. However, I did start to notice that lots of people were walking with walking sticks, and lots had special grips on their shoes – clearly more prepared than we were! It got to the point where there was more snow than gravel on the hike.
Just before we got to Dream Lake, we had a huge hill of snow to climb. It was a fun challenge, but A managed to wipe out and get a snow injury – in June!
We eventually made it to Dream Lake, and this one was even prettier than the one before.
We stopped for a snack and some pictures before trying to decide whether to continue onto Emerald Lake. Reports from fellow hikers indicated that it was a snowy walk the whole way and we didn’t talk to anyone who actually made it to the last lake. A and I decided to venture on a bit more, and C took the little guys back.
We made it around Dream Lake, but as soon as we passed the edge, it was an uphill climb, all on icy snow, so we decided to turn around.
After we we retraced our steps across the snow and back to the trailhead, we got in the car for a drive on Trail Ridge Road, which winds from one side of the park to the other and is the highest continuously paved road in the U.S, climbing to 12,183 feet in elevation.
The road starts in Estes Park and heads all the way to the other park entrance, 48 miles away in Grand Lake, Colorado. We didn’t go all the way across, but went from the Estes Park side and headed up to the Alpine Visitor Center.
On the way, we had great views of the mountains.
Once we got above 11,000 feet, we were in the alpine tundra, so high in elevation and so windy, that trees don’t grow.
We got to the Alpine Visitor Center, which was at almost 12,000 feet in elevation. The building had to be built to withstand the mass amounts of snowfall it receives each year, and even when we were there it had big snow drifts along its wall.
The boys finished their Junior Ranger books and we watched a herd of elk lounging in the valley below. Then, we hiked the short, steep Alpine Ridge Trail that started at the end of the visitor center parking lot. There were fantastic views of the tundra and mountains once we got to the top.
After our hike, we headed back down the mountain and back to the YMCA of the Rockies for more fun activities there!