We’ve been living in Colorado for about six months working away. And we FINALLY made it to the beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park. And to be honest, we still didn’t give it the time it deserves. It’s been pretty tough with our work schedules, but I still didn’t want to give up the one day we had to explore. We went on the first day of National Park Week, which was also National Junior Ranger Day (4/20/19), so OBVIOUSLY we had to go.
Per our usual routine, we got up early to head to the park (but not as early as we used to…. we gettin’ lazy! We didn’t make it there until 9am!). As it was a lot of festivities, and it was a fee free day, it was jammin. It can be a bit frustrating at times with the crowds, but I really do love knowing that people are taking advantage of our access to these beautiful protected National parks.
I had prepared early and printed off my own Junior Ranger booklet the night before so we didn’t have to stop at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center to pick one up. We headed straight to Bear Lake; one of the more popular and visited hikes at the Park. This road takes you past quite a few scenic overlooks and trailheads as well.
As it was only the end of April, the mountains were still covered in snow which made for a nice icy hike. Bear Lake is a great hike for all because it has a variety of distances that you can choose to do, and no matter how far, you’ll still see some beauty. The first stop after the trailhead is about 200 feet (there’s legit a sign). Mike and I hikes up to Nymph Lake and then continued on to Emerald Lake. I think roundtrip it was a few miles. With the ice and snow, it took us about an hour. Once we got past Nymph Lake, the crowd cleared out quite a bit and Emerald Lake had a much more serene feel to it.
When we finished that hike and we’re leaving, the parking lot was completely full, and the Rangers were not diverting all traffic and not letting anyone else up until later, so I’m super glad we got there early-ish.
We then checked out some of the scenic overlooks and headed to the Visitor Center so I could pretend I’m not in my 30’s and partake in all the Junior Ranger Day festivities! We learned about “Leave No Trace,” (I taught the Ranger about the Rule of Three from the best Camp; if you pick up anything in nature, don’t move it more than 3 feet, don’t hold it for more than 3 minutes, and make sure to show three friends before you put it back where you found it!) did crafts, and talked to the Waste Management Ranger…. guys, we all need to do better. He had a demo of what he has to do to clean out the restrooms/outhouses, and had a bucket of the weirdest/worst things he’s ever found.
Mike and I then left for Estes Park where I explored the YMCA Conference Center and the brewery. Both beautiful, in different ways. Below are a few tips I have for the park, even though I really just got a taste of it – we’ll be back to explore more!
- There’s a reason it’s most visited in the summer – there was only one of the 4 Visitor Centers open and a multitude of the trails are closed for safety. If you go when it’s NOT summer, you’ll definitely get a more intimate and less crowded visit, but the trails will either be easy or for the very advanced! Be prepared! There were lots of people with crampons, microspikes, and cross country skis which is a great way to explore safely.
- STAY ON THE TRAIL. Not only is this for your safety, but it for the safety of the flora and fauna of the parks.
- Wear and pack layers. Not only does the mountain weather change quickly, in one hike you can go from 80 degrees to 30 degrees.
- Book early if you want to camp – things fill up months in advance. This park is in the top ten of most visited.