Rocky Mountain National Park | Hikes, Drives, Camping

12.24.2020

Elks basking in Snowfall and Sunshine, the Blue and Emerald hues of the Alpine lakes, the Oranges of the Aspens still tugging at the trees while the snow engulfs it, the roaring unprecedented Snowfall at the Trail Ridge Road while we drive past in mist and fog, the howling of the winds and clear night sky at the Moraine Park Campground as we camped, and the great food at Estes Park. If Rocky Mountain National Park had a nickname for it, it would be an 'Inspiration' park



2 years back, when we had gone to Glacier National Park in Montana, we were all gaga over the humongous mountains, the unperturbed wildlife, and the various hikes there. Compared to that, my hubby had the same doubt that I had, "Will Rocky Mountain cut it?".

Drive from Silverthorne to Rocky Mountain National Park

As we started our drive from Silverthorne to Rocky Mountain National Park, the surer we got that we have much more to see and experience than we had thought. Not only did we pass by randomly lined river basins but also witnessed morning smoke emanating from one of the rivers that gave us an idea of what the majority of Colorado was about.





It was about experiencing the unpredictability, in a place so accessible that many chose to do vacation here. Further along the route, we passed through Grand Lake, where winds welcomed us, and even though our hearts were in trepidation if fires have had affected any of these routes, we sighed in relief when we saw the first entrance on RMNP. 

The Grand Lake

Trail Ridge Road in Snow 

As we reached the entrance, the ranger politely said to us that we need to hurry to our Moraine Park Campground before road closures at Trail Ridge due to heavy snow. We were caught unawares because as per Google, the possibility of snow at RMNP was meager at noon, but it ended up heavy snowing the entire day. 
 


Facts: During our dates (11th Oct, 12th Oct), RMNP had limited timed entry. But since we had booked Moraine Park campsite, that part was covered. We just had to pay for the entry fees of the National Park. We did book our campsite a week before our visit. It was showing unavailable at all times but the more we refreshed the page and searched, we ended up finally finding one site and booked it. 

What we liked the most about the Trail Ridge Road was just how dense the forests got into the valley and just how scenic this route was. The drive into the trail ridge road during heavy snow at a higher elevation near the Alpine visitor center wasn't an easy feat. We couldn't stop at most vista points. Not much was visible anyway in the snow fog but we did see a few travelers struggling to catch a glimpse if they got lucky. Since we had to be on the East side of the park before closures, we drove without a pause. 

By the time we reached our campsite, the trail ridge road got closed not only for the day but stayed closed for the next 2 days. We had a pretty narrow escape at that. Thereafter, we ended up going to the Beaver Visitor Center located on the east side of the park after we set our camps. They suggested to us that we can head to Lily Lake trail if we wish to do it. 








The Lily Lake


Facts:

  1. No campfires were allowed at the time of our visit.
  2. Estes Park Visitor Center remained closed on all days of our visit.
  3. There were plenty of Elks in the area. The meadow near our campground had sightings every day.
  4. Estes Park is a great area for good food (Notchstop bakery, Nepal Cafe were great!)
  5. Lily Lake looks very different on non-snowy days. It is a popular site nonetheless.
  6. Stop by to watch Aspen on trees during past fall/ fall on the route of the Lily Lake.



Our camping experience at Moraine Park Campground 




We camped at RMNP on the nights of 11th and 12th Oct, and if you ask me whether it is advisable to camp at that time or even this time of the year, I would suggest yes, and no. Yes, because it's very cheap and inside the park. No, because it depends on your temperature tolerance level to freezing temperatures at night. I would be lying if I say, the temperatures and the howling winds did not deter us. Admittingly so, these are part and parcel of camping but be sure to carry adequate blankets during this season. You may need it not only here but while camping at Great Sand Dunes. 

Facts: The good part also was, the toilets were clean. The campsite also had shuttle bus stoppages that took us to trailheads.






3 comments

  1. It's super cool to drive up over Trail Ridge at the beginning of the season. Sometimes the snow plows have carved straight through and your car is edged in by snow. Eeek!

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