Rocky Mountain National Park

Day 1 – Wednesday, September 20, 2017 – Drive to Estes Park, Colorado; Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Road Trip

Rocky Mountain National Park

Labor Day has passed, many of the summer tourists have gone home, and the turning leaves of our scrub oak are telling us that fall is in the air! We are on our way for a short outing to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park to enjoy Colorado at its finest.

At 9:00 am we said goodbye to Buddha and began our mini-adventure driving on Interstate 25, through Denver, and north to Exit 257. We were amazed at the new construction and many buildings that are going up in Castle Rock, Denver, and then north to Loveland.

Of course, it has been forever since we have taken a drive that far north, but as we passed each exit we reminisced about the soccer tournaments and games that took us to these towns years ago.

US Highway 34 through the city of Loveland and then up the Big Thompson Canyon Road was completed in 1904. There were lodges, cabins, and resorts along the raging Big Thompson River that was once fished by the Ute and Arapahoe People.

When we got to Estes Park, we went directly to the hotel just to confirm our reservations as this is a busy time of the season; the elk were bugling and the aspen were turning. The hotel was full so the manager told us it would be awhile before they had all of the rooms ready and we could check in.

Taking advantage of our afternoon, we drove through Estes Park and saw many shops still open for the tourist season. The sidewalks were full of visitors from all over the world. Gennie had done a little research on Yelp and we found one of the 4.6 star eateries, Baba’s Burgers and Gyros.

When we drove in and saw forest service trucks, construction vehicles, and motorcycles, we knew we were in the right place. We shared a gyro and onion rings, and enjoyed our lunch on the porch watching the traffic go by. Our meal was excellent and well worth taking a chance on this small establishment.

Driving on Highway 36, we stopped at the Visitors Center and then entered the park at the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station. The sun was bright, the sky was blue with a few fluffy clouds, and the temperature was 58 degrees. The altitude was 8,200 feet.

Our drive though this area of the park was very enjoyable; each curve brought more expansive vistas. We got back on Highway 34, or Trail Ridge Road, and twisted our way as far as Many Parks Curve, stopping frequently for Kodak Moments.

At the overlook some visitors pointed out several elk grazing in a meadow far below. Even with our binoculars, it was difficult to see them. Our cameras sorted out the rocks from the elk to prove there were critters down there for sure!

Back on Highway 34, we drove to West Horseshoe Park and stopped at the Lawn Lake Trailhead. We changed shoes and enjoyed an elevated trek for about an hour. Although we did not make it the full 12 miles to the lake, the scenery was gorgeous and the hike was breathtaking at an altitude of 8,803 feet.

Back on Trail Ridge Road, we drove past the Sheep Lakes and spotted a Bighorn ewe and her lamb foraging near one of the ponds. We were able to stop and photograph them from a distance while the Park Ranger stood by nervously protecting them in their natural habitat.

By 4:30 we were back at our hotel, our home away from home for the next two nights. We fell into our familiar GarciaTrips routine and looked at our photos and wrote up the journal of our day.

The park ranger told us that the elk (wapitis) come out at dusk so we left the hotel at 6:30 and drove back to the center of town. The lights were on at the fairgrounds and high school giving us a good view of the lake nearby.

Two young bulls were practicing battling for dominance by a small lake. Walking along the footpath, we could get within 50 feet of them. Occasionally they would look up at us and then go on about their business, antlers cracking, and nostrils flaring!

We watched them until it got dark and then headed back to the car. Neither of us was very hungry so we went to a sandwich shop for a light dinner. By the time we got back to the hotel it was almost 8:00 and the parking lot was almost full.

Vic took more time with our hundreds of photos and videos from the day and we were able to get to sleep about 10:00.

More about Rocky Mountain National Park:

President Woodrow Wilson designated the 415 square miles of wilderness a National Park on January 26, 1915. In the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps built the main highway through the park, Trail Ridge Road.

Accommodation: Best Western Plus Silver Saddle Inn


The scenery looks magnificent! What fun.

Becky Richardson   September 22, 2017 - 12:47am

Love that you are up in the park!! We go up there probably 3-4 times a year ion different seasons - have stayed at the Stanley Hotel - quite an experience!! We have stayed at the Discovery Lodge (right up from downtown as you enter from Big Thompson Canyon) and had quite a show in the parking lot of the hotel and next door at the gold course during the rut! Another great place to watch the elk is in Moraine Park inside the park. Enjoy! Maybe we can get you to come a little farther up 25 and visit us in Fort Collins!

Cheryl Vieira   September 21, 2017 - 3:48pm

So many beautiful places to visit right here in Colorado, aren't there? The pictures are great as always.

June Freyer   September 21, 2017 - 3:22pm

Great pictures. Looking forward to reading more about your trip.

Marv   September 21, 2017 - 2:05pm

I didnt know you were going!! Don and I just got back Sunday from a similar drive. If that would have come up in conversation Monday night when I saw you, I definately would have offered you our condo (or if you want to stay there later on this trip just call me or email. ) The condo is in Grand Lake at the other end of the park. Arent the aspen GORGEOUS this year ? ?!

nan graber   September 21, 2017 - 1:40pm

How lucky to have that National Geographic moment with the bull elk. I am so thrilled always with your pictures and adventures. Keep havin fun and I will be moving to Turkiye in November. I am spending a month in Vegas first, and getting supplies and playing bridge. If you are ever in Turkiye again please email me and hopefully we could have some fun adventures. I don't get around as well, but still try my best. Miss you and think of you both often. -Colleen

Colleen Hamilton   September 21, 2017 - 4:53am
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 Entering Rocky Mountain National Park

Entering Rocky Mountain National Pa...

Rocky Mountain High

Rocky Mountain High

Long’s Peak Through Aspen

Long’s Peak Through Aspen

Bighorn Ewe and Lamb

Bighorn Ewe and Lamb

Young Bull Elk

Young Bull Elk

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