Rocky Mountain National Park

Day 2 - Thursday, September 21, 2017 - A Day in Rocky Mountain National Parkl

The bountiful breakfast at the motel was very generous. There was a full buffet of hot food items, fresh fruit and yogurt, cereals and breads, make it yourself pancakes and waffles, and a variety of beverages.

When we left the motel to go back to Rocky Mountain National Park, it was 9:15 with clear skies, a slight wind, and 66 degrees. Back on Highway 34 or Trail Ridge Road, we had an opportunity to retake some of the panoramas from yesterday as the air was so clear.

The golden aspen leaves were blowing in the wind and dancing across the road as we drove up the well-paved ascent to above the tree line. Along the route there were several trails we could take to get to steep overlooks with snow pack, glacial lakes, cirques or U-shaped depressions formed by the scraping of glacial ice.

As we took in the landscape and wonders of Mother Nature, it made me wish I had paid more attention to my geology classes. At the Glacial Overlook we could see the expansive Gore Range, Haden Gulch, and the Continental Divide.

The temperature was 46 degrees and the winds were 21 mph, enough to blow people off of the paths. This was the highest point of the road at 12,183 feet, well above tree line in the very fragile tundra landscape.

Our next stop was the Alpine Visitors Center where we had fantastic views of the alpine tundra and Fall River Cirque. Bedded down in the cirque was a bull elk with his haram of females, all of them lazing in the sun and out of the wind. Several professional photographers were there with their two-foot long lens but we were able to capture a few great shots with our Canon cameras.

From the Visitors Center we started down the mountain and crossed the Continental Divide at Milner Pass, 10,758 feet above sea level. The aspen on this side of the Divide were spectacular; many more shades of yellow, orange, and red.

As beautiful were the aspen, the dead and dying pine forest was so very depressing. Signs on the trails explained that the infestation of the Rocky Mountain Pine Beetle caused the destruction of millions of acres of ponderosa and lodge pole pine trees since 1996. Unusually hot, dry summers and mild winters throughout the region during the last few years were credited with the outbreak of the blight that has killed the trees.

Our next trek was through the Holzwarth Historic Site, in the Kawuneeche Valley surrounded by the Never Summer Mountain Range. Near the source of the Colorado River, the Holzwarth Family developed this old homestead into a Trout Fishing and Hunting Lodge in the 1920’s.

Cabins and the working buildings of the ranch were open only until the first of September, but we were able to walk through the camp and peek in the windows. We followed the Colorado River, a tiny stream, out of the park and into Grand Lake.

Just as we were to exit the park we spotted a handsome bull elk strutting in a meadow close to the road. He put on quite a show for those of us that stopped to watch him bugle, preen, and graze before prancing off into the aspen grove.

We exited the park and drove to Grand Lake where we went to the Mountain Food Market. We bought a few things for lunch and then turned around, reentered the park at the Kawuneeche Entrance, and enjoyed our picnic at the Bowen and Baker Trailhead.

A group of third graders from nearby Granby Elementary School were on a Friday Field Trip. We talked to several teachers and the bus driver while the children were challenged to outdoor activities by five of the US Forest Service Rangers.

By 4:00 we had retraced our path on Trail Ridge Road and were back in Estes Park. We stopped at the local Safeway store for gas and food for dinner. Restaurants were packed and the wait lines were out the doors already.

Tomorrow is the beginning of the Autumn Gold Festival. Vendors were already setting up their wares in Bond Park and the “No Vacancy” signs were out at all of the inns. It was good to get back to our room to sort the photos and retell our day’s adventure communing with the sites and sounds of Rocky Mountain National Park.

More about Trail Ridge Road:

U.S. Route 34 is an east–west United States highway that runs for 1,122 miles (1,806 km) from north-central Colorado to the western suburbs of Chicago. Through Rocky Mountain National Park it is known as the Trail Ridge Road where it reaches elevation 12,183 feet (3,713 m), making it the highest paved through highway in the United States.

Accommodation: Best Western Plus Silver Saddle Inn


Yes, a beautiful time to be up in that country. Enjoy!!!!!!

Sylvia E   September 22, 2017 - 9:14pm

How exciting you didn't forget me on this beautiful trip. I thought you had started wearing clothing with no pockets. LOL I am so excited to interact with you again. I love the pics and descriptions. I've been there - all over Colorado, but it was years ago, and I wouldn't recognize this place today. Thanks for carrying me along.

Pat   September 22, 2017 - 5:05pm

Yes, we have also noticed that there are less elk on the western side of the park - but more moose!! I have not seen any moose on the east side of Alpine Visitor's Center.

Cheryl Vieira   September 22, 2017 - 3:16am

Sounds like you didn't do the Fall River Road up to the Alpine Visitor's Center? It is quite a thrill (one lane traffic) and was loaded with color last year. Next time!! The sound wasn't coming through on your video - but I can hear those juvies bugling and clacking their antlers!

Cheryl Vieira   September 22, 2017 - 3:15am

Beautiful! Rob and I once rode our bikes up Trail Ridge Road to the Visitors Center. Gorgeous ride with a terrifying descent.

Darcy   September 22, 2017 - 3:06am

great photos !! Especially of the bull elk bugling! You got a great one there ! Did you notice there were less elk on the western side of the divide towards Grand Lake? We don't know why, but observe this every year. There ARE MANY more moose on "our" side, tho. We have seen 17 in one day! If you bought at the Mountain Market, then you were one block from our condo, the Shadow Mt. Yacht Club condominiums ! Ed Ryan's cabin is 2 miles down the hiway towards Granby.

nan graber   September 22, 2017 - 3:00am
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Butting Heads

Butting Heads (1:15)

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Alpine Tundra

Alpine Tundra

Colorado River

Colorado River

Holzwarth Historic Site

Holzwarth Historic Site

Aspen Glow

Aspen Glow

Bugling Elk

Bugling Elk

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