A Ride Through the Mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park

Estes Park, CO

On Tuesday we decided to take a ride all the way through Rocky Mountain National Park.  Trail Ridge Road (Rte. 34) runs from Estes Park over, around, and through the park for 48 miles to Grand Lake.  It is the highest continuous paved road in the U.S., going up to an altitude of 12,183 feet at the highest point.

After a stop at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center to check out some future hiking trails, we headed west.  Snow covered mountains immediately appeared in front of us.

As the road went through a pine forest, more and more snow became visible along the banks.

At Rainbow Curve we stopped to view the valley to the east and the winding highway we had just driven.

To the west we could see more snow covered mountains.

As we crossed the tree line, the snow banks along the road began to get higher and higher.  This part of the road is closed during snow season and only opened about two weeks ago.

As we continued, we could see a still frozen lake below us.

At its highest point, the road winds across the treeless tundra.  During planning of the road in the 1930s, internal opposition to the construction of a road through the park’s alpine tundra was overruled by National Park Service director Horace Albright, who wanted to encourage park visitation. The road was designed to intrude as little as possible into the landscape, in accordance with Park Service design principles.

About two miles from the highest point on the road, we came to the Alpine Visitor Center.  At 11,796 feet, it is the highest visitor center in the National Park system.   The Visitor Center just opened for the season about two weeks ago, probably because it took a long time just to find it under all that snow!

As we continued west, the road began its descent toward Grand Lake.  But the thick blanket of snow on that side of the mountain made it feel like December rather than June.

Down in the valley outside Grand Lake we saw a large number of Cow Elk, and finally spotted a few moose enjoying lunch in a nearby field.

This one doesn’t seem to be fully developed.  As the season progresses, we think he will finally develop a neck and head!

Some moose seemed to enjoy posing for the camera.

But the only one with antlers was too busy eating to pose for a picture.

As we approached Estes Park on the return trip, we detoured on to Fall River Road to visit Sheep Lakes, a favorite spot for Big Horn Sheep.  While the sheep weren’t home, we did finally get a look at some Bull Elk grazing in the meadow.

Just outside Estes Park we spotted what we thought were elk statues along the road.  But we were surprised to see one of the statues move it’s head, so we turned around for another look.  The big fellow below stood in that pose for a number of minutes and seemed to be part of the church sign.

After a few minutes standing in the above position, he adjusted his pose a bit as he was beginning to develop a sore neck.

The drive across Rocky Mountain National Park is truly spectacular.  Next up is a hike or two to get up close with the scenery.

More on that later . . .

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24 Responses to A Ride Through the Mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park

  1. Allison says:

    Nice rack! I love that you’re wearing shorts around all of that snow. Beautiful scenery.

  2. Amanda says:

    That’s a lot of snow! The picture of the vistor’s center is hilarious. I am so happy to see these photos because we have changed our route and will not make it through the park this year after all. Can’t wait to see what else you find.

  3. Wow! That’s more snow than we have here. Hope you have snowshoes!

  4. If it’s not covered in snow, Twin Sisters is a good hike.
    You hit the jackpot on elk sightings!

  5. Janna says:

    Great wildlife shots and you guys have perfected the art of self photos–we need to work on that! Maybe longer arms?? :))

  6. Lisa says:

    How wonderful to see so much wildlife! Looking forward to your hike reports.

  7. What a nice change of scenery from Utah…it was 104 in Moab yesterday….I could use a little of that snow!

  8. Good Luck Duck says:

    OMG, that SNOW!

    Good to know about how moose mature. Seems like a head would be there right from the start, but if it ain’t broke…

  9. Ingrid says:

    Love RMNP. I’ve never visited this early in the season to see that large amount of snow. Great Elk shots….enjoy!

  10. libertatemamo says:

    Love that area! We had a Ton of fun (and some great hikes) there a few years back. We stayed on the other side (Grand Lake) and really loved it. Nice downtown with some great food too. Nina

  11. Sandra Silva says:

    We are following your travel with relish. When we last visited Colorado we visited a great place called Mt. Evans. I am not sure if you are anywhere close but we highly recommend it if you are. It is amazing if you get there when the flowers are on bloom.

    We begin our next adventure to Salt Lake, grand Tetons and Yellowstone next week. We are getting restless sitting so long.

    Happy trails Sandy and Bob

    Sent from my iPhone

  12. Love the header photo!!!

    That bank of snow is amazing. I had no idea there was still so much snow up there this time of year.

    What beautiful scenery. I am not particularly a snow fan, but in that setting, it is gorgeous.

    The elk “statue” is a hoot. Glad you got to see it move.

    It looks like you two are off to a great start to your Rocky Mt. adventure. Enjoy your hike. Jessica will be there in two days. Great times to be held by all.

  13. Erin says:

    Many years ago, I was in Denver for a conference and an outing to RMNP was one of the day trips offered. It was a spectacular introduction to the park. I was there in fall, so nowhere near the amount of snow you saw at the Visitor Center … although that picture of Pam reminds me of our drive up to Mount Rainier in May 1983 (or maybe it was ’84).

    Can’t believe I am all caught up to all that you’ve been up to while I was dealing with intermittent internet 😉

  14. LuAnn says:

    Several years ago, while living in Colorado, we visited RMNP quite often. Thanks for the blast from the past.

  15. For a moment I thought you made it to Alaska this summer. Wow great pics and yes those peaks and snow did remind me of similar peaks while in Alaska. I think that Elk was waiting for a tip after those poses. Great pictures. The West is indeed beautiful. Looking forward to your hikes.

    • placestheygo says:

      It is amazing how much snow there still is in the mountains. Our daughter arrives tomorrow so we should be ready to hike by Sunday. We won’t be doing any snowy trails, however. We don’t have the equipment.

  16. cozybegone says:

    WOW I’m sitting here at 600 ft LOL….can’t even imagine such beauty! Can’t wait to see more…

    • placestheygo says:

      It is hard to wrap your mind around how high we are. There is a sign on the Trail Ridge Road that says you are 2 miles above sea level. To think that we are 2 miles above someone standing on the beach, is just to hard too comprehend.

  17. RJRVtravels says:

    Great Pics. We love Trail Ridge – It is really good for Colorado to have that much snow – that is where most of our water comes from – not to mention it is also the headwaters for the Colorado River.

  18. Janet says:

    Great pictures, and a nice trip for me to take on a Sunday morning…..here at sea level in Florida!!! Thank you!!

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