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Old Oct 3, 2010, 5:02 PM   #1
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Default Suggestions for Rocky Mountain National Park?

Last year at about this time, I headed to SW Utah and visited Zion NP, Bryce Canyon as well as the north rim of Grand Canyon NP. This year, my 15 year old daughter and I are heading to Rocky Nat. Mtn. Park, Colorado for 4 days of (what we hope to be) photo trekking.We are planning on staying in Loveland and visiting the park on a daily basis (i.e. no overnite camping). If anyone is familiar with the area, would appreciate suggestions for scenic hikes and drives both inside and in the area sorrounding the park. I am especially interested in areas where there are nice views of Alpine lakes, and waterfalls.

Thanks

Jehan

Last edited by Wingman; Oct 3, 2010 at 9:16 PM.
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Old Oct 3, 2010, 11:28 PM   #2
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Jehan, I certainly cannot claim any great familiarity with RMNP, but last year I spent 3 days there in late spring (last week of May, if my memory is correct). I stayed at a campground in Estes Park, so I was on the same side of the park as you will be.

The first thing to be aware of is that if you're not adjusted to the altitude, it saps your strength more than you might guess. Whwn I was 19, I worked for a summer in Mt. Rainier Nat'l Park, and I was able to hike to 11,000 feet before I even felt any shortness of breath. Now that I'm in my 50s, I knew I couldn't hike as fast or as far as in mmy youth, but I foolishly assumed that I would handle the altitude the same way. Wrong! My first day in the park, I did a fairly short and easy hike, and I felt absolutely wiped out afterwards. It really made me wonder if I would be able to handle anything more rugged. Obviously, different people respond to high altitudes differently, and if you're in good physical shape you're likely to do better (I was in okay shape, but not particularly good condition.)

Okay, the hikes: My first day I drove to the Bear Dake trailhead, and hiked to Dream Lake, then continued to Emerald lake. This is considered a classic RMNP hike, since it's short and only gently uphill. Even early in the season, the trail was moderately crowded, but the scenery was stunning. I cannot say how beautiful it was. As easy as it was, it wiped me out because I had not adjusted to the altitude.

After that hike, i drove the Trail ridge Road way into the high country. I stopped at a trailhead for the "Alpine Community Trail." This is a very short interpretive paved trail. I forget the exact elevation, but i think it's about 11,500 feet high. It might be a quarter of a mile long, at most. All the alpine plans were still under snow when i was there, but my purpose for visiting was to expose myself to higher altitudes to force my body to adjust as quickly as possible. I walked back and forth along the length of the trail about a half dozen times, until I felt very lightheaded. I got in the car and returned to my campsite in Estes park, which at about 8500 feet, suddenly felt like it had wonderfully rich air. I crawled into the sleeping bag early that evening, and slept well.

The next day, I again went up the Bear lake Road, but I parked at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, and hiked to an absolutely gorgeous alpine lake called The Loch. It was covered with ice, but it was nonetheless stunning. I was also pleased to see that this was a longer and steeper hike, but I felt much better doing this hike than I had doing the much easier hike the day before. I was amazed at what a difference 24 hours made in terms of adjusting to the altitude.

I had read that many people consider Mills lake to be the most beautiful alpine lake in the entire park, and I wanted to extend my hike to The Loch by going to Mills lake, but a bridge was washed out and there was no way I was going to try to ford a raging mountain stream that was gushing with spring snowmelt.

My third day I wanted to hike to the top of Flathead Mountain, so i again returned to the Bear Lake trailhead. Unfortunately, only an hour into the hike, the weather deteriorated badly and I started to encounter surprisingly deep snow. I decided I didn't want to become another sad statistic so I turned around, and strolled around the perimeter of Bear Lake in the rain. Even though I didn't get very far up the Flathead mountain Trail, I got a few nice views, and I have no doubt that the views get better and better the higher you go.

If you look at a map you'll see that I only explored one small corner of RMNP. I have no doubt that there are many other beautiful areas to visit, but those are the only places I've ever been to. I posted a few pics on this forum; you'll find the thread here:

http://forums.steves-digicams.com/pe...onal-park.html

I hope this helps.
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Old Oct 4, 2010, 8:07 AM   #3
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Mtnman: Thanks very much for the detailed guide...I'm going to print this out and take it with me. I need to watch out for altitude sickness--had no problems in Zion NP last year, but it was between 7000 and 9000 feet and my trek up Angel's Landing was tiring but quite feasible. I have a couple of boooks on scenic drives and hikes and will definitely read more about the ones that you have recommended.

Thanks again!

Jehan
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Old Oct 4, 2010, 8:10 PM   #4
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Jehan I also visited RMNP in June of 08. I did experience some altitude sickness in Estes Park after having a glass of wine with dinner my first night there.

Once into the park the next day I did not have problems with the altitude until I got to 12,000' at the visitors center at the top. I remember seeing people staggering around the parking lot, myself included. Getting back in the car and driving down a few hundred feet I began to feel better and recovered quickly.

I found the Colorado Highway Dept. had a great web site that gave a lot of information on road conditions. Particularly useful if they have an early snow storm. We were almost stopped from crossing the park as the road was closed for two days prior to our arrival and opened just as we were deciding we would have to go back through Denver in order to continue our Journey on to Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

My wife and I did not do any hiking but merely drove through and stopped at all the overlooks so I cannot give you any guidance on hiking adventures. We did manage to see a lot of wildlife and the scenery was spectacular.

I hope you and your daughter have a fine and safe trip and bring back lots of photos for us to see.

Lou
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Old Oct 4, 2010, 8:16 PM   #5
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Thanks for your feedback Lou. It sounds like RMNP has plenty of scenic drives which are always a good fall back if the hiking does not pan out. We're also planning a horse trail ride which my daughter is quite looking forward to.

Will definitely have to watch out for the effect of the altitude!

Jehan
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