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How to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

I am going to try and explain the beauty that is Rocky Mountain National Park, but let me first warn you there are no words to give this park justice. Majestic rolling mountains in every direction and beautiful trees hugging the mountainsides are just the beginning. The vastness and beauty you will experience when you explore in this park is breathtaking.

Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in the United States stretching 48 miles across the park and soaring over 12,000 feet of elevation at the highest point. That translates to, you want to make this drive on the highway to the sky. Stop along the way and check out some scenic views, pack a lunch to enjoy a picnic, or make it to the end and explore the towns of Estes Park or Grand Lake depending on the direction you begin. Either destination is a site to behold. Check out our video of this drive to see these amazing views.

Hiking Rocky is AMAZING and there are hikes for every level of endurance and difficulty. With more than 355 miles of hiking trails in RMNP, no matter what your experience, you will not leave disappointed! You can take an easy stroll in the meadows or go for the ultimate hikers dream of Long’s Peak. We are somewhat in the middle. We like a little more of a challenge than a stroll, but due to the 2 year old we carry on our back, I don’t think we will tackle the 15 mile Long’s Peak challenge. Just yet anyway.

If you plan on hiking and it is peak season you will want to get there EARLY! Now do as I say and not as I do. We can not get anywhere early. We are working on it, so no judgement. If this is an option for you, then I highly recommend this for a couple reasons.

Firstly, thunderstorms start brewing in the afternoon, so start your day early to avoid mother natures’ fury.

Secondly, Parking is a nightmare! It truly felt like we were parking for Disney World and not a hike in a park. We had to park at the Park and Ride to wait in line for almost an hour to catch a shuttle just to take a hike. It was a little crazy. The shuttles do run fast, which keeps it moving, but just something to be aware of. We showed up at Park and Ride at 10 and the lot only had 5 parking spots left. We squeaked by. You can also catch a shuttle at the visitors center as well, but if you are heading to Bear Lake, which is a popular hiking area, then take the shuttle. We talked to a lady that said she got there at 7 AM to get a parking spot and was successful, so follow that super mom and not us to avoid the crowds.

We started out at the Bear Lake stop which is one of the most popular areas in the park. Not only is it STUNNING, but it is a easy/moderate hike for all ages. From there, we went towards Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake. You get all three Lakes around 3.6 miles round trip and it is totally worth every step. We followed the conga line (yes it was that crowded) up the mountain and these stops did not disappoint. These sparkling lakes surrounded by breathtaking mountains was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. This is definitely getting the biggest bang for your buck on the beauty vs difficulty scale. These lakes are a great starting point. Here’s our video of the lakes. 

Hiking to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake is a there and back trail and not a loop, so on the way back we veered to Lake Haiyaha and this added on another 2.4miles roundtrip. This was a little more of a challenging uphill trek, but another amazing lake and possibly my favorite. It was such a peaceful area surrounded by huge boulders. It was a nice break from all the crowds we had encountered and was a little piece of peace that I needed for the day. I seem to enjoy views that make you work for it a little more. It makes the view more special in my eyes. Before you reach the lake, there is some very rocky terrain you need to cross to get to the lake, so if hopscotching boulders is not your thing be aware of this.

Another great family hike is Alberta Falls. Take the shuttle to Glacier Gorge JT (Very few parking spots available) and in 0.6 miles you will arrive at a beautiful waterfall. This hike is great for all ages and the reward is well worth it. If you are feeling adventurous, you can continue on this trail to the Loch and if you are up for it, Timberland Falls is up the way. Once you reach the falls, you can scale it to even reach Mirror Lake and Sky Pound. This was not toddler friendly in our comfort level, so we took turns climbing the waterfall.  Check out our video of this amazing scenery that was well worth the extra adventure. 

These are just a few of the amazing things to experience in Rocky Mountain National Park. This is by far one of the most spectacular National Parks in the U.S and one of the most visited for that reason. With so much to see and do you will have your itinerary full of adventure and views that last a lifetime.

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