Sunday, May 14, 2017

Spring in Rocky Mountain National Park


When I learned last week on the Rocky Mountain National Park Facebook page that Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous road in the United States, was plowed open to Rainbow Curve at over 10,000 feet, my husband and I decided to take an impromptu car ride to see how the park looks during spring! Rocky Mountain National Park is open 365 days of the year, 24 hours a day, but there are many road closures inside the park during winter due to snow.
We choose to drive on the Peak to Peak Scenic Highway to reach the park.  This scenic highway was established in 1918 and is Colorado's oldest scenic highway. It provides magnificent views of the Continental Divide, national forests, wilderness, and nature preserves.  I blogged about it before and you can see a map of the areas and towns it passes through there on this post.  On this trip the high mountain peaks were covered with brilliant white snow and each turn and bend in the highway lead to spectacular views.


Almost as soon as we entered the park we came upon this herd of very hungry elk grazing in one of the meadows.



As you can see from the photos above, they are in the process of  shedding their heavy winter fur coats as the temperatures rises. The males have not yet grown their new antlers for the season. All of these photos were taken from a safe distance. It is tempting to want to get close, but they are large wild animals and unpredictable, so its best to be cautious and allow them peace to go about replenishing the calories they need.


Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses 415 square miles and protects spectacular mountain environments and wilderness.  One of the first views one gets in the park is of the 14,259 foot (4346 m) Longs Peak, which is always a thrill. The peak is named for Major Stephen Long who is said to have been  the first to spot the mountain on an exploration in behalf of the US Government on June 30, 1820.


We continued to drive up Trail Ridge Road toward higher elevations....


...and stopped at a parking area at the Many Parks Curve to gaze down to one of the panoramic views. In the early 1800's French speaking trappers called the broad mountain meadows "parques," and the name remained.  Here we can see parts of Estes Park, Horseshoe Park, Moraine Park, Little Tuxedo Park and Beaver Meadows.


At over 9,640 foot (2633.4 m) elevation, Many Parks Curve also gives one another dramatic view of Longs Peak.


As we continued to drive higher on Trial Ridge Road we saw the snow accumulation along the sides of the road getting deeper ....


.....and we came upon the sight of a snow plow, ready to remove any new snowfall.  

Although it was a bright blue sky day in the high 60's at lower elevation, the temperature gets cooler as one climbs higher, and the weather can change quickly. 


Driving higher and the snow gets deeper


We soon see a road closure sign ahead and we know we are approaching Rainbow Curve and the last portion of Trail Ridge Road that has been opened by plows so far this spring.


At 10,829 feet (3300.6 m) at the Rainbow Curve parking area the road was officialyl closed going up to higher elevations. Trail Ridge Road is 48 miles long in total, 11 of those miles are above the treeline and 12,183 feet ( 3713.3 m) elevation at the Alpine Center.


One of the powerful John Deere snow plows that are plowing the road past the closed portion. Another plow heads west to east until the entire Trail Ridge Road is plowed completely open.  Usually the road is officially opened around late May, weather permitting. A recorded telephone message line that gives up-to-date Trail Ridge road conditions is 970-586-1222.


There are more gorgeous views from Rainbow Curve of both Horseshoe Park and 13,425 (4091.9 m) foot high Mummy Mountain.  Both my husband and I were amazed to see the snow was over our heads, even though the temperature at this point on the day of our visit was 54 degrees and the snow was melting fast.


We decided to walk along the closed road for awhile.


It was uphill all the way!


Just the tip of this road sign was showing in the snow.


It's easy to see how the Rocky Mountains got their name from Native Americans!  There has been constant erosion going on since they were formed 170 to 40 million years ago.


We returned to our car, turned around, and went back down Trail Ridge Road to lower elevation and turned onto Bear Lake Road towards Sprague Lake.


The elevation at Sprague Lake is 8,690 (2,648.7 m) feet and at this lower elevation the snow has almost all melted.



There is a trail that circles the entire lake that is about 09. of a mile long and has beautiful views.


We love taking photos here!

The park was blissfully very quiet on the day we visited, with much less crowds than when we visited in summer and autumn. In 2016 Rocky Mountain National Park broke attendance records with 4.5 million visitors!


I saw the first wildflowers growing along the lake trail and a duck couple happily taking turns diving underwater for food. There was also signs of winter storm damage and dead fall trees. I read recently that all the national parks are in need for more funding for maintenance, and I sincerely hope our government allows that to happen, as the parks provide jobs and a boost to local economy.


We traveled on by car to park at Bear Lake, which is at a higher elevation at 9,475 feet (2889.9 m). It is surrounded by tall mountains and pine trees, so the lake was almost all frozen and the trail that circumferences it was full of snow pack.  Since we were not wearing boots we only hiked a short distance around the lake, just enough to get a view of Longs Peak again.


We then traveled back and parked at the Bierstadt Lake trail head, which is at 8840 feet elevation (2694.4 m). The trail begins through lodgepole pines and aspens and climbs more than 600 feet along a series of switchbacks. I saw more wildflowers at the beginning of the trail and my husband and I had fun pretending he was Sisyphus rolling a boulder uphill.


As the trail climbs higher spectacular views of the mountains along the Continental Divide begin to open up.  



The clouds were also building up as the day progressed into late afternoon.Almost two thirds of the mile hike up two people coming down the trail told us that conditions were snowy and icy at the top and that they turned back. We decided to do the same and returned back to our car and decided to end our visit to Rocky Mountain National Park. We really enjoyed seeing it in its quiet spring season and snow capped beauty.



We saw more elk grazing in a field when we entered the town of Estes Park.  We felt as hungry as they were after our long park adventure, so we stopped in town and had a delicious dinner at a local barbecue restaurant.



We took a different route back home, on Colorado 36, driving through a canyon, passing serene valleys and along the front range.  
It was the end of a perfect day!

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60 comments:

Ruth Hiebert said...

WOW! Spectacular views. The snow-capped mountains are gorgeous.

Lorrie said...

What a beautiful outing, with drop-dead gorgeous scenery along the way. I always love our drives through the Rockies (Canadian), although they are in the summer, so I don't often get to see the snow up close. Good to see signs of spring in the alpine environment.

happywonderer.com said...

Spring is beautiful in your world for sure. Happy Mother's Day Pat!

Mersad said...

The scenery is out of this world. Especially those high peaks with snow, and the road closed. The landscapes are beautifully captured by you. Love Estes Park. Thank you for linking up with "Through My Lens".

Mersad
Mersad Donko Photography

Tom said...

...thanks for sharing these views from the top of the world.

Tanna said...

Amazing views!! So beautiful. Hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day, Pat. blessings ~ tanna

The Furry Gnome said...

Such beautiful scenery!

Gillena Cox said...

Very beautiful photos; Happy Mosaic Monday

much love...

Maggie said...

What a great road trip to take, I can't believe that you saw all that stunning scenery in just one day. Thanks for being a fabulous tour guide once again, I love my armchair travels with you.

Snap said...

Gorgeous! I love the elk. One of my friends in NM grandfather used to say "if green eyes is visiting the elk can not be far behind"!!!!! He was sure the elk was my spirit animal. I'm still trying to figure it out. Happy Monday!

Leanne said...

Gorgeous photos and I can't believe the depth of that snow. I'm in Western Australia and we never get snow. I saw a tiny (fairly grotty) bit in Europe but the sheer beauty of all that white was amazing to see in your pics.

Rajesh said...

Beautiful national park with view of snow-capped mountains.

Carol (" Mimi") Benton said...

Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos! It's so interesting to see the little signs of springtime emerging in the upper altitudes. Thank you for sharing at #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty. I'm sharing your post on social media.

eileeninmd said...

Hello Pat, gorgeous photos from the park. It is neat to see the herds of elk. I love the scenic views! Thanks for sharing your visit! Have a happy new week!

Pamela Gordon said...

Spectacular views of the mountains and valleys. I'd probably be nervous about that drive where the road follows along steep drop-offs. lol I had great difficulty driving up Mt. Washington, NH a couple of summers ago. I was terrified.

retirementreflections said...

I loved taking this virtual trip with you through Rocky Mountain Park. Your photos are stunning. I love forward to following your blog further.
#BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty#15

Cynthia Schelzig said...

Thanks for the beautiful tour.....now I want to take a trip .....

Ciao Chow Linda said...

What spectacular scenery, Pat. You and Vinny are so lucky to live in such a gorgeous area, and that you have each other to enjoy these wonderful adventures together.

Grammy Dee said...

I enjoyed your photos. I was surprised to see the roads were clear with all that snow. Thank you Pat for linking up at the #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty. I shared this post.

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

Gorgeous views of the Rockies, Pat. How nice for you to take us along. Your photos truly show the majesty of the greatness of these beautiful mountains. The snow shows us just how high the elevation is! Such a cute picture of your hubby. You both are truly enjoying your time out west.. I hope we will be smart enough to continue to fund our National Parks for future generations to enjoy. ♥

Christie Hawkes said...

What spectacular views! Thanks for taking us on this journey with you, and thanks for linking up at #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty. I have shared on social media.

Lori G. Hill said...


Gorgeous photos and what a fun day!
Thank you for sharing at #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty!

jeannettestgermain said...

A breathtaking trip Pat, with all these peaks! Sunning views!
Jikes, man height snow in May!. That water reflection is so beautiful!. Thank you much for sharing all this beauty with All Seasons:) By the way, hope you had a lovely Mothers Day.

Lady Fi said...

Wow - those views are stunning!

Fun60 said...

That was spectacular. The next best thing to being there was to read your post. Thank you so much for sharing your trip.

Sue Loncaric said...

Stunning views and scenery I could look at it all day. Thanks for sharing with us at Blogging Grandmothers Link party. I've shared on social media.

handmade by amalia said...

I've enjoying this beautiful trip, so different from anything you can see around here.
Amalia
xo

Rhonda Gales said...

Your pictures are wonderful. I enjoy seeing scenic pictures and learning about new places. Makes me want to hope on a plan and head to Denver. Please share your posts on my Sunday's Best Linkup. Found you on the Blogging Grandmothers party.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

It's so much fun to take a day trip like that and you have fabulous places to go! Snow? I can't imagine it! heehee! Enjoy your week! Hugs

A Colorful World said...

Fantastic photos! I love visiting this area in spring through your post! A very special place in this country...one I hope everyone will visit at some time.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I wonder if it is technically possibly blue to be homesick for a place where one has never actually lived? If so, I qualify as I look at your wonderful RMNP pictures ... Mountains!! I remember mountains. ( Long's Peak is visible from our CO kids' front yard.). Those round-trip drives through the park, with plenty of stops for photo ops and short 'hikes' are of course favorite activities whenever we're there ... and I can't wait to experience them again .... meantime, I loved following your trip....your photos and words all perfect!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Don't know where that 'blue' came from. Just supposed to say 'technically possible to be ...". IPad typing is not easy ))

carol l mckenna said...

What a photo adventure ~ You and hubby are 'doing it right' ~ enjoying your surroundings and coming up with beautiful photography of an amazing American place ~ thanks,

Happy Week to you ~ ^_^

Photo Cache said...

The mountains are calling~!

Worth a Thousand Words

Rhonda Albom said...

Rocky Mountain National Park is such a beautiful place. It's pretty incredible that Trail Ridge Road has sections over 10,000' high. I've seen those John Deere snow plows and graders working to clear roads in Lake Tahoe as well.

Molly said...

What stunning landscape

Mollyx

Small City Scenes said...

Looks like the North Cascades Hiway that just opened to auto traffic today. So much snow this winter. The road closes every year from November something when there is already too much snow and opens between April and June depending on snow again. Also we visit Mt.
bake often and this time of year even trails are closed for hiking because of snow----I think it is wonderful. Your pics reminded me
MB

Al said...

Such a stunningly beautiful area - I need to get back up there again soon.

Clearissa Coward said...

What beautiful country. Thank you for linking up at the #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty. I shared this post.

Lisa Healy said...

I spent my summers out there training for figure skating, so it was fun to see it all in a different season!

Felicia said...

Now Im homesick for Colorado.

aginglikeafinewine.com said...

Such an absolutely glorious place the rockies are! My husband and I love to take off and go for rides, just such as this one. We are in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia and can travel a little south into Virginia and get on Skyline Drive, which runs along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mtns. Thank you for sharing at #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty

Lowcarb team member said...

What an absolutely wonderful day.
I so enjoyed my trip with you looking at all of your photographs.

Fantastic.

All the best Jan

Hula La said...

Wow, wow, wow...spectacular photos! Thank you for sharing your travel journal here! Very, very nice indeed! Enjoyed it all...Aloha!

Kristin Saling said...

Absolutely gorgeous photos! We were just in Denver and were talking about trying this drive sometime! Will have to start following you for more Denver inspiration and ideas for when we visit our family out there!

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

Thanks so much for linking to Blue Monday!

Nora said...

Wow what wonderful photos! We did a similar trip years ago. Hope to go again. Thanks so much for visiting my blog also.

Lady Fi said...

Gorgeous blue skies and snow pictures.

Pietro Brosio said...

Fantastic views, so enjoyable!

csuhpat1 said...

Very beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful weekend.

Marilyn @ MountainTopSpice said...

Such amazing views you experienced all in one day! It is hard to imagine that much snow, still hanging on this late in the year. You captured some really amazing photos, especially of the elk grazing with the snow-capped mountains in the background, and I loved the pictures at the lake too, with the mountains in the backdrop. I surely would have loved to have been on this adventure with you, how wonderful that you can see these kinds of views in a day trip from your house! We have lots of mountains here but nowhere near the heights of the ones you got to see. So amazing and wonderful, and you did an amazing job sharing all the facts and names of the mountains too. Thank you for this very entertaining visit through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado :)

Steven Que said...

Oh My!!! Snowcaped mountains and evergreen trees! This is absolutely the reason why I wanna see Colorado someday! Your photos are amazing!

Steven

Michelle said...

We were there several years ago. Such a place of beauty. We didn't see any snow, but the temperatures were certainly colder at the high elevations. We did see a lot of wildlife and would love to go back. Thanks for linking up and have a great weekened!

Thomas Lee said...

Wow! What a beautiful scene.

Spare Parts and Pics said...

Another beautiful post! Looks like you guys are having a great time, and the photos are wonderful. I like the shot of your husband pushing the boulder up the hill!

Kelleyn Rothaermel said...

Gorgeous! I believe they got even more snow this week!

Rambling Woods said...

Oh love to see photos of you and hubby in this amazing scenery.... Thank you for being respectful of the wildlife,I wish everyone was...Michelle

bettyl-NZ said...

What a wonderful tour, thanks so much for taking us along! The scenery is so fabulous especially the animals--wow! That part of the country is so scenic.

Jann Olson said...

It certainly does look like a perfect day! We still have areas in our local canyon that are closed because of snow as well. This is a beautiful National park. It's always fun to see animals grazing. Thanks for sharing with SYC.
hugs,
Jann

Grammie O Morris said...

Looks like I should add this park to my "must see" list. Thank you for the great pictures and descriptions. I can do without that much snow though.....