Sunday, June 6, 2021

Reservations Needed for Rocky Mountain National Park


When my husband and I drove a scenic byway called the "Peak to Peak" on our way toward Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), this portion never fails to take my breath away! It is always exciting to see the park's snow-capped mountains in the distance!  We pick up the byway in Black Hawk and drive north to Estes Park, which is the town right outside the eastern entrance to RMNP.


If you view the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway map on this page, you can see that along with the beautiful scenery, there are many scenic stops along the way.  One of our favorite places is the Carousel of Happiness in Nederland--click here--to read that post, and another is "The Little Chapel on the Rock" which you can see in another post--click here--that I wrote about the Peak to Peak drive.



On this drive, we did not make any stops except for this one to see a historical marker for the former 1885 homestead of Enos A Mills, a naturalist, author, lecturer, and nature guide, who is considered the Father of Rocky Mountain National Park for his work in the effort to preserve this area as a natural park.


We have visited Rocky Mountain National Park many times in the past-- my eight prior posts on the park can be seen under this blog label link. On this visit, we saw this long line of cars at the entrance and realized why RMNP was going to revive last year's reservation requirement again this year.  Because of the COVID pandemic, the park put a reservation system in place in 2020 to control overcrowding.  It worked so well that the decision was made that this year from May 28 to October 11, 2021, visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park will need a timed entry permit and an entrance pass to visit the park.  The full reservation information can be read on the park website on this linkReservations can be made on this linkA limited amount of reservations are available at the park entrance but they sell out fast, so pre-ordering is the best method.  Many visitors have been unaware of this new rule and have sadly had to turn around without visiting.

RMNP is one of the four most visited national parks.  In 2019 the park saw almost 5 million visitors! During the pandemic in 2020, the number was reduced to 3.3 million, and the decrease and timed entrance allowed for better parking at trailheads and crowd control. In fact, it was so popular, it may become a permanent feature during the peak season.




Since we live just about a two-hour drive away from RMNP we usually like to visit off-season, so we were able to enter the park with our lifetime Senior Pass before the reservation system was required on May 28th.  We heard that the main road in the park, Trail Ridge Road, had been plowed to Rainbow Curve at that time, so we wanted to see the snowpack at that point.

 


The Rainbow Curve viewpoint is at 10,829 feet elevation, just below timberline, the transition zone between a subalpine fir and spruce forest, and the alpine tundra of grass and delicate wildflowers.


We took a lot of snow photos! It was already melting fast as the weather was warm. Trail Ridge Road continues on higher, but the complete road had not been plowed open as yet on our visit. It's fully open now. The road travels above the treeline, at 11,500 feet. It then winds across the tundra's vastness to its highest point at 12,183 feet elevation. One-third of RMNP is alpine tundra, which is rare in the lower 48 states, and weather can change quickly at this elevation.  It's normally windy and 20 to 30 degrees colder than Estes Park or Grand Lake. The sun beats down with high-ultraviolet intensity. The vistas sweep north to Wyoming, east across the Front Range cities and Great Plains, south, and west into the heart of the Rockies


We also took many photos of the very snow-capped Longs Peak--the highest mountain in RMNP at 14,259 feet (4346 m).




By later afternoon the weather changed and it became very overcast. We drove toward Bear Lake but the parking lot was so crowded by then that we decided we would walk around Sprague Lake instead.


We always enjoy the walk around Sprague Lake and its views.


A pretty view on our way out of the park


After leaving the park we had our first inside restaurant meal in 14 months! We stopped in to "Smokin Daves BBQ" in Estes Park for dinner. It was so good!  We were very hungry and ordered a lot but the portions were so big we had to take half of it home for the next day's meal.  It was a thrill to feel safe to eat in a restaurant again since we are both fully vaccinated.  It was so good in many ways to feel normal again. So much that we once took for granted we now relish with new gratitude!

June is a busy month for us with three family birthdays and our grandsons playing in Lacrosse tournaments and Little League baseball games, so if I have been late to visit your blog I hope to visit very soon!  Meanwhile, stay happy and healthy my friends!

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30 comments:

Angie said...

Pat - you were wise to go before the permit requirement went into effect, and earlier in the season. You can still see so much but without quite as many crowds! Glacier has instituted a reservation system for the first time, and there are many complaints about it. Personally, I think they should have done it a long time ago! And so glad you had the opportunity (finally) to go out to eat!!! Always enjoy seeing the beauty of Colorado at Mosaic Monday - thanks for linking up!

Michele Morin said...

Amazing beauty!

Penny from Enjoying The Simple Things said...

What beautiful scenery! It sounds like a wonderful day.

Gillena Cox said...

WOW!!! gorgeous scenes

Happy Monday.
I am at #11 on the linky today


Much💛love

Barbara Rogers said...

So great that you got to visit RMNP...my son (when he lived in Denver) was with a group of Americorps young people who called it RoMoNaPa. So that's stuck in my memory. I loved walking around Bear Lake with him, when I visited in 2001...he's now in So. Colorado, so my 2019 visit with him didn't include the park.

Lisa said...

It is awe inspiring to come around a bend, or over a hill, and see a sight like that. While it's great so many want to enjoy the parks, in another way it's too bad, since it takes a toll on nature when so many descent on it!
I haven't been out to eat yet. My daughter and her family are visiting next month and we're going to go out to lunch. That will be my first in a long, long time!

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

your landscapes are always amazing and today is not an exception - gorgeous!

Barbara said...

While I am content to live in Florida now, I truly enjoy all the scenic photos you post of Colorado, many of scenes my husband and I enjoyed together over years.

Donna @ Modern on Monticello said...

Such amazing views and breathtaking scenery. Thank you for sharing it. I will be in Denver the last week of July and looking forward to seeing so many things in person. #HomeMattersParty

Ruth Hiebert said...

Absolutely stunning images. I have been in that area and loved it then and these photos show just how beautiful that area is.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

I've only been to the Park once, a long time ago, you post reminded me of how spectacular it is.
I think we are going to have to have more reservation systems in place for other parks. Some of them, like Yellowstone, are a zoo at peak times.

Janice Smith said...

How very fortunate you are to live not far from RMNP. Your images are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing. . .

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I love seeing the photo of the two of you together. How neat to see so much snow and the view of the mts. I know everyone is anxious to get out and go somewhere special like the State parks.

stevebethere said...

What a fab post and beautiful photos thanks for the tour I enjoyed that :-)

Have a rockytastic week 👍

Janice said...

Your post brings back so many good memories of our visit in 2008. We tent camped in Estes Park for a few days. That gave us time to visit several locations in RMNP. Our oldest grandson moved to Colorado last month. He is being a river rafting guide out of Glenwood.

Shiju Sugunan said...

Such fascinating views and fantastic pictures.

eileeninmd said...

Hello Pat,
Beautiful photos of the RMNP, hubby and I enjoyed our visit there years ago.
We stayed in Estes Park and we did eat at the same restaurant Smokin Dave's BBQ.
All the parks seem to be overcrowded, more people are enjoying the outdoors and nature.
Great post and photos. Have a great day and a happy week ahead.

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

Isn't it wonderful that you live in such a beautiful part of the country, What's even nicer is that you can visit at times when it is less crowded.

NCSue said...

Thanks so much for sharing these lovely scenes at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2021/06/woodpeckers-visit.html

Paspii said...

Super fantastic scenery, whutta place. Thank You for sharing!

diane b said...

That is the most beautiful NP. No wonder reservations must be made. It would be annoying to be turned away though if you didn't know about the necessity to book. It must have been great to go to a restaurant for the first time in so long. We still haven't had our first shot yet. It is available but we are waiting for Pfizer. However, we have been able to go out to restaurants most of the time as we don't have any community transmission in QLD. Poor old Melbourne have had another out break and they are locked down for 2 weeks. They are getting on top of it so they hope to be out of it by next Thursday.
Your photos are great and the scenery breathtaking.

handmade by amalia said...

I'm still not traveling much so living vicariously through your photos. They are gorgeous, as always.
Amalia
xo

Thomas Lee said...

love the snow cap scenes

ellen b. said...

Nice to be close enough to enjoy off season times at this beautiful park. Wonderful photos.

Joanne said...

We like to vacation in the off season whenever we can too to avoid crowds. I can see why this national park is so popular!

Spare Parts and Pics said...

Looks like a good time, and great photos. I think similar restrictions may be in store for Joshua Tree National Park. It gets so crowded, no one can find a place to park. I'm glad to see so many people appreciating nature, but sad to see the big crowds and all the problems that go along with it.

Nanda kumar said...

Wow! beautiful images and great exploration

betty-NZ said...

What wonderful scenery! The snow is fabulous to see.

I'm happy you chose to share your link at 'My Corner of the World' this week!

Jim said...

Great shots.

Klara said...

gorgeous scenery