Rocky Mountain
National PARK

Rocky Mountain National Park

After two weeks in the south of the United States and our road trip through New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, we are back in Colorado. We spend a few days in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park was founded in 1915 and is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. This can be partially explained by its proximity to the city of Denver. The Park offers a very diverse landscape. It has over 350 miles of hiking trails, the highest paved road in North America, and a rich wildlife.

Many national parks have seen record numbers of visitors in recent years. In order to limit the flow of visitors, some of them have implemented a reservation system. This helps to limit crowds in the park or in some of the more sensitive and popular sections. At Rocky Mountain National Park, only people who have purchased one of the limited entry tickets one day in advance are allowed to enter the park in their own cars. We quickly learn how to use the ticketing system and, with proper planning, purchasing tickets goes smoothly. This way, we avoid congested roads and traffic jams. The park also offers a very good shuttle service and a Park & Ride offer inside of the park.

The park’s website offers more information on the history, organization, hikes and activities of the park.

East side of the park

We first visit the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The village of Estes Park, a few minutes away from the east entrance (Beaver Meadows Entrance Station), is ideally located to enjoy the popular Bear Lake area. Despite heavy traffic and overcrowd due to tourism, this small village is very pleasant. We especially like the nice and quiet promenade along the river and the cafes there.

During our first hike in the park, we discover one after the other sumptuous lakes: Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake and last but not least Haiyaha Lake. Our second objective is the Sky Pond hike. After checking the current conditions with a ranger at the visitor center, we have to come up with a plan B. Due to snow and ice still covering the trail to Sky Pond, the hike is currently not recommended. At the same time, we find out that most of the high altitude hikes are still snow covered. We change our plans for a short and pleasant hike to Bierstadt Lake.

Our highlights

Five Lakes Hike

Emerald Lake

Haiyaha Lake

Kind Coffee

Trail Ridge Road

The east and west parts of the park are connected by the Trail Ridge Road, built in 1932. This very exposed scenic roadx, lined with steep ravines, literally takes your breath away and can give you vertigo. With its highest point at over 3,700 meters, it is the highest paved road in North America.

The road is lined with numerous overlooks from which you can observe magnificent landscapes. We are particularly impressed by the views from Forest Canyon and Rock Cut overlooks. Along the way, we can also observe the wildlife.

About halfway through the road, we go on a hike on the Ute Trail, famous for its flora and fauna. At an altitude of more than 3500 meters, this hike offers a 360-degree view on the surrounding mountains. We can perfectly observe the highest mountain of the park, Longs Peak, culminating at 4346 meters. The hike is very windy, so a windbreaker is a must.

Our highlights

Trail Ridge Road

Ute Trail

Forest Canyon Overlook

Rock Cut Overlook

West side of the park

Grand Lake is ideally located to visit the west side of the park. This lively little town is also perfect for relaxing, strolling through the stores, cafes and restaurants, walking along the lakefront or enjoying water activities. Due to our very spontaneous planning, we unfortunately can’t find an accommodation there anymore and stay a few kilometers away, around the ski station in Granby.

On this side of the park, there’s also lots of hikes. Our attention turns to the ascent of Mount Ida. This hike gives us the opportunity to go up a 3924m summit through a trail which doesn’t have too many technical difficulties. We start at Milner Pass already at an altitude of 3279m. After a steep passage through the forest, we reach the tundra where we are welcomed by many marmots and get a first glimps of the summit. The last part of the ascent leads us through rock fields. At the top, we are rewarded with a breathtaking 360° view of a multitude of mountains over 4000m, the Grand Lake region and various alpine lakes which still haven’t been explored due to their remote location.

Our highlights

Mount Ida Hike

The Wake Coffee Shop

Gelateria Miyauchi's Snack Bar


The wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Parkfaune

In the national park, we are also amazed by the wildlife: moose, elk, deer, pikas or marmots. While we can observe most of the animals from a reasonable distance, some of them test our ability to react. A moose popped out of the forest as we pass. It is hard to say who is more surprised, the moose or us. Each party fortunately contributes, with a step backwards and by swerwing a little, to avoid an accident.

Our most beautiful hikes in detail