No, we weren’t in heaven, but it certainly felt that way. I’ve been to Rocky Mountain National Park before on two occasions, but I’d never had the opportunity to spend more than a day in its embrace. For a million and three reasons it was my absolute favorite place we’ve visited thus far on this trip, and definitely in the top five of places I’ve ever visited. Everything, from the wildlife to the heart-swelling views to the camping to the hiking to the peacefulness, contributed to me declaring that I was ready to stay forever.
We chose to arrive on a weekday, knowing that the campgrounds fill up quickly on the weekends. We were lucky enough to secure a home for three nights in the beautiful Moraine Park Campground near the east entrance to the park. As we began the process of choosing a campsite, Alan asked whether I’d prefer to be closer to other campers or further away. Hahahaha! We laughed about that question during the rest of our stay. While the campground may not fill up before noon on weekdays, it does fill up! But, the sites are well situated so that you’re not on top of your neighbors and there are plenty of places to amble off to explore right from your site.
On our first full day in the park, we spent the morning hiking up to Gem Lake, a great spot for a picnic. The hike itself provided fantastic panoramic views of Estes Park and the surrounding area, but Gem Lake was definitely the highlight. The hike was about 3 1/2 miles round trip, with about a 1,000 foot elevation gain on the way up. A pretty short hike by our normal standards, but with a two-year old (who spent most of the time riding on dad’s back), this was a great length. Once we returned to the car, Van quickly fell asleep and we decided to drive up towards (and past) the Continental Divide to see some of the towering views the park has to offer. We made a decision to return the next day when Van was awake so that we could leave the car behind and do more exploring.
Before heading back to our site, we headed to one of the trails where Alan and I had previously hiked so we could take Van on a walk before dinner. He was getting pretty feisty around water, so we decided to turn around. That turned out to be a pretty great idea because we would have missed this…
After a great second night in the park, we headed back up to some of the higher elevations in the park so we could do some exploring while Van was awake. The views were amazing. I simply don’t have the words to describe them. This is definitely a place that everyone should come and explore if they have the ability and opportunity to travel to Colorado. I have vowed to make regular camping trips up to the park when we visit our family in the Denver area.
In addition to the bighorn sheep (one example in a photo above), countless elk, and Van’s Buddy the Bison (photo below), we were also lucky enough to cross paths with three moose. Alan served as photographer extraordinaire while I tried to keep Van from making too much noise that might spook the moose. This proved to be much more difficult than expected as Van just wanted to keep shouting MOOSE loudly and repeatedly in their direction.
The only downside to our visit to Rocky Mountain National Park was that we had to leave. But, now I can just get excited about our next trip to this little slice of heaven.