Skip to main content

Wyoming Road Trip - Day 4: Rocky Mountain National Park


Now settled in Cheyenne, it was time to do a series of day trips to explore various National Parks.  First up, Rocky Mountain National Park.

Route: I-25 to US 34 and US 36 into the Park (pretty much the same way back)

Photo Set on Flickr: Rocky Mountain National Park


The best way I can describe Rocky Mountain National Park is that the park is like one large Bob Ross painting come to life. Or that it is endless Bob Ross paintings come to life.  That's how much I enjoyed it.  This blog entry is not much about the travel getting there; but about the park itself and the hikes that I did. 

Going to RNMP in early November has both good points and bad points.  First, it is not nearly as crowded, and you do not need to make park entry reservations.  Also, if you are fortunate to go on a mild day, it can be very comfortable.  Unfortunately, in November, many amenities are closed including Trail Ridge Road.  I wasn't as worried about Trail Ridge Road as I wanted to take some time hiking.

The plan was to hike from Bear Lake to Emerald Lake - about four miles out and back.  To do this, we entered the park at the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station and then followed Bear Lake Road to its end at the Bear Lake Trailhead.  The drive along Bear Lake Road was very scenic and could easily be a blog entry on its own.

Bear Lake Road - Rocky Mountain National Park





Emerald Lake Hike:

The Bear Lake trailhead parking lot wasn't too crowded when we got there.  Bear Lake is immediately behind the trailhead to your right.  For this hike - we'll check out four alpine lakes.  (Bear, Nymph, Dream, and Emerald.)

Bear Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park

The view of Longs Peak from the North Shore of Bear Lake is shown on the reverse side of the Colorado state quarter.  I didn't capture my own photo from here.  But there are so many great views around the lake that missing that opportunity did not matter.  Throughout this hike, I was mesmerized by the 12,713' high Hallet Peak that constantly rose in front of me.



After taking photos at Bear Lake, I began the hike towards Emerald Lake.  It's nearly two miles to Emerald Lake, and there's about a 700' elevation gain overall.  It is about 0.7 miles from Bear Lake to the next lake - Nymph Lake.  This hike has a steady elevation gain - and when you are an East Coaster like me - the altitude - around 9600' or so at this point - can get to you.

Nymph Lake

Hallett Peak (12,713') from Nymph Lake

It is here at Nymph Lake - where I took some time to sit and rest - that the lure of this hike began.  At every lake, I was drawn into the surroundings and its beauty even more.  Just when I thought I had seen some of the best scenery of my life - there was more.  It keeps you going.  And on a nice day - it was sunny and at this elevation a brisk 38-45 degrees or so - you couldn't help but want to go further and see more.


A nearly frozen over Nymph Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park

Nymph Lake was also where the transition of the lakes from unfrozen to frozen began.  Bear Lake had very little, if any, ice.  In contrast, Nymph Lake had started to freeze over for the winter.  All four lakes are fed by the melting of the Tyndall Glacier that sits between Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain.




The hike between Nymph and Dream Lakes offers great views, and the snowy surroundings make for a great backdrop.  Along the hike, I ran into a trio of local retired ladies that hike this route often this time of year as they can enjoy it with fewer crowds.  I also ran into a couple from Raleigh who were vacationing at RMNP after time in California.  Both groups were very friendly, and in the case of the retired trio, were very helpful in pointers to navigate around some of the trickier icy spots ahead.


Dream Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park


The beauty of Dream Lake, frozen over with snow-covered surroundings, fits its name.  The views are truly amazing and breathtaking.  I could have stopped the hike here and been more than happy.  The trail goes along the east side of the lake; Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain are majestic in this surrounding.

Trekking towards Emerald Lake with Hallett Peak in the background.

As I continued towards Emerald Lake, the altitude wasn't a problem. It was more how much time do I take on this hike to take photos; versus how much of this hike do I soak in.  By this time, the elevation was now over 10,000 feet.  Plus, the conditions were a little more treacherous.  There were a few iced over inclines that were difficult to navigate.  I didn't think of including or later purchasing chains/spikes to go over my hiking shoes.  The elderly trio suggested that on the return hike - that I slide down the icy slope on my rear.  So on the return, that's what I did.

Hallett Peak and the Flattop Mountains at Emerald Lake.



But back to Emerald Lake. Fortunately, there wasn't much of any crowd. It was myself and the group of new friends I made on the way.  Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain, which dominated the backdrop of the entire hike, were pretty much in front of me.  Again, this lake topped the views of the others.  Reaching the final destination was calming - the chance to reflect on the beauty that was right in front of me and what I saw on the trek to Emerald Lake was relaxing and invigorating.  

Of note, as I was preparing to head back, a few 20-somethings showed up.  They had their Go Pro's and talked about their Instagram feeds.  Later, while hiking back, I couldn't help but be amused by another 20-something videoing her hike on her phone as John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" played.  I then looked down at her shoes - they were sneakers with no traction.  She most likely hit a "Rocky Mountain Bottom" when she got there.

I'm also glad that the plan to get to the trailhead early worked.  The hike back had a lot more people hiking towards Emerald Lake.  

This hike made me completely fall in love with Rocky Mountain National Park.  If I had more time, I would have done a few more hikes from the trailhead to Alberta Falls or Haiyaha.  But that'll be for another time, one that I hope I will be able to enjoy with my wife and two sons.

The enjoyment of RMNP didn't end there.  I met back up with Joe at the trailhead parking lot, and we explored more of the park via car and overlooks.




Longs Peak towers over the valley below.

US 34 East as you head out of the park.

Though I only got to spend one day at Rocky Mountain National Park, I am so glad that I got to experience just a tiny slice of it.  It is an amazing place and one I definitely will get back to.

Further Reading:

2021 Wyoming Road Trip Site Navigation:

Also at Gribblenation:

Photos without watermark - taken with post author's cell phone.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Old NY 10 and Goodman Mountain in the Adirondacks

  Old highway alignments come in all shapes and sizes, as well as taking some different forms after their lifespan of serving cars and trucks has ended. In the case of an old alignment of what was NY 10 south of Tupper Lake, New York, part of the old road was turned into part of a hiking trail to go up Goodman Mountain. At one time, the road passed by Goodman Mountain to the east, or Litchfield Mountain as it was known at the time. As the years passed, sometime around 1960, the part of NY 10 north of Speculator became part of NY 30, and remains that way today from Speculator, past Indian Lake and Tupper Lake and up to the Canadian Border. At one time, the highway was realigned to pass the Goodman Mountain to the west, leaving this stretch of road to be mostly forgotten and to be reclaimed by nature. During the summer of 2014, a 1.6 mile long hiking trail was approved the Adirondack Park Agency to be constructed to the summit of the 2,176 foot high Goodman Mountain. For the first 0.9 mi

Ghost Town Tuesday; Vineland, Florida; the town killed by Disney

Vineland is a small ghost town located in southwest Orange County, Florida near the junction of Florida State Road 535 and Interstate 4.  Vineland is somewhat unique due to it largely being squeezed out of existence by Lake Buena Vista which is the company town where Disney World is located. Vineland was founded in the late 1800s as Englewood.  The town name of Englewood changed to Orange Center in 1911 before finally assuming the name Vineland in 1924.  Much like the rest of Orange County the community of Vineland was centered around Citrus Grove.  In the case of Vineland said orange groves were centered around Ruby Lake. The end of Vineland came as the Disney Corporation began purchasing parcels of citrus grove land to build Lake Buena Vista.  Vineland fell into a sharp decline in the 1960s but the community managed to continue to exist to modern times.  Much of the street grid of Vineland still exists east of FL 535 but most of the original structures are either gone or falle

Oregon State Highway 58

  Also known as the Willamette Highway No. 18, the route of Oregon State Highway 58 (OR 58) stretches some 86 miles between US 97 north of Chemult and I-5 just outside of Eugene, Oregon. A main route between the Willamette Valley region of Oregon with Central Oregon and Crater Lake National Park, the highway follows the Middle Fork Willamette River and Salt Creek for much of its route as it makes its way to and across the Cascades, cresting at 5,138 feet above sea level at Willamette Pass. That is a gain of over 4,500 in elevation from where the highway begins at I-5. The upper reaches of OR 58 are dominated by the principal pinnacle that can sometimes be seen from the highway, Diamond Peak, and three nearby lakes, Crescent, Odell and Waldo (Oregon's second largest lake). OR 58 is chock full of rivers, creeks, mountain views, hot springs and waterfalls within a short distance from the highway. OR 58 was numbered as such by the Oregon State Highway Department in 1940. OR 58 is a del