After Denver, we drove to Boulder to visit with a couple of friends. From Boulder, we went to the Rocky Mountain National Park, entering the park near the Beaver Meadows Visitor’s Center, near the town of Estes Park. We tried to go as far as we could on the Trail Ridge Road, but since it was early May, the road was still closed at the Many Parks Curve. We turned around and started heading towards the nearest bathroom at Hidden Valley. While we were there, we ran into a nature photographer who recommended we try the Emerald Lake Trail that starts at Beaver Lake.
In the Winter Wonderland – Emerald Lake Trail
The Bear Lake area in the park was a winter wonderland, with snow and ice covering the landscape. I was in love with all the snow until we started hiking on the snow-covered path. Hiking on the snow took some time to get used to and some vigilance to avoid patches of ice. Indeed, I managed to slip more than a few times on the trail and took one bad fall. However, the views along the trail more than made up for the hazard, including the three frozen lakes (Bear, Nymph, and Dream) we passed on the way to Emerald Lake. Here’s the trail in pictures:
Icicles on the Falls – Alberta Falls
From Bear Lake, there’s a short trail (about one mile) to Alberta Falls. At a lower elevation, there was less snow on this trail, making it much faster and easier to hike. The waterfall was still half-frozen and is worth a short mention here, with a couple pictures.
Elk! Cub Lake Trail
After hiking most of the day in the winter wonderland near Bear Lake, we looked for a short (less than two miles) hike to end the day. We consulted our national park guidebook and found the Cub Lake Trail, a recommended two-mile trail. The trailhead was located at a lower elevation than Bear Lake and the surrounding area in Moraine Park (an area within the National Park) was in full spring glory. At the trailhead, we started our hiking app to track the trail distance.
A little less than a mile into the trail, we ran into a small herd of elk, with fawns and one bull elk, grazing within five feet of our trail. Not sure what to do with the bull elk near the trail, we stopped to observe the herd from a distance to see if he would charge hikers that got too close to the herd. We were standing there for fifteen minutes, searching online to see if elk typically attack hikers and calling a couple of friends for advice, when we saw other hikers coming around the corner ahead of us. They saw the elk, slowed down, and moved about twenty feet off trail, traversing a small rock face, on the opposite side of the elk. He turned his back on them, aiming his rear-end in their general direction. They made it past the elk without the elk so much blinking an eye at them, so we decided to follow their path, giving the animal plenty of space.
Sometime after the elk, we were wondering where the lake was. The trail was supposed to be two miles in and out, according to the guidebook, but we were almost at the two-mile mark. A couple of hikers were heading towards us and we asked them how much further to the lake. “At least another forty minutes,” the woman said. I was a little surprised considering we were almost at two miles, but thought since they looked older and out of shape, they may have over estimated the distance. We thanked them and continued on the trail. The trail started heading up a steep hill and after about thirty minutes, we found the lake. Turns out the couple had correctly estimated the remaining distance to the lake.
Our GPS tracker passed the three-mile mark at the lake. What we thought was going to be a quick two-mile hike turned into a six-mile hike. With the sun setting, we hurried back on the trail. The views along the trail on the way back with the sun setting were beautiful and we stopped to take a picture.
We encountered the elk again on the way back, but this time we passed them without hesitation. Like the first time, the elk turned their backs on us and I’m pretty sure I heard at least one of them fart in our general direction.
By the time we made it back, the sun had set and we were tired, but we caught a few amazing views of Moraine Park, which was the perfect ending to our day at the Rocky Mountains National Park.
You can check out the National Park Website for more information about the Rocky Mountain National Park.
You can also see more pictures from our hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park on our Colorado Adventures Photo Journal Page.