Cruising the beautiful scenic roads of Rocky Mountain National Park is a treat just in itself. Trail Ridge Road is a great road that provides access to all areas of the park as well as scenic vistas, the chance to see all kinds of wildlife, and high alpine pastures and peaks that are hard to reach by motorcycle or car in many other national parks. With a top elevation of 12,183 feet, it’s the highest paved through road in the United States!
Fall River Road is another great road to ride that provides access to the Fall River valley. Where the paved road ends a gravel one begins and connects back to Trail Ridge Road up in the high country. It’s a one way road up to the Alpine Visitors Center. Bear Lake Road is the third of the main paved roads in the park. We also took this beautiful scenic road that provided ever more beautiful views of the mountains and ended at Bear Lake. Bear Lake has great hiking options to mountains and waterfalls.
Like all of our national parks, Rocky Mountain National Park has some amazing hiking options. From the end of Bear Lake Road there are tons of hiking options from gentle and level strolls around Bear Lake, to challenging hikes up to several 12,000-foot peaks, alpines lakes, and glaciers! We hiked the moderate Glacier Gorge Trail up to Alberta Falls, and impressive waterfall that exudes power! The trails were busy but not so much that the crowds damped the experience. As we went higher in elevation we left many of the tourists behind.
Most everyone that comes to Rocky Mountain National Park will get a glimpse of the elk herds that roam the park. Depending on the time of year they’ll be spotted in the lower valleys (in winter) or up in the high alpine meadows along Trail Ridge Road in the summer. We saw plenty of elk during our visit, mostly up in the high country. We saw herds of over 100 animals as well as individual large males right along the roads. We also had a moose sighting along the upper Colorado River on the west side of the park along Trail Ridge Road. As with most parks, just look for the cars parked along the road and you’ll get a view of something good! Other fortunate travelers can see bear, mountain lions, Big Horn sheep, coyote, and of course the yellow-bellied marmot (yes that’s really an animal!).
4. Glaciers & Peaks
Rocky Mountain National Park has many high mountains as you might expect. At 14, 259 feet, Longs Peak is the highest mountain in the park. There are many other 12 and 13 thousand foot peaks for those with enough conditioning and determination to attempt their summits. For those of us that love to dream about it, the park provides outstanding views of many of the peaks from the plethora of trails and even some of the roads that abound inside the park. Do you really want to see the small glaciers near the peaks (there are a few including Mills, Tyndall, and Taylor Glaciers)? You’ll need to strap on the hiking boots to get a glimpse of those all-but-disappeared arctic wonders.
Many of us think that mountains are all rocks, trees, and snow. It doesn’t take long inside Rocky Mountain National Park to realize this isn’t the case here. We saw some amazing flowers just right along side the roads as well as along the trails in the Bear Lake region. From tall lavish plants with hundreds of colorful blooms, to small ground hugging ones that had flowers barely larger than a pin head, there’s something beautiful for everyone to appreciate when it comes to flowers in the park.