Bierstadt Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
After Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which figured prominently in my childhood travels, Rocky Mountain National Park is the one I’ve visited most often. New Yorkers head for Florida in the summer, right? Well, Texans head for Colorado. If you have to ask why, you haven’t lived through a Texas summer.
Just look at Bierstadt Lake. It’s utterly gorgeous, and it’s just one of many, many mountain lakes accessible on an easy hour or two hike in the park. My DH and I made an annual pilgrimage to scenic Estes Park and the Front Range of the Rockies for several years starting when our young children were old enough to hike. We’ve missed the last few years but look forward to returning again soon.
Like Texas, Colorado is renowned for its wildflowers.
We saw these in early summer one year.
Well-maintained trails lead you to sights like…
…thundering Alberta Falls…
…and mountains capped with snow even in summer.
I’m blissed out by mountain views.
If you’re lucky you’ll see some interesting wildlife. This golden-mantled ground squirrel placidly agreed to share a rock resting spot with us on a hike to Bear Lake.
Another time we spotted bighorn sheep grazing alongside the road.
And elk, though commonplace, will stop traffic while drivers scramble to get a picture.
One one hike, the kids and I made the somewhat traumatic discovery that cute little ground squirrels like this one—in fact, this very one—are lethal hunters. We’d stopped trailside to watch a pair of bunnies with their mother. The mother rabbit hopped into the underbrush, one bunny followed her, and suddenly this harmless seeming ground squirrel spotted and jumped the second bunny.
Our own surprised squeals echoed the bunny’s last, and I managed to get a rather shaky picture of the ground squirrel carrying off the body. Who knew they were carnivorous? Apparently it’s a squirrel-eat-rabbit world out there.
Bear Lake was always one of our favorite hikes with the kids. It is an easy trail for young children—parts of it are even stroller accessible—and just look at the payoff.
I could sit on this Zen-like bench and gaze at the view all day.
Another look at Bear Lake
The most scenic hikes always seem to include water: waterfalls, lakes, mountain pools, or rivers. One year we hiked Fern Lake Trail, which follows the Big Thompson River through a spruce and fir forest.
Children are fascinated by water, and tumbling mountain streams are endlessly watchable.
And rocks are endlessly climbable. Sometimes we could hardly get any hiking done for all the rock-climbing distractions.
Moraine Park, a beautiful, glacier-carved valley, greets you when you enter Rocky Mountain NP from Estes Park. The Big Thompson River flows here too, and we often saw fly fishermen casting their lines. What a gorgeous place it is.
We always take a trail ride when we’re there. Happy trails, Rocky Mountain, until we meet again.
This post is part of a week-long bloggers’ celebration of the National Parks. Please join in with a post about any park you’ve visited and leave your link here.
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