With Covid affecting everything, we saw online that we had to schedule our trip to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). RMNP has timed entrance slots. We booked ours the day online access was granted. Our entrance time was 8am -10am. In hindsight, we should have picked earlier time slots. I forgot to factor in the time difference. We are early morning risers and when we awoke at 6am, we were awake in Colorado at 4am. But nonetheless, we were lucky to have the time slots.
We stayed on the west side of RMNP in Fraser, Co. And it was beautiful! Even with Covid, we were able to find grocery stores and take out restaurants (all required masks and we were ok with that). The town of Fraser is between Winter Park and Grand Lake. I would definitely stay here again. We had a camping cabin reserved at the Estes park KOA but our traveling group kept growing. So we split a condo (such a luxury) in Fraser, Co. It was our first time using Airbnb. Polly our host was so wonderful.
On our drive to Fraser, Co, we drove through Denver on 70W to Hwy 40. Unbeknownst to us, this was a stunning and jaw dropping drive. We ascended to 11,000 feet. Why do I mention this? Because elevation/altitude sickness is a real thing. And we had experienced it before and came prepared. No shame in taking a hit from the portable oxygen tank. You can find athletes using these and they are sold in stores out there. Our youngest, suffers from the altitude change. So he was puffing...and this time he didn't get a headache, dizzy or vomit. (parent win!)
Our first morning, we arrived at the west entrance to RMNP at 9am. There was no line and the touch free system worked seamlessly. We stopped at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center and talked to a masked ranger. He suggested some lower elevation hikes for us. We asked for the lower elevation to keep the acclimation to the altitude in check. He sent us to the following hikes, Holzwarth Historical Site, Colorado River Trailhead, and Coyote valley Trailhead. Each were rated easy. Holzwarth was my favorite, this short walk really, took you across the valley to the Never Summer Ranch Cabins. We were lucky enough to spot two moose. The other hikes were a nice stretch of the legs and provided some beautiful scenery. These hikes are not popular so we only encountered a few people. On our way out of the park, the ranger had told us about a hike that was worth the stop, Adams Falls.
We took the road into downtown Grand Lake. This a fun stop to walk the little town. Boardwalked lined streets for an authentic western feel. Quaint shops, ice cream, coffee, etc. Then back on the road to the trailhead for Adams falls. This was not quite as easy as the prior hikes but not hard. And Adams Falls was beautiful.
Our second day of RMNP, was our elevation day. We drove Trail Ridge Road up to the top and down to Estes Park. On the drive we spotted, marmots, pica, and herds of elk. We stopped at the Alpine Visitors Center and a few braves ones took the hike beyond this high point to the top (12,005ft). Its hard to put into words the beauty of this drive and the vast changes in climate, not to mention the pine scent that permeates the air. Dress in layers...
Once in Estes Park we followed signs for the Fall River Entrance to RMNP. Once we re-entered the park we headed for the Alluvium Fan Trailhead. We had done this hike before and wanted to share it with our friends. Once we were done with climbing the rocks we hopped on the Old Fall River Road. This dirt road is one-way and only open July - Sept. Four wheel drive is recommended. The switchbacks and narrow road is daunting to less confident driver. But those views cannot be beat!
Do we have any tips for RMNP, bring your own food. Take your time and breathe. I like to call it forest bathing...let it wrap you in its wild. Ask a ranger, they love to help. Don't be a jerk, take care of the area you use. Biggest tip...GO and enjoy this park. Wish we had the stamina to stay awake to see the park in the dark....I guess that is a reason to go back. Not that we need one...