Rocky Mountain National Park (NP #19), Colorado (State #35)

Forgive me for skipping ahead a little, but Rocky Mountain National Park scooped a hearty double fudge sundae out of my chest and plopped it on the paper in front of me. 

It was light out soon after 5am, and I entered Rocky Mountain National Park (map / wiki) from Estes Park around 6am.


Fall River through Horseshoe Park – white washed in morning light.


The morning was quiet without wind and still except for the down-pasture tumble of Fall River. I interrupted breakfast for a few Elk while driving through Horseshoe Park.


The elk have a funny stiff posture, and when I had their attention they would arch their necks back and look down their nose at me with side mounted eyes. Their eyeballs are dark orbs which made it tough to track exactly what they were looking at. These orbs sit half outside their shallow sockets, which adds a skittish quality to the elks appearance, and judging from the angle of their cocked head, it feels like they’re looking about three feet above me. Combine that with the cyclic chewing motion of their lower jaw, which I would relate to the connecting rod between two wheels on a old locomotive, and they end up looking outright absurd.


After about 3 seconds of interest, they would decide I was mostly harmless and continue eating.


The valley road etched upward into the mountainside and began its climb through high tundra. This is where the steadfast rocky mountains reside.


Expansive is the word I’m looking for. The Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuously paved road in the United States. It follows the mountain ridge line called Trail Ridge and cuts back and forth across the historic Ute Trail which had allowed natives to live in the west and hunt in the east.




From my drivers seat there are four primary windows to the scenery and for practical purposes, eight unique views total. The other four being the left and right side view mirrors and the two rear righthand windows. The drive made it difficult to keep track of which window I should be looking at. My windshield was not used to the competition.


I pulled off the road frequently, and I frantically (later methodically) scanned the rocks with my binoculars for big horn sheep, looking for motion or any groups of horizontal silhouettes outlined on snow drifts. No luck.


There were however plenty of these guys


Camouflaged marmot.


Marmots are tough to see if they’re not moving, but they give away their position by squeaking at each other. They are about as long as my forearm with a head slightly bigger than my fist.


I came back down the Trail Ridge Road and settled in Moraine Park to decompress from the morning.


Facing east, into Spruce Canyon.


This park deserves more time. I have to go back at some point and hike a significant length of Ute Trail. It’s been added to my short list of Must Revisit.

6 Comments on “Rocky Mountain National Park (NP #19), Colorado (State #35)

  1. Some things are cool. And so are some people. Jay is the best. While stranded on the side of the road Jay came to my rescue and helped change a flat tire. Thank you so much Jay it is so reassuring to know there are still some Good Samaritans out there. Best of luck on the rest of your trip.

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