Two weekends ago, I woke up at 5am, threw on some warm clothes, and drove up to Estes Park to grab some tea and head to Rocky Mountain National Park. It was the last weekend of summer, and the aspens throughout the park had already started to change color — vibrant patches of yellow were scattered through the evergreen trees across the mountainsides.
I’d been hiking in RMNP a number of times this summer, but stuck entirely to hiking trails easily accessible from the Estes Park entrance on the eastern side of the park. My plan for this golden Sunday morning in late September was to drive along the park’s famous Trail Ridge Road, which would take me west from Estes Park all the way through the park to Grand Lake along US-34.
According to the National Park Service…
Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park’s heavily traveled highway to the sky, inspired awe before the first motorist ever traveled it. “It is hard to describe what a sensation this new road is going to make,” predicted Horace Albright, director of the National Park Service, in 1931 during the road’s construction. “You will have the whole sweep of the Rockies before you in all directions.”
The distance between Estes Park and Grand Lake is just under 50 miles, but it took a little more than 2 hours to drive the entire road due to winding roads next to steep cliffs and no guard rails — my frequent stopping for roadside photo-taking slowed me down a little too.
It ended up being one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever taken — a combination of the early morning golden light, the mountains and the changing colors of the leaves. Here are the shots I snapped along the way:
Longs Peak as seen from the north. One of Colorado’s most difficult 14ers to hike. Or so I hear.
Sup. RMNP thug lyfe.
This is my “photo of a moose.” A few miles before the Grand Lake entrance/exit of the park, I noticed cars pulled over to the side of the road and a group of people gathering together, all looking at something through binoculars and camera lenses. So of course I also pulled over, walked over to these peeps, and an older gent from Iowa offered to let me look through his binoculars at the “moose” that had “just sat down” and was “mostly hidden in the tall grass except for his antlers.”
After awhile of searching through binoculars and following his directions, I found the antlers! I SAW A MOOSE. KIND OF.
The best way I can explain where he is in this photo is… look at the big evergreen tree on the left of the photo and follow the one solo branch that curves up and out in the middle of the photo. Then look directly down from there in the brush/tall grass and you just might be able to make out a darker cluster of something.. those are the antlers! Thank god for my amazing photography skills.
Have you ever driven along Trail Ridge Road?