After a short drive from our hotel near Aspen, we arrived at the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.
The views along the highway during our drive were impressive. Though shot through the windshield of the car, you can see in this picture that I-70 running eastward was at one level and running westward was at another level. At some points this height difference was as much as 100 feet. At one point, we went around a mountain, but I-70 westward, high above us, went through a tunnel.
We had actually visited this park three years ago, and we’re trying to not repeat sites until we get to all 50 states; however, Rocky Mountain was on the way home from Arches. The last time we visited we hiked sites on the eastern half of the park. This time the plan was to drive the western and northern roads, ending in Estes Park on the eastern side.
We began our visit with a short hike to Adams Falls. The picture shows the upper half of the falls as they approach the overlook. The falls then curve 90 degrees and continue to drop.
We could have continued this hike another five miles to some mountain lakes but only took it as far as this first mountain meadow. We wanted to get up into the mountains.
On the way up the mountains from the visitors center, we saw quite a bit of wildlife. Like in Yellowstone, it’s easy to determine when someone has spotted an animal, because a traffic jam forms. In this picture you can see a moose grazing in the meadow.
Moose are typically active at dawn and dusk and tend to stay in tall foliage. The other moose we saw on this trip were standing in tall grass and were difficult to see. This one was right out in the open.
Not far up the road from the first moose we encountered this pair by the side of the road. While they did not seem overly concerned by the cars passing them, they did keep a wary eye on us.
We took a nice short hike through another mountain meadow. There were nice descriptive signs along the marked trail that explained different aspects of what we were seeing. In this picture, Tom, Sam, and Candy are testing just how cold this mountain stream really is.
Along the road we passed this group of mountain sheep. They were actually quite some distance away, but I happened to have the long lens on the camera.
Along the drive we stopped at a number of scenic overlooks. This one, at Gore Range, is soon after we crossed the continental divide but just before we reached the highest point along the road. We had just passed a sign saying that we were two miles above sea level.
We stopped at a parking area with a trail that led to this rock formation. It was a short, but surprisingly difficult, walk at that altitude. The marked trail passed through terrain classified as arctic tundra. We saw a few large marmots running across the path during this walk.
At the top of the rocks we found this dial. The marks on the dial are used to aim your view in a particular direction and then indicate the number of miles (sometimes several hundred) to another mountain peak. We were at 12400+ feet above sea level. Note that even in late June, we could still see snow.
While we certainly weren’t at the highest mountain peak, we were at the highest easily-accessible peak. The views were terrific.