Rocky In a Day
| If you only have one day to see the Rocky, fill the tank, start
early and be prepared to frequently jump out of your vehicle. Before you enter
the Park, stop by one the excellent deli shops in Estes Park and order a picnic
lunch. Buy a bag of your favorite chips, drinks and extra water for your Rocky
day. I highly recommend the
Deli or the
Country Super Market, as both are open early in the day and
make excellent sandwiches.
- From the
Entrance to the Park, take the first left hand turn to
Bear Lake. Go
directly to Bear Lake, avoiding the temptation to stop along the way,
as you will do this on the way back. In the summer and on weekends the
parking lot is frequently filled by 9:00 am. Take the short walk (1/2 mile)
around Bear Lake. At over 9,700 feet this accessible trail is not difficult but
is the most challenging accessible trail in Rocky. If you are a photographer,
your first view of the lake will have Hallett Peak in the background and the
view from "bear paw" #11 is another of my favorite photo spots.
- On your return from Bear Lake, stop at
Lake and look for the trout in the small stream that feeds the lake. If you
are a photographer, walk counter clock-wise around to the fishing pier and
shoot backward toward the parking lot for an excellent image of Spraque Lake
and Hallett Peak.
- Also stop at the
Moraine Park Museum for the interactive exhibits and
history of the area. Across from the Museum turn off is the road into
Moraine Park. Keep
your eyes open for elk, mule deer and coyotes as you travel this short road
that ends in at the Fern Lake Trail Head. When you return to Bear Lake Road,
turn left towards the Park's entrance.
- At the intersection with US 36 turn left toward Deer Ridge
Junction. This road, up Deer Mountain, has several turn-outs with excellent
views of Upper Beaver Meadows and the Continental Divide. Mileage from the
turnoff is about 6 miles.
Ridge Junction resist the temptation to continue up Trail Ridge Road by
turning right toward Horseshoe Park. About ½ way down the road to
Horseshoe Park is an
Horseshoe Park that has an excellent views of Sheep Lakes and Sheep
Mountain. With luck you might see elk and bighorn sheep at the lake or on the
- After you cross the Fall River in
take the left turn toward Endovalley and Old Fall River Road. Just past the
1-mile mark you will see the
Fan and Fan Lake that were created by the 1982 washout of Lawn
Lake. 39 million gallons of water washed down the Roaring River creating the
alluvial fan and lake. Take the walking tour.
- Lunchtime is at the Endovalley Picnic Area. Resist selecting a
picnic area until you have reached to top of the valley and start back down
along the river. The picnic areas along the river are preferred over those on
the other side. Many small animals should entertain you while you enjoy your
lunch. Some of my best pictures of squirrels, chipmunks and birds have been
taken at this location. Please resist feeding the animals.
- If is after July 4 you should take the 10-mile one-way trip up
Old Fall River
Road stopping at
Falls and at many of the switch backs and pull offs for the views and the
animals. Your destination is the
Alpine Visitors Center on Trail Ridge Road. Return to
Estes Park on Trail Ridge
Road and stop at all turnoffs along the road, as the views, history and
geology are unmatched.
- If Old Fall River is not open, return to Trail Ridge Road at
Deer Ridge Junction. Turn right onto
Trail Ridge Road and
enjoy the ride and the views stopping frequently to enjoy the views and the
animals as you make your way toward the
Alpine Visitors Center.
- When you return to
Ridge Junction, turn left toward
Horseshoe Park and
follow the road around Horseshoe Park, stopping at
Lakes and exiting Rocky from the North Entrance. Enjoy the drive from the
North Entrance to Estes Park along Fall River keeping an eye out for elk and
bighorn sheep on the uphill side of the road.