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 Estes Park Deli or the Country Super Market, as both are open early in the day and make excellent sandwiches.

  1. From the South 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 Bear Lake 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.

  2. On your return from Bear Lake, stop at Spraque 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. At Deer 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 overlook of 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 mountain.

  1. After you cross the Fall River in Horseshoe Park take the left turn toward Endovalley and Old Fall River Road. Just past the 1-mile mark you will see the Alluvial 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.

  2. 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.
  1. If is after July 4 you should take the 10-mile one-way trip up Old Fall River Road stopping at Chasm 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.

  2. 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.

  3. When you return to Deer Ridge Junction, turn left toward Horseshoe Park and follow the road around Horseshoe Park, stopping at Sheep 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.

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