Rocky Mountain NP has a spirit unlike many other places. It holds a special place in my heart as the first wanderlust trip of this young mans life. It’s location just outside of Boulder and the Denver Metro area makes it a popular destination year round. After spending our first day lounging around Denver, we decided to pack our day bags and commence the easy 45 minute commute to Boulder. The road from Boulder towards the park inundates visitors with magical vistas of rocky gorges and mountain valleys covered in fir, pine, and oak forests. Roaring rapids parallel the highway all the way to the 160 year old resort town of Estes Park, CO. Much has changed in Estes Park in the last 10 years. The place has blown up with shopping, spas, and your ubiquitous fast food dinning options. Yet it retains that small town charm that welcomed us all those years ago.
The main entrance from here is aptly named Beaver Meadows. As we only had a day to spend here we decide to follow the crowd towards some of the more popular and scenic hikes. That lead us south towards the Glacier Basin and Sprague Lake. Conveniently located near the Glacier Basin trailhead is a park and ride that will take you as far as Bear Lake. After poking around a bit we caught the bus to Sprague Lake and embarked on a roughly 3 hour moderate roundtrip hike. Some peanut butter crackers and turkey swiss sandwiches were scarfed down lazily as we enjoyed the views. Next we hopped on the bus once more towards Bear Lake.This is probably the most crowded part of the entire park. The trails, although strenuous enough for a young athletic couple, are easy to navigate. Just play follow the leader. The trailhead takes hikers up steeply elevated paths hugging mountainside to your right and perilous fall to your left. Bear Lake is more appropriate for those without the patience or lung capacity to attempt the other hikes so just go ahead and skip it for the way down. The goal here is Emerald Lake. On your way one passes Nymph and Dream Lake for a total elevation gain of 615 feet . There were a few moments where honestly, i thought i was going to faint, vomit, or just collapse into the fetal position. My body had not gotten accustomed to the altitude, so lets just say I was on the struggle bus!
The mountain had received higher levels of snow fall than normal so the trails were absolutely invisible. We relied on other hikers footsteps and directions from fellow travelers to even navigate around. After a 2 hour trip we finally made it to Emerald Lake! It did not disappoint with its shimmering emerald green waters hugging the base of Tyndall Glacier. It was majestic. People were scattered all around having picnics on the boulders surrounding the lake and we thought, why not have another snack. We fought off mountain squirrels, birds, and marmotts from eating our bag of Frito Lay Munchies. Yum. All in all it was an eventful day. Now to hike back and catch a shuttle to our car feels like a story in of itself. A mandatory stop at the Avery and New England Breweries followed the drive back to our Denver HQ. Tomorrow we head into Wyoming, The Cowboy State!
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