Highway 34 Traffic Jam in the Big Thompson Canyon

NoCo Daily Photo_Rams on Highway 34Rams on Highway 34The shoulder season is still a great time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park.  Elk are abundant throughout Estes Park and the lower meadows of RMNP.  If you look closely on the drive up Highway 34 from Loveland you are bound to spot some of the bighorn sheep grazing along the side of the road…or in the middle of the highway.  This is just a typical Colorado traffic jam on Highway 34.

Another reason I love living in Northern Colorado!

 

View of Long’s Peak and Mount Meeker from Twin Sisters

 View from Twin SistersJune 15, 2015.  My brother-in-law is visiting from out of state, and he wanted to go on a “beginner” hike during his stay.  I suggested either Twin Sisters (a 7.0 mile roundtrip hike with a maximum elevation of just over 11,400 ft) or Hallett Peak (a 10.0 mile roundtrip hike with a maximum elevation of just over 12,700 ft).  He chose the shorter of the two so that he could “take it easy” and enjoy the views.

We left Fort Collins at 4:30am and drove up to the trailhead across from Lily Lake in Estes Park.  By 6:00am we were beginning up the Twin Sisters trail.  While I didn’t think much of it, my brother-in-law had not been acclimated to the elevation since he had been living in Georgia for the past several years.  What I thought was a “beginner” hike quickly turned into a “strenuous” adventure for my brother-in-law.  We stopped several times along the trail so he could catch his breath and enjoy the views.

The roundtrip hike was about 4.5 hours, but we made plenty of stops along the way and spent nearly 30 minutes taking pictures and enjoying the views from the top.  I realize it’s been a while since I blogged or posted anything, so I wanted to share just a few photos from our hike.  Going forward I’ll work to be more proactive about posting these hiking trips.

Chipmunk

Looking up toward the peaks

Looking up toward the peaks

Hiking above the clouds

Hiking above the clouds

Summit of Twin Sisters

Summit of Twin Sisters

Looking West at the Rockies

Looking West at the Rockies

View from Twin Sisters

View from Twin Sisters

Aspens and Fall Colors of Rocky Mountain National Park

Aspens2Take a drive and enjoy the Fall colors of Rocky Mountain National Park. There are several colorful aspens near the junction of Highway 36 and Bear Lake Road, and even more as you drive up Trail Ridge Road before the Hidden Valley parking lot.  If you don’t have an annual pass or would prefer not to pay the park entrance fee, you can drive up Highway 7 to the Twin Sisters trailhead and you’ll find plenty of aspen trees there.

Where’s your favorite place to take pictures in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Aspens

Hike to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake from Bear Lake Trailhead

Emerald Lake TrailBear LakeNymph LakeDream LakeEmerald LakeSpring is in the air and it’s a great time to drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park for some hiking and photography.  Despite the continuous road construction and delays on Highway 34 up the Big Thompson Canyon, the drive only took me about an hour from Loveland, CO to the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station.  It’s always nice to avoid some of the weekend traffic and venture into RMNP on a weekday.  Today was no different.

So I have several hikes to cross off of my bucket list, and I know that hiking to Emerald Lake is a short trek, but until today I still hadn’t crossed this one of my list.  From the Bear Lake Trailhead the hike to Emerald Lake is just under two miles; however, the entire trail is still covered in snow which makes for a bit more strenuous hike.  I had my trekking poles and Microspikes, which helped, but I encountered some other people with cross-country skis and snowshoes.  Either way just make sure you’re prepared with some of the basic essentials: water, warm layers, sunglasses, insulated boots, and of course, your camera.

Bear Lake is only a few steps from the trailhead.  Today it was still covered with snow and thin ice.

I continued on the trail and reached Nymph Lake, which was also covered in snow but already had tracks leading across it, so I assumed it was safe to traverse over the lake.  So on I went.

The next highlight of my hike was when I saw Dream Lake and the views of Hallett Peak and Tyndall Glacier in the distance.

And finally I reached Emerald Lake, which as you can imagine, was also covered with snow.  Across the lake I had a perfect view of Tyndall Glacier, and this made a great place for me to have lunch and enjoy the scenery.

Even with the snow-packed conditions the roundtrip only took a couple hours.  In the summer months I know my kids would have no problem hiking this trail.

Enjoy the pictures and take advantage of the park.  It’s only an hour from your NoCo backyard!

 

Winter Day Trip to Rocky Mountain National Park

 

RMNPPhoto taken with a GoPro Hero3 on February 27, 2014.  It was a quiet day up at Rocky Mountain National Park.  Plenty of elk, plenty of clouds, and the perfect place to escape my day-to-day real estate world.  If you haven’t taken a drive through the park this year (2014), do yourself a favor and make the trip now.  The ranger at the park entrance said that there haven’t been many visitors this winter, especially during the weekdays.  So if you have a few hours to rejuvenate and breathe some fresh Colorado air, it’s the perfect time for a quick getaway.

Here is a quick video of a herd of elk near the south entrance to the park:

 

 

 

Map of Fossil Creek Reservoir in Fort Collins, CO

Fossil Creek ReservoirHave you been to Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space in southeast Fort Collins?  The 843 acres of natural area provide Fort Collins locals with a great place to take a stroll, bird watch, photograph wildlife, and enjoy the beautiful Colorado outdoors.  Trails are open daily from dawn to dusk.  Recreational off-road vehicles, dogs, horses, and bikes are not allowed due to conservation efforts to maintain the natural habitat.

Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space is located off of Highway 392.  From I-25 head west on Highway 392 (Carpenter Road).  The entrance is located on the north side of the highway before you reach Timberline Road.

 

 

Here is a map of Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space courtesy of the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas.

Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space

5 Tips for Hiking to Chasm Lake

Chasm LakeWinter is almost here and snow is on the way!  So yesterday my brother and I decided to hike to Chasm Lake from the Long’s Peak Trailhead.  We left Fort Collins around 5:45am, drove down I-25 to Highway 66 toward Lyons, and took Highway 36 up to Estes Park.  Not to side track, but if you haven’t driven up Highway 36 since it’s been opened after the flash floods in September, then be prepared.  The amount of destruction and loss caused by the floods is really overwhelming, and there’s still so much to rebuild.

We arrived at the Long’s Peak Trailhead off of Highway 7 at about 7:00am, but in my early morning rush to leave the house with all my hiking gear, I had forgotten one important piece of clothing…my jacket!  So instead of getting an early start, we went to grab a “second breakfast” and waited until the Estes Park Mountain Shop opened at 8:00am.  They had a huge selection of jackets and other outdoor gear, and their staff was so helpful.  Mission accomplished, so it was time to head back to the trail.

Now this leads me to my important tips for hiking to Chasm Lake this time of year (late November):

1.  Gear up!  If you have ever hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park then you know the weather can change very quickly and you should be prepared for changing temperatures and trail conditions.  Not only should you dress in layers, but you should bring the essentials like a jacket, beanie, gloves, and insulated hiking boots.  I also recommend trekking poles and MICROspikes® because much of the trail is snow-covered this time of year.

2.  Get hydrated!  The trailhead starts at an elevation of 9,405′ and Chasm Lake sits at approximately 11,803′, so you will gain a couple thousand feet in elevation during this 8.4 mile round-trip hike.  So yes, plenty of water is essential!  And if you’re over 21, don’t drink too much the night before (wink, wink). 

3.  Go early!  Plan to be at the trailhead no later than 7:00am.  The parking lot is generally not full this time of year (compared to the summer months), so you should have no problem finding parking.  The reason you want to get an early start is because the weather can change very quickly, and afternoon storms are very common, so it’s best to be finished with your hike by noon or so.  Also, Chasm Lake sits at the base of Long’s Peak, and when the afternoon sun sets below the summit of Mount Meeker, Chasm Lake lies in the shadows, which means the temperature drops dramatically!

4.  Grab a camera!  The hike to Chasm Lake is beautiful no matter what time of year you go.  Take plenty of pictures along the way.

5.  Gripe later!  As with any moderate or strenuous hike, your adventure can by physically demanding.  Your muscles might cramp, your head might ache, and your motivation might dwindle away.  I would never suggest you put yourself in danger.  I am simply suggesting you push yourself to the destination if you can and stay positive about the entire experience.

On that note, happy hiking and be safe!

Beautiful Views from Horsetooth Mountain in Fort Collins, CO

Horsetooth RockI posted this picture to my Facebook page and several friends commented on how it reminded them of the movie Rocky.  Seems appropriate.  After all, from the top of Horsetooth Rock in Fort Collins you do have a spectacular view of the Rocky Mountains!

It’s going to be another beautiful weekend in Fort Collins.  Weather forecast shows that temperatures will be in the 60’s.  So if you haven’t planned anything yet, get outdoors and enjoy your Northern Colorado lifestyle!