Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
As I wind through mountain roads and hike up to alpine lakes on summer weekends, I’ve had John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” song stuck in my head. Cheesy I know, but the song makes so much sense now that I’ve had the chance to experience Colorado’s high peaks and mountain streams first-hand. It seems I’m undoubtedly high on this Colorado summer (and it’s not because of the weed). The Rockies are so vibrant with life and offer an incredible, wild playground for outdoor enthusiasts.
My Dad came to visit in the middle of June and we camped at Moraine Park Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park, which is set in a valley that was once a golf resort. The day we got there, we set out for a hike on the Lake Loch trail off of the popular Bear Lake trailhead. It took us past Alberta Falls, a mountain creek, and several Aspen trees before reaching the lake. The lake was stunning. It was surrounded by Pine trees and had such a clear, fresh color. Not to mention, the mountain backdrop with snow on its peak. Even in June, we had to walk across snow to get to the view. One hour you’re in 95 degree weather in Denver, and the next you could be walking across snow in the Rocky Mountains… I’ve fallen in love with that diversity.
After spending some time admiring the fresh, alpine lake and dipping our feet in just to see how cold it was (insanely cold btw), we headed back down the trail to camp. That night we made some chili cheese dogs over the fire and drank some cold Coors beer. Overnight we got some rain and strong winds but managed to keep the tent up with our hands – you never know what weather is going to come at you on the mountain.
The next day Dad and I drove on Trail Ridge Rd., the highest continuous paved road in North America, on our way out of the national park. Most of the drive we were on the edge of a cliff next to some of the Rockies’ highest mountains, and even drove across the tundra. I was in awe that we were still in Colorado and not somewhere like Switzerland or Alaska as the road offered some of the most spectacular mountain views I’ve ever seen. While we were wearing short sleeves down at camp, that drive called for our thickest sweater since the temperature dropped about 20 degrees on the way up.
Dad and I had so much fun exploring Rocky Mountain National Park that I headed back a week later to do a much harder hike called Chasm Lake trail with James and some friends. We had a chill night camping the night before just outside the park and then hit the trail by 7am the next day. With an elevation gain of over 2,000 ft., the trail makes you work for the views for sure. On the way up we passed a couple gorgeous waterfalls surrounded by green moss and green Pine trees and then once we passed the tree line, we climbed a bunch of steps through the tundra to get to Chasm Lake. While walking across the tundra on the edge of a mountain, we frolicked with marmots and witnessed some gnarly waterfalls, lagoons and views.
When we reached the lake, we immediately sat down to eat lunch and admire the bare, yet striking body of water we worked so hard to get to. For a while we climbed around on the rocks and took pictures of the view before us. It was so nice to chill in such a lovely, remote spot high up above civilization. The weather was also perfect (but hot) as there wasn’t a cloud in sight.
On our way back down, we ventured off the trail to a snow-packed area that looked like the perfect slide. Turns out it was. Five out of the six of us ended up climbing up a series of rocks and slid down together. It was so much fun that we climbed up the rocks again to slide down a second time. Talk about a playground for adults….
Driving along winding roads, camping amongst Aspen and Pine trees, walking across snow to alpine lakes, and frolicking past waterfalls and mountain meadows, has me hooked on the Rocky Mountains. Only an hour and a half away from my house, I can be in a peaceful mountain paradise full of adventure, and I am so very thankful for that. Thank you John Denver for putting that feeling into words….
“It’s Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
Friends around the campfire and everybody’s high
Rocky mountain high” -John Denver