When in Rome .....
So, of course, since we are outside of Denver, it is a must to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. I mean, come on!
It is, however, Labor Day. Perhaps not the best/easiest day to visit a National Park, let alone a really popular one.
But here we go. Rocky Mountain National Park was established in 1915. It covers 415 square miles.
Elevations range from 7,630 feet in the valleys to 14,259 feet at the top of Longs Peak (the highest point in the park).
Today, the smoke from the wildfires out west was producing a fairly thick haze over the mountains. We went up through Estes Park and saw the Stanley Hotel which was Steven King's inspiration for "The Shining". You can see it as you come down over Estes Lake. The riverwalk area in the town of Estes Park has recently been renovated right near the visitor center and there's a really cool chime where you can play music. On the mountain right above Estes Park, there is a rock formation that looks like a pair of owls.
We went up to the Fall River Visitor Center and checked out the cool displays they have of the wildlife in the park.
Then we headed down to the Bear Lake area. With in being Labor Day, there were signs saying that the parking was full, but we were able to get a space. Bear Lake is at 9,450 feet. It was formed by glacier. There is a nice, easily walkable trail that circumnavigates the whole lake. Fantastic views all the way around the lake of the mountains and forests around. The lake is crystal clear, but they do not allow fishing or swimming in it.
We came back up Bear Lake Road and checked out the moraine area. A moraine is an area of rock debris left over from a glacier. We saw a bunch of cars pulled over by the side of the road and thought there might be some wildlife out there. We were not disappointed.
We saw several herds of elk hanging out in the fields. There was on large group with a very large buck along with several females and lots of babies. We could barely see the babies because they were laying down in the grass. Great protective measure for the babies. September is the beginning of the rut season, so the bucks were on edge.
Then we saw another group with a smaller buck and a few females coming across the field from the right. The larger buck from the first group immediately started running out toward the other group. He was bugling and digging as the ground with his antlers. The bucks faced off - staring at each other - and eventually the smaller one conceded and headed off the other way. About half of his herd went with the larger buck.
Then we saw another group that came out across the field from the woods line. They steered clear of the large buck and went up toward the road on the other side. The smaller buck who faced off with the big buck eventually got some of the females from that group to go with him.
The whole thing was pretty spectacular. There were park rangers and volunteers out along the road talking to people and answering questions about the elk.
Oh how I love the National Parks.