Having lived out west for years now, we’ve gotten to know Rocky Mountain (RMNP) and Yellowstone. They are two very different parks with different landscapes and wildlife, but both are so very special. Everyone has seen recent articles of how busy the parks are, especially this past summer when so many families said they were traveling hell or high water! In 2019, approximately 4.67 MILLION people passed through the gates of RMNP to appreciate its beauty, majesty and wildlife. Currently parts of the park, especially the back country, remain closed due to the damage and instability caused by the summer’s destructive wildfires. The purpose of this blog is to share a little insight if you care to visit RMNP anytime soon.
- Go early! The earlier you’re in the park the better. There are fewer people, the animals are more active and the light is amazing. When we travel we often get into the parks before 6 am, go back to our hotel about 10 am and relax while the people file in! Then, we head back in about 4 or 5 pm when everyone else (or most people) are heading out of the park to catch dinner!
- Go off the beaten path! It doesn’t mean you have to take the worst roads but truly explore the parks in all their glory. Sure, there are the typical stops and lookouts that you’ll want to hit, especially on your first trip. But here are a couple of suggestions:
Bear Lake is a must see, but after you’ve taken in its panoramic view and walked around the lake, head to a trail called Bear Lake to Howell Park. You’ll join the rest of the summer crowd climbing a rather steep trail to the Bear Lake Trail, but instead of tuning left with the throngs, TURN RIGHT INSTEAD and head to Howell Park. It is about a 7 mile hike but the beauty is, in part, it is down hill. In the height of the summer season, we ran into one other couple and a bull elk the entire time on the trail. You’re surrounded by woods, babbling streams and exit into a beautiful meadow surrounded by peaks. It was such a pleasure! Be sure to check its availability and whether it is open to the public before heading out as there may be fire damage that restricts access.
The West Side of the Park
Many people travel through the park to the Alpine Visitors’ Center at the highest point, enjoy the view and turnaround and go back down to the heart of the park. As you’re leaving the center, you turn left to head back but TURN RIGHT INSTEAD! The west side of the park is wonderful and full of wildlife. Moose are notoriously recluse and are generally found in the marshy landscapes. The west side of the park has abundant wetlands and offers an opportunity to view moose that are elusive on the eastern park side.
However you choose to enjoy the park, whatever time of year, be sure your cameras are charged up and ready to go and enjoy the experience of photographing one of the most beautiful places in the world!
Thanks for reading! – ADG