Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Rocky Mountain National Park and Boulder, Colorado

Lets Talk Road Trips!!!!
Salt Lake City to Colorado

Friday evening after work, we headed to Laramie, Wyoming.  This was about 5.5 hours from Salt Lake City and got us a head start on our way to Rocky Mountain National Park.  The drive was targeted to be about 7.5 hours and stopping in Wyoming was the perfect solution to a late start on Friday, and a budget friendly place to spend the night and break up the drive.  After breakfast, we packed up and made the two hours drive to Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Leaving Wyoming, heading south to Colorado

As usual, the drive promised to be as beautiful as the destination.  The drive into Rocky Mountain National Park from Wyoming was gorgeous (and rainy). We drove down 287 and across 34.  Road trips are all about the scenic routes, right?

Route 34, Estes Park, Colorado 

I insisted on my National Park Sign photo, and love that the National Parks provide a little mount for cameras to take timer pictures.  National Parks get me.  I have a goal to see as many of the National Parks as I can.  I was also excited to see that this was the 100th year anniversary of the National Park and read up on some of its history.  Colorado citizens pushed to declare the area as a National Park to protect the land and in 1915, they succeeded.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Admission into the park isn't cheap.  It is about $20 a car to enter the park (I believe all National Parks have this same fee).  Because Utah has 5 National Parks, and I know I have to see them all, we bought an Annual Park Pass, admission into all of the National Parks and Monuments for $80.  It is called the "America the Beautiful" - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass and can be used at any federal recreation site.  
$80 for all or $20 for one park. 

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
We entered from the eastern edge, along the Estes Park section from the Falls River Visitor Center and Entrance.  I can't even begin to tell you how beautiful the drive in is, following the Falls River all the way in. 

Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
It didn't take long to spot our first set of critters in the park.  We came across this large herd of elk grazing in a meadow by Sheeps Lake.  Didn't see any sheep but the elk were stunning. 

Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Don't worry, the photo below was with my zoom lens and I am A-Okay with giving wild critters tons of space.  They were beautiful to see with the mountains and clouds in the background.  After hearing another article about an unfortunate tourists getting too close to a bison in Yellowstone National Park, I was happy keeping my distance.

All of the elk had very small antlers.  I did a little reading and found out that elk shed their antlers every year.  This must be the seasonal spring look for males in the park. 

Fun fact:  "During December, the antlers of mule and white-tail deer, moose and stag caribou fall to the ground, making it common to see animals with just a single antler. Elk retain their antlers throughout the winter, only shedding them with the onset of spring. The antlers don't stay on the ground for long because the local rodent population makes short work of this high quality source of calcium." -- Source

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado 
After stopping to take a few pictures, we continued on to find a scenic drive in the park we could meander through.  We spotted this beautiful river curving its way through the park.  I love stopping to read all the signage in the park (National Parks do an amazing job!) to learn how the rivers carve out on the larger curve of the bend, and collect sediment on the inside of the bend, really noticeable when watching the winding rivers in the park. 
I did some research and read about a famous scenic road we should wander through.  Entering a National Park with a dog leaves you with a few options.  Basically, your dog can only go where your tires can go.  Because of this rule, and the rainy weather, we decided a drive around the park was our best option.  Trail Ridge Road (US 34) is the famous drive through Rocky Mountain National Park.  This "Highway to the sky" covers 48 miles from Estes Park (East side of the park) to Grand Lake (West side of the park).  It reaches an elevation of 12,183' making it the highest continued paived road in the United States.  This beautiful scenic drive is one of ten America's Byways in Colorado and a national designated All American Road. -- NPS.Gov

Because of all of the precipitation and cold weathers, Trail Ridge Road was not fully open.  While the road usually opens up fully for memorial day weekend, there was too much snow to open up quite yet (call the park before you go if you are traveling in the spring or fall).  You could drive the road up to a certain point (Rainbow Curve).    When we got to this point, a park ranger warned us to stay in our cars due to the extreme risk of lightning at this elevation.   

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado 

Once the nasty weather rolled in, we said goodbye to this beautiful park and headed south to Boulder.  We decided to follow Route 7 by Mary's Lake, which would allow us to follow the eastern edge of the park.  The drive out of the park was just as beautiful as the drive into and through the park.  


We passed by Mary's Lake, and Lilly's Lake, adorable little spots to picnic and spend a sunny afternoon.  However, it was snowy, not sunny, so we drove south which hopes of beating the storm. 

Chapel on the Rock, Allenspark, Colorado

When we came across this beautiful abandoned church, we just had to stop and take in the beauty and serenity of this spot.  Known as "Chapel on the Rock" (officially, Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel) this little church is a tourist landmark in Allenspark, Colorado, The church has been closed since November 2011 and in 1999 Boulder County designated the chapel as a historic site

Falls River, Colorado 

The river (Falls River) flowing along route 7 on our way down was also another gem.  Dozens of fly fishermen stood in waders in the water, taking advantage of small patches of sunshine between the rain storms.  Little cottages, vacation homes and rentals also dotted the way along the river. 

Eventually, we reached Boulder, Colorado.  We parked the car and headed to Central Park in downtown Boulder to see what the town was like and stretch our legs.  We were surprised to see the entire park taken over by an event.  

Boulder, Colorado

We had just wandered into the Bolder Creek Festival.  Food vendors, art shows, booths, crafts, entertainment, dancing and music, this was a huge event that spanned throughout the park.  Naturally, we grabbed a local beer and pretended this was all a part of our plan.  A beer in hand and some new cheap white sunglasses won at a booth and we were ready to take on the day. 

Newton Store, Boulder, Colorado

After wandering around the festival, we decided to keep walking around the downtown area to get a sense of the town.  I was so excited when I saw (and remembered) that Newton is based out of Boulder.  I was so happy to walk around the store and be surrounded by neon and runners who loved the shoe as much as I do.  My tight budget meant I walked out empty handed, but it was still fun to see the store and headquarters of my favorite shoe.  

Overall, Boulder has a very laid back and artsy vibe.  The brick streets and quaint shops were charming, and filled with people milling around and street entertainers being.... entertaining I suppose.  I can see why people find this city charming and unique.  I got a good chuckle when I friend told me citizens of Boulder do not "own" animals but are more their "guardians".  Not an owner of that animal, but their guardian, a little bit of PETA action for you.  A little weird, a lot of silly.  Thank you Boulder for the laugh and for housing my favorite collection of neon kicks. 

Next stop, Denver. 


  1. I just love Colorado! Such a beautiful state!

    xo, mikéla /

    1. I am LOVING exploring the West! Colorado is beautiful with its crazy mountains and whacky weather! I loved it! Thanks for stopping by!



Let's Chat!