Wyoming Wanderers: A National Park Adventure – warren.af.mil | Dauktion

I grew up in the Northeast, a region without many national parks; One of the reasons I was so excited about moving to Wyoming was the opportunity to visit the various parks in the states surrounding Wyoming. There are fourteen national parks in the states bordering Wyoming, and I’ve visited three so far: Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Rocky Mountain.

Over the Labor Day holiday weekend, a friend and I took a day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park and had a blast taking in all the wonderful views. Rocky Mountain is one of the highest parks in the national park system with 60 peaks over 12,000 feet, many reaching over 13,000 feet and one over 14,000 feet. The continental divide runs through the park, and approximately 1/3 of the park is above 11,000 feet in an alpine tundra environment.

Rocky Mountain is one of the most visited in the national park system, so reservations are required between May and October. We reserved early hoping to beat the majority of the crowds. So if you plan on visiting the park in the warmer months, I recommend getting there early in the day.

We entered the park and took the first left onto the Bear Lake area, the most popular and busiest part of the park. Luckily we got there early enough to still be able to find parking in the small lot, so the walk to the trailhead was short.

Bear Lake is a large lake at the base of a mountain trail that also includes the Bear Lake Trail. The trail is less than a mile long, offers stunning views of the countryside and the water is so clear and calm that there are beautiful reflections of the mountains too. There are several places around the trail where you can stop and sit and enjoy the view. This might be a short and easy trail, but it’s worth it I’d say!

There are a few other trailheads near the Bear Lake trailhead. We also hiked the Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lake Trail which is a little under two miles long and has three lakes along the way. Nymph Lake is the first and smallest of the three lakes but is quite pretty with the trees and reflections. Dream Lake is the second lake on the trail and is crystal clear so we can see dozens of fish swimming around. Emerald Lake is at the end of the trail and was the most beautiful of the three lakes in my opinion. The lake is at the foot of the mountains and is so clear you can see the mountains in the water. This trail was by far my favorite of the day, it wasn’t too long or difficult and the view was worth the time.

The last trail we hiked in the Bear Lake area was the Alberta Falls Trail which was about a mile and mostly one way downhill but was fairly easy. The trail had a small gorge about halfway through with water flowing through it, a couple of bridges crossing creeks and Alberta Falls at the end. The falls were only about 30 feet high but the scenery surrounding the falls was easily the best part.

After completing the hikes in the Bear Lake area, we set out for our next destination. We followed the park map to Old Fall River Road, the original road that led into the park. The road is a one-way, 11-mile dirt road full of switchbacks that lead to the top of one of the park’s taller mountains. There is a turnoff along the road for a short walk to Chasm Falls, a beautiful 25 foot waterfall. The rest of the road we drove under mountains, through forests, across the valley below, saw wildlife and even heard a moose horn. Just before we reached the summit, we set off once more to hike to the top of the mountain we had just climbed. The hike took us to the top of one of the 12,000 foot mountains and we could look down into the valleys and surrounding mountains.

Fall River Road took us straight to the Alpine Visitor Center, also known as the tallest visitor center in the national park system at 11,796 feet. At the center, I learned about the park’s wildlife, the alpine tundra environment, and the park in general. We also bought our park souvenirs here before heading out.

Our final adventure in the park was driving the Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the nation. The road is a total of 48 miles from one side of the park to the other, peaks at 12,183 feet, cuts through the tundra and above the park’s tree line and is a great spot for viewing wildlife from cars. The road has many runs for hiking, viewpoints and scenery including my favorite run to see the lava cliffs.

Rocky Mountain National Park had absolutely amazing views and some really great hikes. I would recommend everyone to go, both avid hikers and beginners as there are trails for everyone. This was my third national park and I enjoyed every minute of it. I hope if you go you have as much fun as I did!

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