Rocky Mountain National Park – 10/21/16

The Beaver Meadows entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, west of Estes Park,  is just a 40-minute gorgeous drive from Boulder, CO, so no excuses! First stop is the visitor center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, notable for its distinctive lines and natural local materials.

Frank Lloyd Wright's visitor center

Frank Lloyd Wright’s visitor center

We were hoping to get up to the tundra, but they told us the Trail Ridge Road was closed beyond Rainbow Curve due to snowy conditions – to be expected in late October. Oh well, we’ll drive as far as we can.

Trail Ridge Road is the highest-elevation continuous road in the US, at over 11,000′ for over 8 miles, and topping out at 12,813′. Lots of scary edge-of-the-world switchbacks, and breathtaking views.

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We reached Rainbow Curve, and the gate was open!!! A plow had just come down, clearing the road, and cars were heading up into the alpine tundra. Up we go!

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edge of the world

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Tall stakes mark the road for plowing – snow must get pretty deep here!

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Tundra trail – a nature walk showcasing the hardy plants – mostly lichens – and animals that can survive at 12,000′.

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mushroom rocks

mushroom rocks

Bright sun but windy and frigid.

We head down from the unexpected tundra treat. Important comfort note: even though the road was open, and there were a couple of visitor centers along Trail Ridge Road, they and their restrooms were closed.

Next stop was Hidden Valley, a lovely little spot which used to be a ski area (with open rest rooms!). It’s still the center of winter recreation, and the only place in the Park where sledding/snow-tubing is allowed – on the bottom of what used to be the bunny slope. Nice stream through the valley, and no snow down here during our visit:

Wildlife along the way:

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Next stop: Alberta Falls trail, a 1.2 mile round-trip hike – one of the most popular in the park. Double-click any photo for full size view.

Views along the way:

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Glacier Creek tumbling down as Alberta Falls:

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Pose for photos, then head back down along the icy creek.

More elk on the road out of the park, as the sun sets slowly over the Rockies:

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Dinner in Boulder at a fantastic Mexican restaurant – Rincon Del Sol. Excellent, friendly service, and one of the tastiest meals I’ve ever had.

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MOLCAJETE VEGETARIANO

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ARROZ CON CAMARONES

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good food – good company!

 

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