Rocky Mountain National Park reminded me of my home state of Washington. Mountains and all the things that come along with them (trees, lakes, whatnot) match the landscapes of the Cascades – an offshoot, so to speak, of the Rockies, and a 45 minutes drive from where I grew up.
During summer, visitors drive Rocky Mountain National Park’s Trail Ridge Road, the main route traversing the mountains between Estes Park and Grand Lake, two small towns serving as eastern and western portals.
I entered from Estes Park; the visitor center staff warned me to get on the road early to avoid the sudden afternoon storms that frequent the park. That’s another similarity to Washington: batshit crazy weather.
With my passenger seat bedecked in Costco’s snack section, I hit the road. First stop: Many Parks Curve, where everyone pulls over to photograph more than a dozen major peaks and mountains visible from this point. Many of these peaks reach nearly 14,000 ft in elevation (of note: mountains that rise higher than this are famously called Colorado’s “Fourteeners”).
Driving upward and onward, I was in the snow with little warning, seeing the Alpine Tundra with the top down and in a pink sports bra for some time before finally reaching for my North Face. Near Trail Ridge Road’s highest elevation, which crests to just above 12,000 feet, visitors pass the Lava Cliffs, an ancient lava flow still partially hidden during late spring.
Coming down the mountains, I stopped to photograph the colorful Poudre Lake, considered a “dead” lake as fish can’t survive in its freezing temperatures through winter. Poudre Lake is a main source of the similarly named Cache la Poudre (“Hide the Powder”) River, named by French folk if you can’t tell.
Just steps east of Poudre Lake was the second Continental Divide sign I’d passed during my trip. I’d taken really bad selfies a week earlier at New Mexico’s Continental Divide sign, so I needed to make up for that blunder. I stood and waited for another person to pass through. A random guy offered his expertise, and when he said, “Hold on, let me take one this way too” and flipped the camera both vertically and horizontally I knew I had a winner on my hands.
The rest of the park was a lot of this goodness:
Learn more about Rocky Mountain National Park here.