Off the Beaten Path in the Rockies
Updated: Nov 16, 2019
More to Know about Rocky Mountain National Park – Additional Trails and Tips for your Adventures
If you are searching for an amazing vacation spot where you can immerse yourself in nature, explore mountains and waterfalls, and see abundant wildlife, Rocky Mountain National Park is the place for you.
In my previous article, I outlined some of the basic guidelines, tips, and trails for your trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park. Now I would like to discuss a few more things to do in the park and some helpful ideas to help you plan your trip.
In my previous article, I suggested Bear Lake as one of the must-see trails at RMNP. The trail to Alberta Falls also starts at Bear Lake, but rather than starting on an uphill hike, you start by descending the trail. It is about a mile and a half from Bear Lake to Alberta Falls. This trail is easy to moderate in intensity. We took our time and had packed lunch, which we ended up eating at the top of the falls. I highly recommend lunch sitting on the rocks overlooking the falls. The sound of the rushing water and the amazing scenery made this a lasting memory I won’t soon forget. Just watch out for the chipmunks – they are everywhere and not afraid to sneak up on you to grab your food.
Photo: Alberta Falls
Green Mountain Trail
On the east side of the park, there are many trails to choose from. We spent the day driving Trail Ridge Road which takes you all the way around the entire park. We stopped at most of the Visitor Centers, including one on the east side called Kawanuchee Visitor Center. We spoke to a member of the park staff there about some recommended trails where we might see some wildlife. She recommended the Green Mountain trail as one of the places to spot moose. This trail is about 2 miles in and 2 miles back. It connects with several other trails in the park if you have a lot of time for exploring. We had spent most of the day driving and since we were just getting started in the afternoon, we decided to complete only the Green Mountain portion of the trail. We had our bag packed with snacks and water for the day so we were prepared to take on the trail! (For ideas on what to bring for your trip, visit my other Rocky Mountain article).
Green Mountain trail, like many trails in the park, includes a lot of uphill sections with plenty of spots to pause and catch your breath, take a photo, or just be in the moment amongst the beautiful trees and fresh mountain air. At one point, about a mile in, we spotted several mule deer just up the hill from us. We also heard what sounded like moose a little off the trail but, unfortunately, did not see any. Supposedly this area of the park is a favorite place for moose to hang out, so I would definitely suggest checking it out if you get the chance.
At the top of Green Mountain trail, there is a place called Big Meadows which is a huge open space in the middle of the mountains. We took several moments here just to look around and feel small in this vast, grand setting in the Rockies.
Photo: Big Meadows
On the way back I was focusing on putting one foot quickly and carefully in front of the other. As I began crossing a small wooden bridge I looked up and suddenly stopped in my tracks – there was a beautiful doe crossing the trail right in front of me, no more than 20 feet away. It was an amazing moment, just pausing to watch her slowly and quietly graze along the trail.
Photo: Doe on Green Mountain Trail
As you wind along the eastern side of Trail Ridge Road, you will see an area known as Milner Pass and right after, you will see signs for Lake Irene. We nearly passed this gem by as it didn’t appear to be much from the road. The Lake Irene stop has picnic tables and restrooms as well, so keep that in mind as you plan your day. We pulled our car into the parking area and set out on foot. The trail to Lake Irene is flat and easy but the peaceful atmosphere is what makes this lovely trail worthwhile. We saw tons of chipmunks, yellow-bellied marmots, and even some mule deer as we wandered the path to Lake Irene.
Once you arrive, you will see that Lake Irene is a small, serene lake surrounded by tall, beautiful trees. There is a quiet, short trail that loops all the way around the lake. Something about this still beautiful lake was so peaceful it made me want to stay there forever. Definitely worth a stop!
National Parks Pass – is it worth it?
We did not purchase a parks pass for this trip; however, I do see the advantage if you plan to do a lot of park-hopping throughout the year. It is $80 for an annual pass and grants you entrance to national parks, monuments, and historical areas across the nation.
You can also purchase a 1-Day automobile pass into Rocky Mountain National Park for $25 or a 7-Day automobile pass for $35. These can be purchased online at the park’s website and will allow you entry into the park and includes the use of the many shuttles available to take visitors to different areas of the park. I do recommend purchasing your pass ahead of time as it makes entry into the park quick and hassle-free.
Talk to the Park Staff
We were so overwhelmed with how much there is to do and see at this vast park, we just had to stop and ask questions along the way. This helped us map out our day and decide what trails we wanted to explore. We only had a couple days to see the park, but by asking questions in the park (and doing a little research ahead of time), we were able to check off a lot of great activities on the Rocky Mountains must-do list.
Lasting Memories in the Rockies
Have you visited Rocky Mountain National Park? If so, please share in the comments some of your favorite memories. Were you able to spot a moose? Did you get to see Alberta Falls or experience the chipmunks? We would love to hear about your adventures and any suggestions you have for those wishing to create their own memories in the Rockies. Bye for now and happy adventuring!
Photo: Chipmunk at top of Alberta Falls