I’ve lived in Colorado for 14 years and this was my first trip over Trail Ridge Road. It wasn’t for lack of trying. We’d twice planned to drive the road on my birthday, only to be thwarted by snow closures. It turns out the famous road tends to close for the season either on my birthday, October 10, or a day before.
Thankfully, we were invited to a wedding in Grand Lake over the 4th of July weekend, so we had a wonderful excuse to travel Trail Ridge Road.
We got to Rocky Mountain National Park ahead of the crowds and just a few miles into the park I was frantically asking Ryan to pull over so I could photograph wildflowers. There were flowers everywhere. Yellow, white, blue. I was in heaven.
As we began to climb, the traffic thickened a bit. We stopped occasionally at lookouts to take photos and wander with the rest of the masses to ooh and aww over the scenery.
We were nearing the big visitors’ center at the top of Trail Ridge Road when we spotted some movement in the snowline above us. Yes, there are still big piles of snow hanging around 10,000 feet. It was a huge bull elk.
I missed getting a good photo of him, but it didn’t matter. About 100 meters down the road we found a parking lot and pulled in. After an oxygen-sucking hike through thousands of little wildflowers, we were rewarded by three huge elk bulls taking a nap in the sunshine.
We drove on.
I spotted a moose heading into the trees as we neared Grand Lake that afternoon, but he was hidden before I could get a good shot.
We spent one night at Grand Lake Lodge and headed back the next morning. We left early because we were hoping to see a moose or two, and they like to hang out on the Grand Lake side of the park. Mornings and evenings seem to be the best time to view wildlife in the park, except for elk, you can see them at just about any time of day.
Our earliness paid off and before long we spotted several vehicles, including a park ranger truck, pulled off on the side of the road and people were pointing excitedly into the trees below. There in green weeds were three yearling moose.
In my opinion, moose are kind of weird-looking. They look like a horse and a cow had a baby. I’m always happy to see one, however, and seeing three was a real treat. My only other Colorado moose experiences have been in the Comanche Wilderness area, near Long Draw Reservoir, which borders the northwest end of Rocky Mountain National Park.
We decided to stop and do a hike on the Ute Trail. Hiking is a great way to avoid the crowds at Rocky Mountain National Park during a peak weekend. The wildflowers were spectacular and this is an ideal time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park if you want to see a variety of species. We also saw butterflies and a couple of crows, but unfortunately no other wildlife on the hike. It was windy, but the views were outstanding.
I’m glad I’ve finally joined the Trail Ridge Road Club, and I’m proud that we made the most of our two drives over this celebrated road. Admission to Rocky Mountain National Park is $20 per vehicle and your pass is good for 7 days.