Road Tripping Through the West, Part One: Rocky Mountain National Park

Last month, Max and I spent two weeks road tripping, camping, and hiking through Colorado, Arizona, and Utah. The first stop on our adventure was Rocky Mountain National Park. This was my second time being above 12,000 ft. elevation (the first time was while Backpacking the Wind River Range of Wyoming) and the first time I had spent an extended amount of time above 11,000 ft elevation. 

We camped in Estes Park, sharing a campsite with a small herd of deer and a bunny who joined us in the evenings.

Camping in Estes Park, Colorado

We explored Trail Ridge Road, the historic Old Fall River Road, and Bear Lake Road in the park, doing many short hikes along the way. Strong gusts of bitterly cold wind battered us above the treeline, making me thankful that I had brought a winter hat, gloves, and a bandanna to cover my face! 

Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Mountain views in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
The view from 12,000 ft elevation in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Hiking up to 12,000 ft elevation in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Mountains with a dusting of snow in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Elevation 12,005 feet above sea level in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Alpine tundra and mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Autumn in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Bear Lake,  Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Bear Lake,  Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Admiring the view in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Mountains and alpine tundra in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

We were surrounded by a vast silence with only the sound of the wind and the call of elk bugling in the distance as we took in the massive scale of our surroundings. 

Bull elk inRocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

The next day we woke up to a frost-covered tent and clear blue skies. We decided to take a hike up to Twin Sisters Peaks, a steep but popular hike up to 11,413 ft elevation on the eastern side of the park, surrounded by Roosevelt National Forest. Along the way up, we picked our way across the wreckage left by a huge mudslide that wiped out parts of the trail during the floods of 2013.

Remains of the mud slide on the Twin Sisters hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Just below the summit, we came across the sad scene of a man who had collapsed and died on the trail. His friend and some other hikers were performing CPR as a rescue helicopter circled, looking for a place to land. Sadly, it was too late to save him. We sat awkwardly bunched up for a while with a growing group of other hikers who had been behind us on the trail, wishing that there was some way that we could help. 

Helicopter rescue on the Twin Sisters hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

As more paramedics started to arrive, the man's friend encouraged everyone to continue on. Feeling that it was best to get out of the way, we hiked the short remaining distance to the summit. From the summit we had panoramic views of the Estes Park valley and the Continental Divide, but it was a little bittersweet, and we didn't stay long. 

View from the summit of the Twin Sisters hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

We had been considering staying a third day in Rocky Mountain National Park, but decided that this was a sign that it was time to hit the road again. The next day we set out for Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, which will be Part Two in my next post.