This week we are beyond excited to blog about Rocky Mountain National Park since it’s practically in the backyard of eBags HQ. Established in 1915, Rocky Mountain National Park boasts 415 square miles of stunning alpine parkland, soaring up to elevations of 12,000 feet. The mountain terrain allows for unique landscapes and animals, including glaciers, lupine flowers, and big horn sheep. There are 350 miles of trails, winding beneath crystal clear Colorado skies.
I love hiking in the Rockies, but there’s one catch: In my experience, sweat and high altitude are a toxic mixture. I go from carefree to cranky in a matter of seconds when I’m short of breath and snacks. If you’re exploring the Rockies with the family, the stakes are even higher – the last thing you want to induce is complaining children.
Follow these local tips to minimize moaning and sunburns, while maximizing enjoyment as you celebrate the National Parks 100th birthday.
Seize the day. Never surrender to the enemy, the sun. Rather than give in to its heat waves, simply rethink your strategy. Skip the “snooze” button and get an early start, before the sun goes into super sizzle mode. You’ll beat the heat and the crowds. An earlier adventure means that you get to take advantage of prime photography lighting on trails that you’ll have to yourself.
Find a Trail in the Shade
If you find yourself exploring in the middle of the day, slather on that SPF 50 and head for an afternoon stroll, one along a rushing stream or crystalline lake. Rocky Mountain National Park boasts thousands of bodies of water, all of which are fed by snowmelt. There’s nothing better than a patch of shade near clear, crisp water on a summer day. Check out a shaded trail, such as Mills Lake. This iconic trail offers the best of RMNP – Alberta Falls, marshland dotted with waterfalls, panoramic vistas, and rocky creeks. This 5.6-mile round-trip hike is accessed from Glacier Gorge Trailhead off Bear Lake Road.
Catch a Sunset
Refuse to budge on the whole “Not a morning person” concept? Consider catching a spectacular sunset. I love hiking at this time of day because of the way the low orange light streaks through the pine trees and dances off of river rapids. Temperatures should be lower while your chances for spotting wildlife should be higher.
Rocky Mountain National Park is home to 66 mammal species, 260 bird species, and 11 species of fish. Tourists’ most wanted species include big horn sheep, moose, elk, and black bears. A photograph of a big mammal like a moose is guaranteed to bring in Instagram likes that are in the triple digits. Lucky for afternoon adventurers, elk, moose, and deer are all most active at dusk.
See the Park by Car
Wildlife spotting can require patience and a good eye, or simply good luck and working car brakes – some of the best spottings happen roadside in this park. Rocky Mountain National Park is 415 square miles, so driving is necessary if you’d like to make even the tiniest dent in its acreage. Take advantage of a route available only in summertime, Trail Ridge Road. At an elevation of 12,183 feet, it’s the highest continuously paved road in the United States, connecting Estes Park and Grand Lake. Here you may find a coolant more effective than A/C – larger than life piles of snow. This year the road didn’t open until May 28 when plow operators reported snow drifts ranging between 18 and 22 feet!
Be Prepared for Weather
No matter which trail you follow, it’s important to think like a Park Ranger. In other words, be prepared for the elements. Protect yourself from harmful UV rays with sunscreen and clothing. Stay hydrated and well fed, and bring reinforcements- bonus points if your backup water and food reserves are kept chilly in an eBags crew cooler! If you remember that shade and water are your friends, you’re sure to have an enjoyable adventure exploring magnificent Rocky Mountain National Park.
One lucky reader this week will win gear to enable an epic getaway in the Rockies: the TLS Motherlode Mini 21’ Wheeled Duffel and DENY Designs gift card – click here to enter the giveaway!
Annie’s based in Los Angeles but hails from Portland, Oregon. Sort of. She moved to six states by the time she reached middle school, and continues to move around the US and abroad – call her a nomad, but she prefers “Location ADHD.” After studying abroad in New Zealand, Annie circled the globe, graduated from USC, and circled the world once again. For one year she lived out of a backpack everywhere from The Philippines to Nepal to Slovenia to Norway. She’s a curry connoisseur and passionate explorer, taking the road less traveled, the “trail” covered in vines and swarmed in exotic bugs. Foreign lands feel like home, and Annie loves encouraging more and more people to utilize their passports and experience a new culture.