Family Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

With the pandemic taking its toll on everyone, it’s been a while since Carly and I have had much contact with anyone other than each other, so it was nice when my parents decided to come to Denver for a long 4th of July weekend. Planning a visit from my parents during this, though, proves difficult, because most of the things that we want to do involve going out on the town and being near crowds of people, which obviously isn’t a great idea right now. We’ve been spending a lot of time hiking around in the mountains, as it allows us to get out and about, but still be in the open air and able to space out from others. So we decided to take our parents up to Rocky Mountain National Park near Grand Lake, Colorado, but not the busy parts that you have to drive into.

We left the house around 8 in the morning and stopped once along the way to enjoy the views from the mountain pass and snap some pictures by the waterfall cascading down the mountain. It was also a pretty good halfway point to get out and stretch our legs.

Waterfall cascading down past rocks and pine trees
This waterfall is just at a stop off on the side of the road heading up Berthoud Pass
Husband and wife standing in front of waterfall taking picture
We don’t usually have someone to take a picture for us!

The parking lot of the East Inlet Trailhead is extremely large to accommodate the traffic that Adams Falls regularly sees, so it wasn’t too hard to find a parking spot, even when we arrived around 10:30 on 4th of July weekend. It was warmer than we expected, about 70, so we took a few minutes to properly equip ourselves for the journey ahead before starting on our way.

Family on a hiking trail surrounded by tree
Mom leading the charge up the mountain and setting the pace!
Husband and wife taking a selfie in front of the river
Wife sitting on tree log over the river looking away
Man sitting on log over river facing camera

The hike to the falls is fairly easy terrain and not too far from the parking lot, so we quickly made our way up, but went counter clockwise on the loop, avoiding a large group of people. This meant waiting until our way back down to go to the outlook for the falls, but avoiding large groups of people was more important at this point, and we knew we could still see it on the way back.

We made it to the meadow with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountainsides, and our journey slowed down for the many pictures that had to be taken. It really is hard to describe how incredible this spot along the creek is in real life, but it’s one of the most spectacular views that I’ve found in Colorado, rivaling some views from being on top of a mountain.

Calm water with a mountain backdrop behind
One of my favorite spots in the world
Mom and dad standing in front of mountain view behind them
Mountain view with lush green meadow in foreground

We were keeping our eyes peeled for any wildlife that we could find, especially being in the national park. While we didn’t spot any moose, elk, or deer that we hoped to find, we did run into a family of geese trolling around on a pond and a tiny chipmunk along the way.

Family looking out over the meadow searching for wildlife to see
“Is that a deer?! No maybe that’s just a person… I can’t tell…”
Geese floating on serene mountain pond with mountains in background
Family of geese floating peacefully on the pond. A little bit jealous of their home.
Striped chipmunk eating a piece of grass

We made it about a mile down the trail before deciding to turn around and head back towards the lake. It was my parents first day in town and taking them too far at elevation didn’t seem like a good idea, plus we were ready for our picnic and to take the kayak out on the lake.

Family hiking downhill into mountains on trail
Family hiking down Rocky Mountain trail

We took the other route on our way back to go past Adams Falls, which was much more of a waterfall than it had ever been when we have been here before. We’ve always hiked this trail in September when the snowmelt isn’t nearly as abundant, and it was amazing to see it much closer to full strength!

River flowing through a forest and in between rocks
River flowing through pine trees in Colorado
Waterfall with mountain background
A lot more water than we’re used to!
Open meadow with lake and mountains in background

We made it back down to the lake and had some snacks and drinks that Carly had prepared, relaxing after our journey. This particular picnic area is where we had our welcome picnic for our wedding, and it holds a special place in our hearts. The warm weather today is what we were hoping for 3 years ago, but it was nice to enjoy it on this afternoon.

Family sitting around picnic table with drinks and snacks, and lake in the background
We’re a lively bunch…. Either we’re exhausted or not sure if we knew there was a picture being taken!
Mom sitting in chair looking out over the lake
Dad relaxing in chair in the shade

The picnic area also happened to be the perfect place to drop the kayak into Grand Lake, something that we’ve never done before. Carly and I took the kayak around the bend first, quickly realizing how much we were having to fight the wind on the lake.

Blue lake with mountains in background
The open seas ahead of us…
Husband and wife holding inflatable kayak with lake next to them
Husband and wife in kayak on lake with mountains behind
I promise we went further than this! This was just us coming in for a landing on the beach

Next, it was my dad’s turn to take it out for a spin, but we let him go by himself to explore wherever he wanted to!

Father and son with kayak getting into the lake
Kayak on mountain lake
My dad with nothing but open waters and mountains around him!

After our hike and being out on the water, we were all pretty exhausted, and it was time to make our way back to Denver to let the dogs out. After our wedding, every time we come to Grand Lake it has a special meaning, but this will be a day that we will all remember for a long time to come!

Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park

This post has been over a year in the making, but alas I just hadn’t got around to it. This hike was on December 14, 2018.

For months, my brother, Matt, and I discussed the possibility of him flying to Denver from Houston for a short vacation before the holidays. As soon as he booked his plane ticket for a long weekend in Colorado, though, we pretty much had decided that we needed to go snowshoeing.

In 2017, Carly and I attempted, unsuccessfully, to go snowshoeing, with the main reason we failed being lack of snow. Even though we had some good snow in the mountains leading up to his visit, I knew we were probably going to have to go pretty deep in the mountains and to a fairly high elevation to have enough snow to need snowshoes. Hiking in the winter in the mountains sounded fun enough, but we really wanted to get deep enough snow to justify needing the snowshoes.

After a little research and discussion, we all decided that Rocky Mountain National Park was going to be our best bet, because it was at a higher elevation and through our research found that people had used snowshoes there in the last week. Through a little research on AllTrails, we thought that the Glacier Gorge Trail to Loch Lake was going to be a challenge, but a fun one that let us experience all of RMNP.

None of us really had true winter boots per se, but we did have waterproof hiking boots that we thought would work, and we rented the snowshoes and poles from Christy’s on our way up. The drive through Estes Park to the entrance of the park is incredible, but the beauty once inside the party is indescribable. You truly feel a sense of awe being surrounded by the snow capped peaks and endless forest. Once we decided how to strap our poles to our backpacks, we were off to explore the wilderness in front of us!

At the trailhead! We didn’t know what we were in for yet.

Starting out, there was snow on the ground, but it was more or less just a thin layer of really packed snow that didn’t exactly warrant snowshoes. The boots we had were perfect for this, and at times, we were a bit overdressed, battling getting hot and sweating. A lesson I should’ve learned from snowboarding..

It still wasn’t deep enough to need the snowshoes, but it was warm enough and sunny enough to make the packed snow fairly slippery. The poles definitely came in handy when traversing those stretches.

Eventually though, we did get to a point where the snow was too deep to walk in just our boots, so we had to strap on the snowshoes. Admittedly, once I had them on, I may have been intentionally walking in the deepest snow I could find just to try them out.

We were quite a way into our journey when we ran into a group of guys that were ice climbing. I had never seen people doing this in real life, and only envisioned it in the most extreme of places – like climbing Mount Everest – and had never considered that people would go out and do this for fun. Seeing them with their ice picks and spikes on their boots made me want to try it, though. One day…

Shortly after leaving the ice climbers to their craft, we arrived at our destination of Loch Lake. There were times along the way that I wasn’t sure we were going to make it, but it was a triumphant feeling making it to the top and taking in the scene. It was a bit eerie being in such a cold, remote place, all by ourselves, with nothing to hear but the wind through the pines. It was peaceful, but knowing that you were standing in the middle of a frozen lake with nobody to save you if something went wrong was unsettling at the same time.

For the record, our low-top, summer hiking boots were not the proper footwear for hours of hiking in the snow. They worked for a time, but by the end, our feet were soaked and cold. So a word of caution to make sure you set out with actual winter boots if you plan on being out there for any substantial amount of time!

I’ll let the video do the talking for the rest of the journey!

We stopped by Bear Lake near the trail head for a few quick picks out on the ice before we made the journey back home to Denver.

We haven’t made it out snowshoeing yet this year, but hiking in the snow is something that I enjoyed a lot more than I thought I would. Until next time!!