This trip is rated Moderate . Trip members should be capable of hiking up to 7.5 miles daily (up to 6 hours) carrying a 5-10 pound day pack, over varied terrain with elevation gain and loss. There are some steep sections and exposed overlooks on the various trails we hike. Elevation gain/losses are between 800' and 1700' daily. Hikes take place at about 8500' to 11,000'.
Our trip begins this morning in Denver, Colorado. After meeting our guides and fellow travelers, a brief orientation ensures we're all prepared before we load into our private van and set out for Rocky Mountain National Park. Arriving at the park, we begin a (mostly) downhill hike through a forest of spruce, fir and lodgepole pine trees on top of the massive Bierstadt Moraine. This moderate trail allows us to acclimate to the park’s higher elevations and rewards us with stunning panoramic views of the jagged eastern face of the mountains along the Continental Divide. Along the way, we pause at Bierstadt Lake for a tasty guide-prepared lunch. After soaking in the dramatic alpine scenery all around us, we continue hiking directly to camp where appetizers and a hearty dinner await us in our comfortable outdoor home. The night ends around the campfire under a star-filled Rocky Mountain sky. Lunch and dinner included.
Hiking: 4-6 miles, Elevation gain/loss: Minimal; Van transfer: 3 hours; Camp elevation: 8,500’
Rocky Mountain National Park is known for its sparkling alpine lakes carved into the slopes of rugged mountain peaks. Today we take in five of these gems on a beautiful loop hike. Situated in the Tyndall Gorge, Bear Lake is one of the most photographed lakes in the park. In addition to Bear Lake, we hike on a gradual ascent to Nymph Lake, lined by pond lilies and offering stunning views of Hallet Peak, Longs Peak and Glacier Gorge. One magnificent view leads to the next as we reach Lake Haiyaha in lower Chaos Canyon. Finally, we continue up a series of switchbacks to The Loch, another incredibly blue lake where we enjoy a picnic lunch. After a full day on the trail, our comfortable camp provides us just the right amount of pampering as we appreciate a delicious camp dinner and the camaraderie of our hiking companions. All meals included.
Note: In June, it's possible that late-season snow might prevent us from completing the full loop hike outlined above. In this case, we will change the itinerary to out-and-back hikes that still allow us to see many of the lakes. The benefit of early season departures is the enhanced beauty of the mountains with snow still on the peaks, and the greater chance to see baby animals.
Hiking: 7.5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,738 / -2,738'
After breakfast we set off to see the park from a new perspective, leaving Bear Valley behind and venturing into the Mummy Range, a subrange of the Front Range made up of some of the most accessible 13,000-foot peaks in the Rockies. Near the start of our hike, we get a view of the infamous Old Fall River Road, the original auto route to Rocky Mountain National Park's high country, considered treacherously narrow and steep, requiring early cars to traverse the road in reverse because none of the other gears were strong enough to take on the 16% grade. Luckily today's hike is a more gradual ascent. We'll climb through a heavily wooded basin, soaking up the shade, and cross Roaring River via a footbridge. We'll take plenty of breaks as we climb, enjoying the scenic views and learning about alluvial fans We top out at 8,540 feet in elevation at beautiful Ypsilon Lake. This afternoon we’ll have time to visit one of the park’s visitor centers before taking time to relax and soak in the beauty of camp. All meals included.
Hiking: 8.2 miles, 2,270 ft gain/loss, Van Transfer: 45 minutes round trip
This morning we take a scenic drive along the eastern slope of Longs Peak in the Tahosa Valley to the Wild Basin Trailhead. Here, we load up our daypacks with lunch, snacks and cameras before setting out to visit three beautiful waterfalls. Copeland Falls, Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls are all uniquely captivating and offer a variety of great photographic opportunities. In the rushing streams, the songbird known as the water ouzel (or American dipper) entertains us as it flies along the water in a never-ending search for aquatic insects. This afternoon, those wanting to get back out on the trail can join our guides for a hike along the Lateral Moraine Trail with many scenic overlooks. Our guides prepare a special farewell dinner for us tonight, providing an opportunity to reflect on our exploratory adventures in this magnificent national park. All meals included.
Hiking: 4.9 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +887' / -1670'; Lateral Moraine hike (optional): 1.5 miles, Minimal elevation change; Van transfer: 1.5 hours roundtrip
No adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park would be complete without driving across the Trail Ridge Road, widely considered one of the most beautiful drives in America. Gaining 4,500' in elevation, we see the vegetation and terrain transform while we try to spot marmots, elk and other wildlife that make this park their home. High in the alpine tundra, we stop to hike the Rock Cut Trail. Starting at over 11,000', this hike is much different than our previous hikes as we’re above tree line, affording us amazing views. Afterward, we continue on Trail Ridge Road across the backbone of the continent toward the west side of the park and the headwaters of the Colorado River. En route, we visit Holzwarth Historic Site for a short walk before continuing our drive back to Denver. We anticipate getting back to Denver between 6pm and 7pm tonight. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: 1 mile above 11,000', Elevation gain/loss: +200' / -200'; Scenic drive on Trail Ridge Road: 2 hours with several breaks including hike; Total van transfer time: 4 hours