Our trip begins in Denver, Colorado. Meet your guides and fellow travelers at 1pm at our host hotel near the Denver International Airport. A brief orientation ensures we're all prepared before we load into our private van and set out for Rocky Mountain National Park. We make the scenic two-hour transfer through a transition zone where the Great Plains meet the mighty Rockies. Upon arriving at the park, we stop at the Moraine Park Discovery Center before continuing on to our campsite. After setting up camp and following a delicious dinner, we head out for an evening hike to Sprague Lake, enjoying the mountain air and keeping our eyes peeled for elk or deer. The night ends around the campfire under a star-filled Rocky Mountain sky. Dinner included.
Hiking: 1.5 miles with minimal elevation gain and loss. Transfer time: 2 hours. Camp elevation: 8,500?.
We start the morning off with a cup of fresh hot coffee as our guides prepare a hearty camp breakfast designed to fuel us for the day's hiking. After breakfast, we set out on a (mostly) downhill hike from Bear Lake 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 high elevations of the Park 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 that surrounds us, we continue our hike all the way back to camp where appetizers and a hearty dinner await us in our comfortable outdoor home. All meals included.
Hiking: 6.5 miles with 800' elevation loss.
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 with a dramatic alpine backdrop, 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 comradery of newfound friends around the table. 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 with 1,700' elevation gain and loss.
Today we see the Rockies from a different perspective. After breakfast, we load into our van and travel for a little over an hour to meet our river guides and get ready for a morning paddle on the Cache la Poudre River. After a thorough safety talk and rafting instruction, we hop in our rafts and enjoy equal parts thrills and stunning scenery. Colorado's only designated "Wild & Scenic River," the Cache la Poudre is framed by granite mountain peaks. This stretch of river is perfect for both avid paddlers and those new to the sport of whitewater rafting. This afternoon, we have the option of accompanying our guides on a beautiful hike from camp up Emerald Mountain, offering gorgeous views along our route to the top, or relaxing at camp and catching up on our summer reading. All meals included.
Rafting: 3 hours; Hiking (optional): 3.5 miles with 900' elevation gain/loss. Transfer time: 3 hours roundtrip.
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 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: 5.4 miles with 970' elevation gain/loss. Optional Lateral Moraine hike: additional 1.5 miles with 350' elevation gain and loss.
No adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park would be complete without driving across the Trail Ridge Road, widely considered the most beautiful drive 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 the Denver host hotel between 6pm and 7pm tonight. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: 3 miles above 11,000' with minimal elevation gain/loss. Scenic drive on Trail Ridge Road: 2 hours with several breaks including hike. Total transfer time: 4 hours.