Our trip begins today at 1pm at REI's Denver store. Here we meet our guides and fellow travelers, have a chance to go over the gear list and pick up any last minute items. Be sure to bring your pack and gear, as we will depart in our van from here. Following a scenic drive up and over the Continental Divide to our site in the Rockies we pitch our camp. After the tents are erected, we will gather for a rundown of the trip itinerary, distribution of group items, gear check, as well as packing tips and demonstration. While the guides prepare dinner we get to know each other in eager anticipation of our adventure. Camp dinner and all camping fees are included tonight.
We depart our camp after breakfast for a short drive to our starting point on the shores of Grand Lake on the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Beginning at an elevation approximately 8500', we make our way into the park's backcountry where lush meadows lead to soaring peaks. Civilization is just a few miles away, but we might as well have stepped back in time and fallen in stride with the explorers of yesteryear. We stride along the rocky trails that follow the course of this glacial valley, stopping often to soak in the views of our new home. As you walk, be sure to visually inspect every meadow and rocky out cropping as this area abounds with moose, elk, and the comical and entertaining marmot. Our destination today are the pines near a lively stream where the jagged peaks and pine ridges frame the sky where the clean air and soft, natural sounds welcome us to our home for the next two nights. All meals Included.
Backpacking: 7 miles; elevation gain: 800'.
Today, wearing only light day packs, we explore the Park's array of natural destinations. Fantastic manifestations of geological history and current processes of nature await us around every bend or rise in the trail, impressive treasures we enjoy mostly alone; we can relish not having to fight tourists fumbling with cameras to capture the stunning beauty. We'll explore beautiful alpine lakes nestled in mountain cirques, delighting in taking a less-traveled path. Despite the grandeur of your surroundings, take time to examine the intricate details of this harsh alpine environment, from the colorful lichen, wildflowers and cute pika seeking out a life here, to the evidence of powerful winter avalanches. Tonight we return to the same camp for another great meal and evening under the stars. Those with an interest in fishing can try their luck next to camp in a creek teeming with cutthroat trout (licenses and equipment not provided). All meals included.
Hiking: 8 to 10 miles with multiple options; elevation gain: 2,000 to 2,600'.
Wake up to the quietness our mountain hideaway offers, and savor a few moments over a steaming cup of coffee as the dew dries and steams in the morning sun. After breaking camp, we once again tread through the ancient glacial valley following the free flowing water that will eventually find its way into homes throughout the western United States—we have been camping and exploring in the literal birthplace of the mighty Colorado River. Arriving at the trailhead does not mean the trip is over as we take a different route back to Denver across the Rockies on Trail Ridge Road. Stunning vistas of glacier valleys, Longs Peak, and immense alpine tundra fields open up as we savor every bend in this famous highway. Herds of elk, distant lakes, and endless views unfold along the way. The glory of Rocky Mountain National Park unfolds for us, beckoning to us for further exploration. We arrive back to Denver around 6pm where we bid our farewells to our newfound friends. If flying out tonight, flights out of Denver shouldn't be made earlier than 8pm. Breakfast and lunch included.
Backpacking: 7 miles; elevation loss: 800'.