Flowers, Snowfields, Moose, Elk, Big Horn Sheep… Rocky Mountain NP

Wednesday, July 30th

An update: We had 3.11 inches of rain in the past 24 hours, and our new campsite at Dakota Ridge RV in Golden drains like a champ. We took the day off from touring in the bad weather, and had a brief outing to do chores and grocery shopping. I really do enjoy a good rainy day, listening to the rain drum on the roof, as long as I am warm and dry. : )

Thursday, July 31st

We set off in the rain for Rocky Mountain National Park. We figured with the rainy weather, we would have rain, clouds, and fog at higher elevations but today is our only chance to see any of the park this trip. We found one of the main roads into the park closed due to flood damage (historic flooding/mudslides September 2013).

We entered the Rocky Mountain NP at the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station and stopped at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center…

Beaver Meadows entrance station - snowfields in mountains

Beaver Meadows entrance station – snowfields in mountains


Holly & John at entrance sign

Holly & John at entrance sign


Armed with information and my passport stamp, we figured we had time to drive Trail Ridge Road, making a few stops along the way to enjoy the views, smell the lovely pine trees, hear the rushing streams, and look for wildflowers.
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Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) - RMNP - Life zone:  Plains, Foothills, Blooms: July, August.  Found in clumps along roadsides, streasms, irrigation ditches.  Common throughout the Rocky Mountains.

Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) – RMNP – Life zone: Plains, Foothills, Blooms: July, August. Found in clumps along roadsides, streams, irrigation ditches. Common throughout the Rocky Mountains.


new pine cones growing on Loblolly? Pine Trees... 2 needles per bundle, needles about 3 inches long, but the pine cones threw me off here.  Anybody?!

new pine cones growing on Loblolly? Pine Trees… 2 needles per bundle, needles about 3 inches long, but the pine cones threw me off here. Anybody?!


Wax Currant (Ribes cereum) - Rocky Mountain NP, Beaver Meadows.  Common species and abundant on dry sunny slopes.  Sometimes called squaw currant.  Blooms:  May, June.  Life zone:  Foothills, Montane

Wax Currant (Ribes cereum) – Rocky Mountain NP, Beaver Meadows. Common species and abundant on dry sunny slopes. Sometimes called squaw currant. Blooms: May, June. Life zone: Foothills, Montane

The park felt crowded, with lines of cars poking along the road and few pull outs to let faster drivers pass. There were cars everywhere… parked along the roadsides for trails, in pullouts. I saw rafters, rock climbers, hikers, kayakers, bike riders… a lot of people enjoying the outdoors, no matter the weather. I can’t imagine how it will be this weekend, with great weather.

We had a picnic at the pavilion at Hidden Valley Picnic area…

Rocky Mountain National Park - Hidden Valley Picnic Area

Rocky Mountain National Park – Hidden Valley Picnic Area


view from Hidden Valley overlook

view from Hidden Valley overlook


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alluvial fan caused by flooding in 1982 - when an upstream dam failed

alluvial fan caused by flooding in 1982 – when an upstream dam failed


We stopped at the Alpine Visitor Center and took a walk on the trail.
Alpine Vistitor Center - Rocky Mountain National Park

Alpine Vistitor Center – Rocky Mountain National Park


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Alpine Visitor Center overlook

Alpine Visitor Center overlook


Alpine Visitor Center overlook - it was cold out, in the low 50s or so - Rocky Mountain NP

Alpine Visitor Center overlook – it was cold out, in the low 50s or so – Rocky Mountain NP

Alpine Visitor Center overlook - a long line of clouds ...

Alpine Visitor Center overlook – a long line of clouds …

There were a lot of wildflowers in the alpine tundra.

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we saw four cow elk in the woods…

elk near Kawuneeche Valley, along Hwy 34 S - Rocky Mountain NP

elk near Kawuneeche Valley, along Hwy 34 S – Rocky Mountain NP


elk near Kawuneeche Valley, along Hwy 34 S - Rocky Mountain NP

elk near Kawuneeche Valley, along Hwy 34 S – Rocky Mountain NP


elk near Kawuneeche Valley, along Hwy 34 S - Rocky Mountain NP

elk near Kawuneeche Valley, along Hwy 34 S – Rocky Mountain NP

Driving along Trail Ridge Road, we saw a lot of wildflowers growing along the roadsides and cliffs… Scarlet Paintbrush, Prairie Paintbrush, Bluebells, Tall Penstemon, American Bistort, Alpine Thistle, Daisies, Lupines…

and I saw a second Western Tanager (on this trip and ever!) land briefly in a pine tree. I watched a Clark’s Nutcracker…

Juvenile Clark's Nutcracker - Rocky Mountain National Park

Juvenile Clark’s Nutcracker – Rocky Mountain National Park


Clark's Nutcracker atop a fir tree, Rocky Mountain National Park
We were driving in mountains with at least a half dozen peaks over 12,000 feet elevation. You could clearly see the timberline at 11,500 feet or so and the alpine tundra at the tops of the mountains. There were still a few small snow fields on the high mountains, although the meadows near the road were all clear of snow. We saw a few streams with great volumes of rushing water, and just a few small, thready waterfalls, seen from a distance.

It was getting late and we still had a ways to drive before reaching our RV park. Leaving Rocky Mountain NP, we drove through the Arapaho National Forest and the Arapaho National Recreation Area. We saw several lakes, including Lake Granby, all fed from the Colorado River. We saw a large crowd of stopped cars and sure enough, there was a large animal sighting down below. We crossed the road and walked near and could just make out three moose down in the willows. A bull moose, young bull moose, and one unknown (I only saw his rump). I never did see a whole moose, just bits and pieces of moose busy eating the green leaves. What a day though… three moose at once!

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Further along Hwy 34, not ten feet from the highway, I saw 3 big horn sheep grazing on the hill, on the driver’s side of the truck as we drove past. No way to get a picture but I enjoyed the sight immensely!

The scenery along Hwy 34 South was spectacular on our way back to Golden…

It was a long day for John, driving 225 miles. If not for the closed roads, it probably would have only been 150 miles today. We got back to camp and relaxed before dinner, and started planning our route east. We leave with the caboose in the morning, with lots of new memories and plenty of photos!

About Holly Ritger

I am retired, enjoying being a grandmother, traveling to National Parks and other interesting places in our RV with my husband of 43 years, and visiting with friends and family. Hobbies: photography, learning about wildflowers and birds, and trees, and reading from my kindle.
This entry was posted in Birds, Colorado, Elk, Moose, Nature Trails, Wildflowers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Flowers, Snowfields, Moose, Elk, Big Horn Sheep… Rocky Mountain NP

  1. I love Rocky Mountain National Park! Love your pictures. So exciting to see moose! We’ve never seen moose in the lower 48! Safe travels home.

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  2. Jet Eliot says:

    I really enjoyed your tour and photos of Rocky NP, Holly. I’ve been there once before and have many lovely memories of the birds, mammals, and scenery. My favorite was the big horn sheep in Horseshoe Park, but there were many, many beautiful creatures. Thanks for taking the time to share it. 🙂

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  3. Ingrid says:

    We have a reservation to stay at Glacier Basin Campground in Rocky Mtn NP on the 15th and I’m so looking forward to it. When we did our day trip there, we drove 175 miles that day. Sure makes for a long day but is so worth it. Nice tour and photos 🙂

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    • Holly Ritger says:

      Sounds like a great place to camp and a nice trip… I am looking forward to your photos, wondering what wildflowers will be blooming by then! Have fun and safe travels, Ingrid.

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  4. placestheygo says:

    Really enjoyed the Rocky Mountain memories:) Our daughter hadn’t been there since she was ten years old. So we flew her out a year ago June (she is now 33). We stayed in Estes Park and did five days of hiking in the park. She is runner so she had no trouble with altitude. She went from 900′ to 8500′ in a few hours and was fine. We all enjoyed the hundreds of elk wandering the town. I’ve never seen many bulls in one place.

    I had to laugh at your photos of the Alpine Visitors Center. At the beginning of June the front had just been shoveled out. The snow was still higher than the roof!

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    • Holly Ritger says:

      Thanks Pam… I would have loved to see hundreds of elk at one time! We have seen dozens hanging around Mammoth Visitor Center in Yellowstone but we saw only a few at a time at Rocky Mountain. Your daughter still experienced a 7500 foot altitude change… it definitely says something about fitness and youth! I was definitely breathless at times. : )

      It sounds like the snow hung around this year at Rocky Mountain as long as it did in Glacier NP. I followed Glacier’s plowing efforts of the Going to the Sun Road and Logan Pass from time to time via webcam and photos. That much snow is just unfathomable!

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