On our final afternoon in Rocky Mountain National Park on Labor Day, we opted for a shorter hike to Alberta Falls. The total hike was a 1.7 mile round trip with only a 200 foot elevation change going up to the falls, but after our more adventurous hike in the morning to Nymph and Dream Lakes, we decided that this would be a good option. Unfortunately, this particular trail was quite crowded with other hikers, and it was especially crowded once we reached the falls. We just made the best of it and enjoyed our time in this beautiful area as best we could. I also tried to be patient at the falls to find opportunities to take photographs without too many people in them as I could, with some good success.
The further we hiked on this particular trail, the more it reminded me of an epic hike we made at Yosemite National Park on May 18, 2011 – the famous Mist Trail hike to Vernal Fall. The hike to Alberta Falls seemed so similar to that hike to me, only on a much smaller and drier scale. Our hike to Vernal Fall will likely be our most strenuous and memorable hike ever, as it will be hard to beat our unforgettable experience on that day. Let me share a quick flashback for just a moment, since this hike came back to mind in a big way on this day.
The Mist Trail to Vernal Fall in Yosemite is a 2.4 mile round trip hike, but it has a 1000 foot elevation change. The last 600 foot climb from the footbridge to the top of the fall is a much steeper (and wetter) climb that is adjacent to the fall. It is labeled a “strenuous” hike, and it deserves every bit of that designation. We almost made it to the top of Vernal Fall but stopped just short because we were absolutely soaked and freezing to death. Snow had unexpectedly fallen the night before, and it was melting everywhere around us that next morning, almost like a rain storm as it quickly melted from the trees. When we encountered the mist of the falls past the footbridge, the cold damp water on our aching bodies finally just got to be more than we could endure. The trail got quite steep toward the top, and I was afraid of falling on the wet rocks. Nevertheless, it was just an amazing hike and one that we will surely never forget. I have some great photos from that hike, and I really need to share much more about that memorable trip here sometime.
I kept thinking of our hike to Vernal Fall as we hiked this beautiful trail up to Alberta Falls on a much sunnier and warmer day. The trail to Alberta Falls is a lovely trail with wonderful views, and the fall is especially beautiful. I’m glad that we ended our trip with this wonderful hike, and I would love to hike it again sometime when it is not so crowded. It was especially neat that it brought back the memory of our Mist Trail hike so vividly, as I had not thought about that hike in quite some time.
After we returned to our car, we made a quick drive through Glacier Basin campground nearby to look at the RV sites, and we had mixed feelings about the campground after seeing it.
While the location is absolutely wonderful in the park, especially the views and the proximity to the popular hiking trails and bus routes, we were honestly not impressed with the campground itself. So, we decided to check out a few private RV parks in Estes Park before starting our drive back to the Denver area that evening.
If we ever decide to bring our RV all the way to Estes Park, we would likely try to stay at Spruce Lake RV Resort, if possible. To our great surprise, we happened upon a “family” of elk in the Spruce Lake campground, too! What a treat it was to see them up close. They are such magnificent animals, not to even mention how cute that baby was!
We loved the town of Estes Park so much and would thoroughly enjoy spending our days in the park and our evenings in town. To that point, we would also be happy to just leave the RV at home and stay at a motel in town, especially for a quick trip to the area. We also might consider leaving the RV at a park at a lower elevation near Longmont and just commute back and forth about an hour each way. There are several ways for us to work this trip in the future, with or without the RV.
After visiting three campgrounds in town, we enjoyed a quick Mexican food dinner at Grumpy Gringo in Estes Park, then drove back to our hotel in the Denver area. We took a different route back to Denver on Highway 36, which had apparently just re-opened after being closed for road repairs after the big flood in September 2013 that washed away part of the road. The highway was in great shape and made for a much faster, although less scenic, drive back to our hotel.
We turned onto the interstate just as the sun was setting to our west over the mountains, providing us with an amazing Rocky Mountain sunset to enjoy.
I was truly sad to leave this beautiful area and hope to return sooner rather than later.