Around Angel Fire

So much fun, so little time!

In my previous posts, I’ve shared some of our adventures in the Enchanted Circle area of New Mexico.  Most of these were places that we visited on day trips away from our RV base camp at Angel Fire, but today, I want to share about our fun time in Angel Fire.  I previously shared about our visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which is located just outside Angel Fire, too.

New Mexico’s Famous Enchanted Circle

We stayed six days and five nights at Angel Fire RV Resort, which is part of Angel Fire Resort properties.  This year-round RV park opened in May 2015, and it sits a few miles away from town, just off Highway 64.  We were referred to this park by another RV friend who was quite impressed by it on a previous trip, and we opted to stay here because it was also centrally located for day trips to Taos, Eagle Nest and Red River.

The best option for us to drive to the area was Highway 64 from Cimarron, and the pass between Cimarron and Eagle Nest was very do-able in the RV, although *very* crowded with traffic on Labor Day with many people leaving the Enchanted Circle area to go home.

Angel Fire RV Resort – one of the pretty paths in the park

Angel Fire RV Resort guests are granted full access to all resort amenities, no matter where they are located in the area.

Angel Fire Resort Hotel at the ski area. RV Resort guests are permitted to use all resort facilities, even at the hotel.

Hubby played golf at the resort on our first day in the area and received a discount, and we were also given two free passes to ride the chairlift to the top of the ski mountain, compliments of the resort, worth $24.  It’s definitely worth taking these free and discounted items into account when deciding where to park the RV in this area.

Gorgeous flowers were all around the RV park, and we felt that we were camping in a flower garden.

RVs older than ten years must be pre-approved to stay at Angel Fire RV Resort.  Since ours is more than ten years old, I sent a few photos to the RV resort office by email, and we were immediately approved for our stay.  I will also share that this is definitely the most expensive RV park we have ever stayed in at about $70 per night, but after our awesome experience there, we would do it again in a heartbeat for a special vacation week such as this.  If we took a nice vacation, stayed in a hotel and boarded the dogs, we would spend almost $60 per night just on boarding, so being able to bring them along on a nice vacation helped to justify this nightly rate.  Plus, we had them along for the fun!  After all, we are dog people.

We truly loved the spectacular views from the park, especially on the surreal foggy mornings we enjoyed our first few days there.

All the RV park amenities can be found on their website.  What we enjoyed the most was the pad site itself (long and level), nice views of the area, gated security (since it is just off a busy road), outdoor hot tub, gorgeous landscaping everywhere in the park and the big, grassy “Bark Park” to let our dogs run off-leash a few times each day, which was a lot of fun for all of us.

While this is already a beautiful RV park with amazing landscaping and flowers, it’s going to be even more beautiful in a few years as the trees grow taller.  There are a lot of trees in the park, and it should be a stunning place, for sure.

View of Angel Fire Ski Area from our RV site, slightly zoomed in
Evenings were just beautiful as the sun set with a mostly unobstructed view of the brilliant colors

The large conference center on property is really nice.  It also houses another camper restroom/shower facility with an outside entrance.  This was the closest restroom/shower facility for us, and we opted to shower there on two days, just because it was so very nice!  Just outside the center, we also enjoyed simply rocking in the nice wooden rockers in the evening after the campfire was lit.

Conference center in the RV park for gatherings and concerts

To say the pups were happy at the “Bark Park” is an understatement!  Next time, I will bring their Frisbee along.  Having this nice dog park made us realize how much we wish other RV parks would consider adding one, too.

On the food front, there is a nice, well-stocked grocery store in Angel Fire, which is good to know since we discovered that there are only a few restaurants in the area.  On the morning we departed for home, we also filled the RV with gas at a pump at the grocery store, too.

We dined out twice in Angel Fire and certainly enjoyed our food both times.  We enjoyed a good pizza at Angel Fired Pizza for lunch.  This restaurant is located on the second floor of a shopping center next to the grocery store, and we had a great view of the ski mountain as we dined.  We also ate breakfast at The Bakery and Café at Angel Fire on our last full day in the area, and it was so good!  I had a huge breakfast burrito, and it was almost more than I could eat, but somehow, I managed to eat the whole thing.  They are not open for dinner, just breakfast and lunch.

My huge breakfast burrito at Angel Fire Bakery and Café with green chile gravy and salsa on the side.  I. Ate. Every. Bite!

Trails in the Angel Fire area allow dogs, something that is actually a bit rare for many areas in New Mexico.

Deer Trail in Angel Fire
Trailhead in Angel Fire

We really enjoyed hiking one of the resort trails with the dogs one cool morning, and this trailhead is located just behind the Angel Fire Visitor’s Center in town.

Hiking on a clear, cool morning with the dogs

The resort golf course is very pretty and is located just outside town.  Hubby enjoyed playing the course, even though some brief rain showers interrupted play for a bit.

Angel Fire Country Club
Driving range

The resort lake, which is just past the golf course, is also a pretty place to visit, picnic, fish or rent a paddle boat.

Monte Verde Lake – Angel Fire Resort

One of the highlights of our trip was using our complimentary tickets from the resort and riding the chair lift to the top of the ski area.  In years gone by, we brought our kids skiing here on a few occasions with other families from our church, so it was a bit surreal to ride the chairlift with no snow on the ground below us.  It was even more awesome to ride it back down with the fabulous views of Angel Fire below us, growing closer and closer as we approached the base of the lift.  Truly, the views riding back down were just fabulous!

In the warmer months, Angel Fire Ski Resort transitions to Angel Fire Bike Park, offering a large selection of downhill bike trails.

Big map at the top of the mountain

On the Friday we visited, there were several cyclists riding the chair lift up with their special bikes to ride the trails back to the bottom, and I admit that it looked like a lot of fun, too.  The trails are rated by difficulty, just like the ski trails in winter.  We could probably ride the green trails and may have to give this a try before we get much older.  If we opt to do that, we will rent our bikes and other gear at one of the local shops nearby.

We dined at the outdoor grill at the top of the mountain for lunch.  On the day we were there is was not too crowded, so it was a pleasant experience for us with great views.

View of Eagle Nest Lake and the town of Eagle Nest from the top of the ski mountain
Lunch cooked outside at the top of the mountain made for a great dining experience

At the top of the mountain resides an 18-hole disc golf course.  We walked over to the first two holes after lunch, and it looks like a lot of fun.  Just be aware that the altitude might take a bit to get used to.  I started to feel pretty lightheaded while we were there, so we decided to forego any further exploration and head back down the mountain.

Map of the 18 hole disc golf course at the top of the mountain
Look at the rough on this Frisbee golf course!

The resort also offers a zip line at the top of the mountain for those inclined to even more adventure.  I’m not sure I’m ready for something like this, but I might could be talked into it, too.

Zip Line at Angel Fire Ski Resort – It’s straight down the mountain from here!

We also made a quick afternoon drive to check out Coyote Creek State Park to the south of Angel Fire.  This state park is remote, very pretty and has some hookups, but I doubt we ever take our RV there, since RVs are not permitted on the road between the park and Angel Fire… and for good reason.  Vehicles over ten feet are not permitted on this road that is quite narrow in one stretch.  Visitors to this state park must drive their RVs in from the south instead.

Entrance to Coyote Creek State Park, south of Angel Fire
A few RV sites on the river at Coyote Creek State Park

The drive to and from the state park was beautiful on a narrow and winding road through the tall trees, and we even stopped at one pullout to let the dogs get in the creek.

Old abandoned log cabins on our drive

Girly Girl jumped right in the water, but Big Red wanted none of it.  Fortunately, we brought along some old towels on the drive.  Carry old towels is something we actually do most of the time when on vacation, especially when bringing the dogs with us.

Big Red wouldn’t get in the water
Girly Girl has always loved playing in the water and jumped right in

We had a great time re-visiting this area after many years and look forward to returning again in the future.  Our experience with Angel Fire RV Resort was so good that I suspect we will continue to base camp there, even if we stop over at Cimarron Canyon State Park for a night or two and maybe a night at Eagle Nest Lake State Park on the way next time.  I also hope to spend a little more time in Taos and Red River next time, if possible, especially Taos.

We didn’t actually drive the Enchanted Circle highway between Taos and Questa, and that was our plan for this trip due to time constraints.  On a future trip, we hope to complete the circle and visit that area, too.

I have one more post to share to complete my posts on this great trip, sharing some sights we saw on our drive to this area, especially Capulin Volcano National Monument in northern New Mexico.  Look for that one soon!

For more good, detailed information on visiting the Enchanted Circle, please check out the article below.

Legends of America – Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway

A Weekend in Point Reyes

I made a solo trip to see our California kids last weekend, since my hubby had to make a long trip to Europe, and it was a good weekend for me to visit them.  My daughter mentioned the possibility of us visiting the Point Reyes area together for the weekend, so after spending a little time exploring options for lodging on the internet, I found a great place for us to stay on Saturday night.  It was also one of the few hotels that did not require a two-night minimum on that weekend.  Lodging is quite limited in this entire area, so an advance reservation is definitely required on a weekend, or a least a spring weekend when so many people seem to be in this area for wildflowers and whale watching at the point.

On Wednesday, I shared some of the many beautiful flowers I saw on this trip, both at the hotel and inside the national park, Wordless Wednesday – The Flowers of Point Reyes National Seashore.  We saw some gorgeous flowers, to be sure.

I included details of the entire weekend in this post, making it a bit longer than what I normally share.  I haven’t been on much of a writing roll lately, so I felt it better to share the entire trip here while I had the time to do so, rather than possibly dragging it out.

This was my first time to fly out of a different airport in my part of the state.  I saved over $200 to simply drive two hours to this airport, and I was able to get better connections as well, even though it is a smaller airport.  On my second flight on Friday evening, I flew into the Norman Y. Mineta International Airport in San Jose, and it was a beautiful sunset flight across some of the most spectacular scenery in the country.  I always love the flight from Denver to the bay area, but it is especially scenic from the air with snow still on the Rocky Mountains.  Seeing this sight just before sunset on this trip was extra special, too.

Flying Over Denver at Sunset
Flying over Denver at sunset
Flying Over the Rockies at Sunset
The Rocky Mountains at sunset

Daughter picked me up at the airport, and we enjoyed a few hours together before her hubby got home from a late meeting.  We also discovered that my airbed had a small leak in it, so after debating some options, we found ourselves at Target just before midnight buying another airbed.  It was actually a delightful and fun time, and we “made some memories.”  They are now the proud owners of a brand spanking new Coleman airbed that has a built-in electric pump for added convenience.  I have to say it was very comfortable, too.

On Saturday morning, we all dropped by a local Starbucks for a quick breakfast and coffee before hitting the road to Point Reyes, and I always enjoy visiting some of the stores that they frequent.  That may sound odd, but it’s just interesting to see these places that are a regular part of their daily lives now.  The drive to Point Reyes took about 1.5 hours, and many people were out on their bicycles as we arrived in the area on a perfect weather day.

The Point Reyes Seashore Lodge was a nice place for us to stay.  It is only a few miles from Point Reyes Station, and it is one of very few lodging options in the area with close proximity to the main areas of the national seashore.  We found it to be a delightful little place with a good restaurant on the property where we dined on Saturday evening.  The grounds were immaculate with a beautiful stream on property, and we were able to just hike to the Bear Valley Visitor Center in the national park, which was only about a half mile away on a nice trail.  We also enjoyed a good complimentary continental breakfast at the hotel on Sunday morning, too.  The rooms are heated and cooled through radiant heating and cooling in the floor.  Yes, the floor.  If this might not be for you, think twice prior to staying here.  I only got a bit warm late in the afternoon when we had full sun on the windows, and I slept with one window cracked open just a bit for some fresh air.

Point Reyes Seashore Lodge
Point Reyes Seashore Lodge
My room with a view
My room with a view
Grounds at Point Reyes Seashore Lodge
Beautiful garden at Point Reyes Seashore Lodge
Stream at Point Reyes Seashore Lodge
Pretty stream on property

We also dined twice at the Station House Café in Point Reyes Station.  We ate lunch there when we first arrived in the area on Saturday, and we also ate appetizers and dinner there on Sunday evening.  That proved to be an especially fun experience, too.  We arrived at the restaurant too early for dinner on Sunday, so we started with appetizers in the bar, then decided to just stay for dinner when we saw a band setting up to play live music.  The group was a fabulous blue-grass band, and the longer they played, the more the locals and visitors started streaming in to hear them.  By the time we left, our table was quite coveted and was quickly grabbed by another group.

There are so many great hiking trails in the national park, and we made three nice hikes in the short time we were in the area.

Our first hike on Saturday afternoon took us on an informal trail from our hotel to the Bear Valley Visitor Center, which was a .6 mile hike with only a small incline.

A short hike to the visitor center from our hotel
A short hike to the visitor center from our hotel
Bear Valley Visitor Center
Bear Valley Visitor Center

We looked around the visitor center for a few minutes, then we opted to hike the Arch Rock Trail for a while.  It is a long trail, and it is also now closed further down the trail after a tragic collapse that killed one person about a month ago.  We hiked to beautiful Divide Meadow, and it was a steady uphill climb most of the way to that point.  Restrooms were available at Divide Meadow, and it would be a great place for a picnic while on this hike.  From this point, the trail starts to go back down toward the ocean, but we opted to turn around and head back to our hotel and get ready for dinner that evening.

Hiking the Arch Rock Trail
Hiking the Arch Rock Trail
Divide Meadow on the Arch Rock Trail
Divide Meadow on the Arch Rock Trail

After dining at the hotel that evening, we decided to play pool in the game room at the hotel.  Daughter beat her hubby in the first match, then I took her on in the second match.  She was amazed that I knew how to play pool, and I regaled her with the story of how I met her dad and smacked him good in a game of pool on that first meeting, long before we ever started dating.  She was pretty fascinated by it all, and I will need to brush up on my pool game for future matches, as she beat me quite soundly.

On Sunday morning, we ate a quick breakfast at the hotel, then drove to the Ken Patrick Visitor Center in the national park.  This is where we were required to catch a park shuttle bus to the drop areas for the two trails that we planned to hike that day.  The shuttle is also $7 per person and exact change was required – good to know if you plan to go at some point and plan to pay with cash.

Unlike the Bear Valley Visitor Center, which was located in a more wooded area, this one sat on a beautiful beach.

Ken Patrick Visitor Center
Ken Patrick Visitor Center
Beach at Ken Patrick Visitor Center
Beach at Ken Patrick Visitor Center
Beach at Ken Patrick Visitor Center
Beach at Ken Patrick Visitor Center with Chimney Rock in the distance
Pathways on the beach
Pathways and flowers on the beach
Shuttle bus
Shuttle bus to the Point Reyes Lighthouse and Chimney Rock trails

Our first hike on Sunday morning took us to the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse.  No doubt, this is the primary sight to see in the national park, too.  While I’m not sure this is technically a hike per se, the trek to the lighthouse is certainly a hike unto itself, since it is a half-mile hike uphill from the shuttle bus stop area to the lighthouse visitor center, as well as an additional walk via 308 steps down and back to the lighthouse, covering a 365 foot vertical drop/climb each way.  A sign nearby shows this to be the equivalent of descending and ascending a 30-story building.  Fortunately, this was our first hike on Sunday morning.  My legs definitely felt that climb back up, but I made it just fine with a few rest stops along the way.  It was worth the effort, too.  The historic lighthouse was a special sight to see, especially for me as I love lighthouses and seldom get to see them in person like this.  I will always remember and treasure seeing this special historic lighthouse, for sure.

The lighthouse area here on the point is also one of the foggiest and windiest places on the west coast, but we were fortunate to have a calm and beautiful day.  This is likely the exception rather than the norm here, too.  I’m not sure how I would have made the steep climb down to and up from the lighthouse if the wind had been blowing hard.  If the wind is blowing 40 mph or higher, the steps to the lighthouse are closed for safety reasons, and I totally understand why.  Whale watching is a big activity here in the spring months, but unfortunately, we did not see any while we were here, even though several had been spotted earlier that day.

Wind and fog at the lighthouse
Wind and fog at the lighthouse

One point of interesting trivia about the Point Reyes Lighthouse is the fact that the movie, The Fog (1979), was filmed here.  That movie is one that my family enjoyed and my hubby still likes to watch on occasion even today.  For more information on those filming locations, check out Film Location for The Fog.  I’m not much for scary movies, but The Fog was a good one.

Point Reyes National Seashore at the lighthouse
Point Reyes National Seashore at the lighthouse
Point Reyes Lighthouse Hours
Point Reyes Lighthouse Hours
Hike to Point Reyes Lighthouse
Hike to Point Reyes Lighthouse
Point Reyes Lighthouse National Register of Historic Places
Point Reyes Lighthouse National Register of Historic Places
Point Reyes Lighthouse
Point Reyes Lighthouse
Point Reyes LIghthouse
Point Reyes Lighthouse
Fresnel Lens - Point Reyes Lighthouse
Fresnel Lens dates back to 1867 – Paris, France – Point Reyes Lighthouse
308 Steps - Point Reyes Lighthouse
308 Steps at Point Reyes Lighthouse – a challenging climb

After hiking to the lighthouse, we then caught the shuttle bus to the trailhead for the Chimney Rock trail.  It was the easiest trail of our trip with only a slight incline on part of the trail.  While the Arch Rock Trail was wooded with quite a bit of shade, the Chimney Rock Trail was wide open on a peninsula with ocean on both sides of us, and it was so neat to see a large group of elephant seals sunning on one of the beaches along the way.

Hiking is such a great activity for the body and soul, especially when you have the opportunity to hike in such beautiful places as this.  Hikes like these inspire me to stay in good shape so that I can try to keep up with my kids on such fun adventures in the future, too.

Elephant Seals
Elephant Seals sunning on a beach near Chimney Rock
Historic Lifeboat Bay
Historic Lifeboat Station
Chimney Rock
Chimney Rock
At Chimney Rock
Near Chimney Rock
Beautiful Point Reyes National Seashore
Beautiful Point Reyes National Seashore

After our hiking was done, we took the shuttle bus back to the visitor center, ate dinner in Point Reyes Station and started our drive back to San Francisco via a drive across the Golden Gate Bridge.  My hotel for the night was near SFO, so it made sense to take this route on the way.  Garmin also surprised us by taking us on a new little road that was populated with some beautiful redwoods, which was quite a surprise for us.

Surprised by a patch of Redwoods on our drive

I always enjoy seeing the Golden Gate Bridge again.  It is such an awesome sight.

Golden Gate Bridge, driving into San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge, driving into San Francisco

While my quick little weekend trip was too short, as always, I’m glad to have spent some quality time with the kids again, seeing some of God’s fabulous handiwork and enjoying their company, especially right now.  We had some really deep conversations, such as why some eggs are white and some are brown, and what exactly the distinction is between a brook, a creek and a stream.  We coined a new word to just make it easy and cover them all – a brook-creek-stream!  You heard it here first.

Sadly, my times with them are few and far between, for sure, but this quick visit definitely helped to brighten my spirits as I continue to maneuver my way through this first hard year after losing my mother, our last living parent, back in January.  I found myself fighting back tears on a couple of occasions on the trip, especially as I recalled bringing Mom along on our first trip to the bay area a few years ago.  I’m so glad we took her with us on that memorable trip now, too.  While memories can be a little hard at times like this, they are still bright lights that make our lives better if we look for them and treasure them.  They are kind of like lighthouses, I guess.  That is one reason I like to photograph and write about times like this now.  I want to hang onto these special, beautiful memories that are such blessings in my life.

In a post just a few weeks ago, I lamented on how I needed Spring to get here.  I got a great big dose of it on this trip, not just in the sights I saw but especially the company I had with me.  I also got a beautiful dose of it a couple of weeks ago in the Texas bluebonnets, too.  I am blessed – so blessed indeed.  Life goes on.

I highly recommend visiting Point Reyes National Seashore, but keep in mind that the lighthouse is closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.   Just be sure to keep that in mind and visit on a day that it is open, since it is the primary sight to see here.  Visiting on a good weather day with calm winds would be a bonus, too.

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Alberta Falls, a Flashback and Elk Up Close

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.

Mist Trail in Yosemite
The famous Mist Trail in Yosemite after an unexpected snowstorm on May 18, 2011

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.

Mist Trail Yosemite

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.

Alberta Falls Hike 1

Alberta Falls Hike 2

Alberta Falls Hike 3

Alberta Falls Hike 4

Alberta Falls Hike 5

Alberta Falls Hike 6

Alberta Falls Hike 7

Alberta Falls Hike 8

Alberta Falls Hike 9

Alberta Falls Hike 10

Alberta Falls 1

Alberta Falls 2

Alberta Falls 3

Alberta Falls 4    Alberta Falls Panorama

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.

Glacier Basin Campground
Glacier Basin Campground

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!

Estes Park Elk 1

Estes Park Elk 2

Estes Park Elk 3

Estes Park Elk 4

Estes Park Elk 5

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.

Denver Sunset

I was truly sad to leave this beautiful area and hope to return sooner rather than later.


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Nymph and Dream Lakes

After we finished our half-mile walk/hike around Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, we began our uphill trek to see two more beautiful Alpine lakes, Nymph Lake and Dream Lake.  Our goal was to hike to both lakes, then return to our car for a late picnic lunch before hiking to Alberta Falls in the afternoon, although we held open the possibility of hiking on to Emerald Lake once we were at Dream Lake.

While our hike around Bear Lake was on a trail at an elevation of 9,475 feet that was basically flat, the trail up to the other lakes was a slow and steady climb, with a few breaks along the way.  Fortunately, we were more acclimated to the high altitude on this day than we were two days earlier at Golden Gate Canyon State Park, when we attempted our first hike above 9000 feet and had to cut it short.  In fact, we thoroughly enjoyed this particular hike to the lakes and got a good, calorie-burning workout in the process.

The entire hike was amazingly beautiful, and that is likely an understatement.  This is one of the most beautiful sites that anyone will ever see, so rather than repeat that fact over and over again, I will try to refrain from stating this fact and just show a few photos to share that fact.

 The first part of the hike to Nymph Lake climbed to an elevation of 9,705 feet over a distance of a half-mile, and the climb began right away once we left Bear Lake.  It felt like climbing a long staircase for much of the way, but it did not take long to finally arrive at our first scenic stop at Nymph Lake.  We had a nice rest break here, enjoying the view and catching our breath a bit.  I was surprised to see that I actually had a little cell signal here, so I took that opportunity to take a picture with my phone camera and send it to a couple of good friends who were dealing with brutally hot weather at their respective locations that holiday weekend.

Nymph Lake 1
Nymph Lake
Nymph Lake 2
Pond lilies at Nymph Lake
Nymph Lake 3
Beautiful Nymph Lake
Nymph Lake 4
A curious squirrel posed beside me as I took a hiking break at Nymph Lake.

After taking photos and enjoying the views, we then continued onward and upward to Dream Lake, which sits at an elevation of 9,912 feet and is .8 mile from Nymph Lake.  It was the highest elevation we ever attempted to hike, and thankfully, it was a great experience for us.

Dream Lake Hike 1
Hiking to Dream Lake
Dream Lake Hike 2
The trail to Dream Lake often rimmed the edge of the mountain.
Dream Lake Hike 3
Mountain stream on the hike to Dream Lake

Dream Lake is just amazingly beautiful.  There, I said it again.  It is hard to not gush over the beauty of this place.  We spent quite a bit of time here at the end of our planned morning hike and just enjoyed being there.  I was quite surprised to see how many people were already there along the banks with their fishing poles, too.  It was such a peaceful, serene place at almost 10,000 feet, and our reward for our climb was definitely worth it.

Dream Lake 1
Hallett Peak (12.720 ft) and Dream Lake
Dream Lake 2
Emerald green water at Dream Lake
Dream Lake 3
Looking back over Dream Lake from the west end
Dream Lake 4
People fishing at Dream Lake
Dream Lake 5
Fishermen at Dream Lake
Dream Lake 6
The trail hugged the edge of this beautiful lake for amazing views.

After hiking to the far end of the lake and just a bit beyond, we made a decision to return to the car for a late lunch, rather than skipping lunch to hike on to Emerald Lake.   It was nice to hike downhill for a change, too.  Just like a trip by car, the scenery is often quite spectacular behind us, and we discovered that happy fact as we made our way back to Bear Lake.  It was just a grand hike in both directions.

Dream Lake 7

Dream Lake 8

Dream Lake 9

Dream Lake 10

Once we were back at the car, we enjoyed another picnic lunch in the park at a scenic spot nearby, which was handy for us.  It was nice to not have to sit in the car to eat this time, as the weather was pretty much perfect.  Clouds and cooler breezes began to roll in a bit, so we made it a quick lunch, then set out for our last adventure in the park on this trip – a hike to beautiful Alberta Falls, which I will share in my next post.

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Hiking at Bear Lake

On our last day in Rocky Mountain National Park, the skies cleared for the first time in our trip, and we were finally on our way back into the park to do some hiking.

Sign near the Beaver Meadows entrance

After looking over our park map and reading reviews of the different trails in our Fodor’s guide-book, we opted to begin our hiking day in the Bear Lake area.  The trails at Bear Lake are among the most visited trails in the park, and we were aware that we needed to begin our day pretty early to get a parking spot, especially since it was Labor Day and many people were in the park this day.

Long's Peak on a beautiful morning
Long’s Peak on a beautiful morning
Driving to Bear Lake
Driving to Bear Lake

We arrived in the area just before 10 am, which was a bit later than we hoped to arrive in the area, and we were not surprised to find a sign stating that the small parking lot at Bear Lake was already full.  The sign directed us to park in the large overflow lot, and we were quite surprised to find that lot almost full.  Thankfully, we found a parking spot toward the back of the lot near a picnic table, which would come in handy for our picnic lunch a bit later after our first hike was done.

Bus Stop in RMNP Overflow Lot 2
Overflow lot and bus stop near Bear Lake
Bus Stop in RMNP Overflow Lot
Overflow lot and bus stops near Bear Lake

The overflow lot had stops for three different bus routes, so after seeing a bus called “Hiker’s Route,” we decided that must be the bus we needed to take us to the Bear Lake area.  We waited about ten minutes, then hopped on the bus with a few other people.  When the bus turned the wrong way on Bear Lake Road, however, we immediately knew we had made a big mistake.  Fortunately, we were sitting right behind the bus driver, who was kind enough to return us back to the overflow lot, and he directed us to the bus we needed to take.  We definitely detected more than a little irritation in his voice, but we were just grateful to not have to ride that bus *all the way back to Estes Park!*  Seriously, that bus should have that destination listed somewhere for visitors to see, at least on its return trip back to town.  I seriously doubt we are the only ones that have made that mistake, too.

A few minutes later, we boarded the correct bus, which finally dropped us at Bear Lake after making a few stops at other trailheads along the way.  The Bear Lake bus stop reminded me of a bus stop in a major city due to the large number of people there, and my heart sank just a bit.  I knew we would not have any trails to ourselves on this busy holiday, but this seemed a bit much.  Fortunately, there were several trails that people could take from that drop point, and we enjoyed a truly great day of hiking, despite a few more people on the trails than we would prefer.  The fabulous scenery made up for it, and people were dispersed on the trails pretty well for the most part.

 We saw three beautiful Alpine lakes on our 2.5 hour hike – Bear Lake, Nymph Lake and Dream Lake.  It was such a fabulous hike in absolutely perfect weather, too.  Bear Lake sits almost adjacent to the bus stop area, and the half-mile trail around the lake was our first hike.  This was an easy trail on a level path, and our early reward this day was some truly gorgeous views!  No wonder this is such a popular place, especially for people who are not up to more strenuous hikes but still want to see some beautiful scenery.

Bear Lake 1

Bear Lake 2

Bear Lake 3

Bear Lake 4

Bear Lake 5

Bear Lake 6

Bear Lake 7

In my next post, I will share the rest of our beautiful morning hike to Nymph Lake and Dream Lake.  Both are amazingly beautiful and at altitudes higher than Bear Lake.

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