Rocky Mountains National Park Vacation

This is a collection of photos taken at Rocky Mountain National Park, July 11-13, 2005 during our vacation there. Photos may be used for any non-commercial purpose allowed by the National Park Service. Photos taken by Jess Stryker.

Click on the photo below to see the full size photo.


Flying to Denver

We started our trip with a flight from the Bob Hope/ Burbank Airport in Southern California to Denver, Colorado. From Denver we drove to Colorado Springs to see Glen Eyrie Castle. For many years the castle served as the headquarters for the Navigators, a Christian ministry that Julie was heavily involved with in college. A new headquarters building has been constructed on the property, and the castle is now the focal point of the Navigator's Conference Center. We spent the night in a room of the castle, which now operates as a bed and breakfast when not being used for a conference. The next day we drove to the town of Estes Park, where we stayed while we visited Rocky Mountains National Park.

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Denver International Airport
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Glen Eryie Castle.

Rocky Mountains National Park

Bear Lakes Road

To get to the Bear Lakes Road take the Trail Ridge Road (Highway 36) west from the town of Estes park. The Bear Lakes Road turns off just past the Beaver Meadows Entrance to the park. The road leads around Moraine Park and then winds it's way up to Bear Lake, the most popular destination in the park. The large meadows in Rocky Mountains National Park all have names that end in "park" rather than meadow. So Moraine Park is not a park, but rather it is a large meadow. Many years ago there was a small town within Moraine Park, the town has been removed and the land restored back to it's original appearance.

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Overlooking Moraine Park
This photo was taken from the nature trail on the hill behind the Moraine Park Museum. The museum is built in a historic lodge and at one time the area where this photo was taken had numerous cabins on it.
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Duck with ducklings at Bear Lake
The trail that loops around Bear Lake has to be one of the most popular trails in the USA. At no time were we more than 10 feet from someone else while hiking this trail. It is a beautiful lake, but with so many people it is a bit like being at an amusement park. This duck with it's ducklings was sitting in the grass just a couple of feet from the trail The duck obviously knows people are no threat to it!
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Bear Lake
The peaks around Bear Lake.
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Bear Lake
Another photo of Bear Lake and surrounding peaks.

Fall River Road

Fall River Road starts in Estes Park and leads into the park up the Fall River Canyon. The first half of the road is paved. The second half is gravel. We had a rental car which was not allowed to be driven off paved roads, so we didn't take the gravel portion, which winds up to the top of Fall River Pass, where it meets the Trail Ridge Road at the Alpine Visitor Center.

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Lawn Lake Alluvial Fan / Roaring River
A dam upstream of this point at Lawn Lake failed in 1982, sending a torrent of water down the Roaring River canyon. The water carried tons and tons of rock downstream with it, leaving this alluvial fan where the canyon ends at the top of Horseshoe Park. From there the water spread out over Horseshoe Park, then flowed into Cascade Lake. Under the pressure the dam at Cascade Lake also failed sending a even larger torrent of water down Fall Canyon and through downtown Estes Park. Fortunately there was enough time to evacuate the town before the water arrived. 3 people were killed in the flood, one camper in Roaring River Canyon and two campers in a Horseshoe Park campground.
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Fall River Canyon
This is the view looking down the Fall River Canyon from the Alpine Visitor Center on Alpine Ridge (11,796 feet elevation). Yes, that's snow on the ground in mid-July!

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road leaves the town of Estes Park and enters the park at the Beaver Meadows entrance station. From there it follows the ridge between the Fall River Canyon and Forest Canyons, until it reaches the top of Fall River Pass near the Alpine Visitor Center. This road is closed in winter over the pass due to snow.

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Roaring River Alluvial Fan
A look at the Roaring River /Lawn Lake Alluvial Fan from the Trail Ridge Road. You can see the amount of rocks that were deposited at the base of the canyon by the flood.
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Upper Beaver Park and Moraine Park
The view from Many Parks Curve on the Trail Ridge Road. The meadow closest to the camera is Beaver Park, the one behind it is Moraine Park.
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Elk
Just a bunch of Elk grazing. The sort of thing tourists from the city like me stop to see.
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Elk
More Elk.
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Moose
We finally see a wild Moose! Not very close up, but it is a moose at last! We traveled for a week through Alaska a few years ago and never saw a single moose.
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Hidden Valley Ski Area
Hidden Valley is a small valley above Horseshoe Park. A small downhill ski area once was located in the canyon above the valley. The former Hidden Valley Ski Area was removed by the park service in 2004-2005. The base area of the ski area has been turned into a picnic area with a small visitor center. The cleared area in this photo was one of the upper ski runs.
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Roaring River Alluvial Fan, Sheep Lakes, & Horseshoe Park
This is the view from Rainbow Curve on the Trail Ridge Road. The Roaring River Alluvial fan is on the left. Horseshoe Park is the large meadow, Sheep Lakes are the small ponds on the left side of the meadow. the road on the right is the Trail Ridge Road winding up the canyon side to where the photo was taken.
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Young Elk Bull
Fuzzy antlers are popular with the young elk.
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Forest Canyon
On the opposite side of the ridge from Fall River Canyon is Forest Canyon. This photo was taken at the Forest Canyon Overlook on Trail Ridge Road.
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Roadside Wildflowers
Wildflowers along the sides of Trail Ridge Road.

The Tundra

The Tundra Community Trailhead features a signed, paved nature trail leading out over the tundra to a small peak. It is just above the tree line on the Trail Ridge Road.

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Tundra and Peaks
At first glance the Tundra looks very bare. But on close examination it is covered with tiny plants with tiny little flowers. The short growing season leaves no time to grow big in this harsh environment above the tree line. God created plants that are adapted to the environment, growing just a inch or two tall.
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Schist Over Granite
The hard schist rock protected the softer granite below it. The unprotected granite eroded away leaving these outcrops. This is near the end of the Tundra Communities Trail.
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Schist Over Granite Spires
More spires. The trail is paved to protect the tundra. The large numbers of tourists would quickly trample all the tiny windflowers without a paved trail.
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Tundra Communities Trail
A few from the small peak at the end of the Tundra Communities Trail. This is looking back toward the parking area over the rise in the distance.
Julie James Stryker
Get Me Down From Here
Along the Tundra Communities Nature Trail. This point has a marker with the elevation: 12304 Feet Above Sea Level. Julie doesn't look to happy about the altitude!
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Jess At 12304 Feet Above Sea Level
Me, looking much more comfortable. It's a guy thing.
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UFO over Sundance Mountain
Yes, there is a U.F.O. in this photo, just to the left of Sundance Mountain. Can you see it? What is it? I think it's a fly a few feet from the camera lens. But who knows?
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Mt Ida
Mount Ida.

Tundra Wildflowers

Some examples of the tiny wild flowers found in the tundra. The keys to my rental car give an idea of size. Yes, I used a field guide to flowers to identify them. I'm not that good at plants!

Acomastylis-rossii-turbinata
Acomastylis rossii turbinata
Phlox-sibirica-pulvinata
Phlox sibirica pulvinata
Rydbergia-grandiflora
Rydbergia grandiflora
Erigeron-melanocephalus
Erigeron melanocephalus
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Eritrichum aretioides
 

The Summit

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Elk
A large herd of Elk were hanging around the tree line. This elk has discovered that the heat from the pavement allows the grass next to the road to grow taller! The downside of this benefit is that you can quickly become roadkill.
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Elk
Many of the elk were laying in depressions, with only their antlers showing. The males were on one side of a small rise, the females were on the other side.
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Wind blown trees
Notice how the almost constant wind has distorted the shape of these trees.
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Trees at tree line
These tiny trees are found at the tree line. They aren't dwarf, they just don't have much time to grow each year. Some may be over 100 years old, and only a few feet tall!
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12183 Feet Above Sea Level
The summit of the Trail Ridge Road, at 12,183 feet above sea level.

The Colorado River and Kawuneeche Valley

After crossing the Fall River Pass, the Trail Ridge Road drops down the back side of the Rocky Mountains into the Kawuneeche Valley. The headwaters of the Colorado River are here.

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Kawuneeche Valley & Colorado River
Overlooking the Kawuneeche Valley. I believe this was taken at Farview Curve.
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Colorado River
The mighty Colorado River! Source of much of the water for the Western USA! The first of many large dams is just a few miles downstream from here.
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Colorado River
Trail bridge over the Colorado.
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Julie on the Colorado River Trail
Julie hiking along the Colorado River Trail.
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Beaver Dam Colorado
Dam on the Colorado River built by the locals.
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Beaver Damage
I wouldn't want to be bit by the teeth that did this!
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Grand Ditch
The scar in the hillside is the Grand Ditch, a irrigation canal built in the late 1800's to take water from the Colorado for use by farms downstream. It was considered an engineering marvel of the time and is still in use today. If not a marvel of engineering, it is certainly a marvel of environmental destruction!

Well, that's it. Hope you enjoyed my photo tour of Rocky Mountains National Park!