Today was a perfect day weather wise. Bright and sunny with not a cloud in the sky. Just right to drive the Trail Ridge Road across the top of the park and get all the long distance mountain views.
Since it was Saturday we got up early again to try and avoid the crowds as much as possible. We left the RV at about 7:30.
Going up, we pretty much had the road to ourselves.
Our first destination is called the Ute Trail. It follows part of an old Indian trail to Timberline Pass. The trail continues much farther but from the highway to the pass it is fairly flat and then at the pass it goes steeply downhill. Most people turn around there. Altogether it was a 7 km hike.
This is the pullout at the trailhead. I guess we didn’t have to get up quite so early but it was nice to have the trail mostly to ourselves.
The entire hike is above the tree line as we started at 11,400 feet. The elevation was still tough on Jennie but there were no really steep sections and she powered on through.
The trail was really rocky and we had to watch our footing all the time. The freeze thaw cycle up here keeps all the small rocks at the surface.
During the hike out our only “company” were two people about 1/2 km behind us and one guy about 1 km ahead.
A few interesting rock formations to look at.
Unlike trails in the forest, up here you can see where you are going from a long way off, although with no reference points it is very hard to judge distance.
From the topo map this is called Tombstone Ridge.
Approaching Timberline Pass. We stopped at that rocky outcropping in the center of the picture below.
There were 4 marmots that I think called the rock pile home and weren’t really happy that we were there.
It was only about 9:45 but we were hungry and since it felt like we were in Lord of the Rings country we had “second breakfast”.
As we sat there we got more company although over our entire hike I think we only saw about 25 people.
The trail continues down the pass in front of us.
Off to the side, over the marmot’s head it looked that if I got to that outcrop I could get a view of the mountains in the background.
It was not part of the path but there were so many rocks that I could get there without stepping on any plants.
There had been a forest fire that burned the trees just below me.
Looking back at Jennie. The outcropping that we had climbed to have lunch looks so small.
We headed back.
Another group had seen me out at my viewpoint so went out as well.
You can barely see them sitting on the rocks.
And back to the car.
From afar we had noticed that the highway had gotten very busy. We headed up to the next viewpoint.
It was so crowded and the view wasn’t any better than what we had on the trail. I didn’t bother taking any scenery shots here.
Onwards to the next viewpoint which is just behind that rocky ridge in the picture below.
Here there was a kilometer long trail that climbed up to some of those outcroppings.
From here you could see the previous, very crowded viewpoint.
On to the next outcrop. The white stuff on the ground is not snow, just small white gravel.
I guess you are supposed to climb these rocks because at the top was a marker showing the direction and distance to some other national parks.
You are not supposed to just go strolling across the tundra but some people never listen.
Other creatures are allowed.
The view back towards the car.
The road continues up to the next view.
A quick stop at the Lava Cliffs.
And on to the Alpine Visitor’s Center. As with everything else, it was packed. With the vultures cruising the parking lot we were lucky to get a spot. I guess the logs are to strengthen the roof.
The buildings here get buried under many feet of snow in the winter. They put the tall sticks around everything so they can find them when it is time to dig them out.
The view from the visitor’s center deck out to what is called a cirque. There used to be a glacier here.
While Jennie was in the gift shop I noticed that there was trail up to yet another viewpoint.
I think my count was off a bit but there were around 210 stone steps and a bit of paved trail to climb the 200 feet.
Some clouds hovering over the mountains.
But clear everywhere else.
Back down to meet Jennie.
We continues down the road.
It quickly went back down into the trees so we found a pullout and headed back towards home.
Once we started down the road got really busy. It was basically a solid line of cars all the way from the top to the bottom. It was a good thing we didn’t want to stop at any of the pullouts because they were all full..
At least the line kept moving and we were home at about 3 pm.