Rocky Mountain National Park, Part One The West Side

We have visited numerous national parks and I am always left wondering, “can a person ever spend enough time in such a place of wonder?”

We spent five days in Rocky Mountain National Park in June 2019. The second longest amount of time we have spent at any national park (Yellowstone remains the longest time we have spent). And I still walk away knowing that we failed to cover so very much. The only saving grace for me is I know Rocky Mountain National Park is a park we can and will easily re-visit.

East vs. West

We stayed on the west side of the park at Winding River Resort so the majority of our activities seemed to be on that side. I have no scientific research but it feels to me that the majority of visitors to Rocky Mountain Park enter from the east side, through Estes Park. I know when we went over to the east side it seemed more crowded. I can say that the west side of the park is home to moose and that is the primary reason for our visit. Today’s post is about our experiences on the west side.

West Side

We started our time on the west side at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center where we were given advice on hiking trails and fishing. We selected an easy hike, the North Inlet Trail.  Wildlife sightings is what we sought and what we sought advice from the rangers on. Well,  wildlife sightings is what we found. We saw marmot, deer, snakes, and even moose. We hiked the North Inlet Trail about 1 1/2 miles when we noticed how late it was getting to be. Afternoon had left and we were approaching evening when we turned around to hike towards home. We never made it to Cascade Falls (it was another 2 miles further). Our most memorable moment on this trail was when we noticed three bull moose staring down on us from above the trail. We attempted to pass them by walking softly forward. However, the moose had other plans as they started running down the hill straight for the trail. So, we decided to quietly but quickly back up just trying to create as much space as possible. The moose crossed the trail and started feasting on the marsh side of the trail and then the three moose started getting aggressive with each other! We were treated to such an amazing show on our first night but we did decide we had seen too much excitement and quickly maximized the diversion to get out of that area!

Our second hike on the west side was the East Inlet Trail. My dear friend Harry came to visit us from Denver and after we enjoyed a great lunch at the local Snack Shack we took off hiking to Adams Falls and beyond. The trail to Adams Falls was a bit crowded. A lot of people turned around and returned after the falls but we kept going. We ran into a group of artist painting in a clearing. I have never been an artistic type but those women on that day inspired me to come home and purchase watercolors. I have yet to take them hiking with me but I still think that is in my future.

We headed to Coyote Valley Trailhead for dual purpose. Wayne and Jackie (who joined us for part of our trip) set out to flyfish while Olivia and I hiked from Coyote Valley Trailhead to Bowen/Baker Trailhead. Olivia and I started off on a defined trail and them we ended up on a different type of trail. Maybe it was a social trail or a game trail? I am not sure but we soon found ourselves wondering through trees, meadows, and crossing the Colorado River four or five different times. As we hiked, the fisherman were working their own way up and down the Colorado River. Olivia and I spied more moose and Wayne and Jackie did catch wild trout.

Bowen Gulch to Never Summer Wilderness was our final hike on the west side of the park. Never Summer Wilderness is actually not in the national park but it is in the Arapaho National Forest. We hiked the trail toward Parika Lake for a few miles before turning around and heading back. While the environment seemed likely for wild animal sightings we did not have any on this trail.

Overall, the river was full from spring thaw. The water was running swiftly. Jackie, Wayne, and eventually my cousin Dennis had a great time attempting to catch trout. They had enough luck to consider it a successful trip.

We started completing and collecting Junior Ranger Badges years ago when we first started visiting national parks. This visit was no different. Olivia completed her program and visited the Kawuneeche Visitor Center to get sworn in. These visits are always fun, the rangers take valuable time away from their other duties to make each child feel special. They each vary slightly based on the rangers individual personality. At Rocky Mountain National Park, the ranger took her own hat off and put it on Olivia’s head! It was a wonderful moment. But as different as each one is, they also share something very similar. They inspire the kids and adults alike to be better, to do better, and to protect more. I am thankful she has not grown out of this.

The west side of the park met every expectation that we had. We had more moose sightings than I could ever write about. We went hoping to see one moose and came home seeing dozens of moose. In fact, in our feature photo, the one of us in front of the Rocky Mountain National Park sign, a moose was walking out of the trees and walking directly to us. We had one eye on the camera and one on the moose just to see what his next steps were going to be.

Come back later and check out our east side activities.

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