Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park

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I completely blame this trip on my landlord. Yes, it’s 100% his fault. 100% his fault that I had great time snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park.

snowshoeing in rocky mountain national park

I’m going to digress a bit here, so bear with me. Or skip the next couple paragraphs, whichever you prefer. 🙂

After I moved back to Wichita, I met a boy or a guy, or whatever you want to call him. We both share a love for the outdoors, though his love for it is a bit more extreme than mine. For me, outdoor activities are more fun when the temperature is above 60 degrees. Even though I braved the cold before (remember my dog sledding trip in Northern Minnesota), I haven’t taken on a lot of outdoor adventures that involve snow. When I jokingly told him I needed to be gone for a few days during the week so I could get my tile replaced (because apparently tile guys don’t like to work on the weekends even when your landlord schedules them a month in advance), he suggested we take a trip to Colorado and go snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and crazy me, I said yes.

snowshoeing in colorado

The guy….Kurt (I’ve been given permission to use his name). 🙂

Crazy for several reasons. One, I had only known this guy for maybe a month. With my lack of outdoor experience in the freezing cold, I would be dependent on him and you know how much that takes me out of my comfort zone. Two, I had no gear. No snowshoes, no daypack and not even a hat (because I generally refuse to wear them). And three, did I mention I’m not a fan of the freezing cold?

happy hour on pearl street in boulder

It’s not Coors Light but it will do.

Stay in Boulder

We decided to stay in Boulder and get up early to drive to Rocky Mountain National Park. If you haven’t been to Boulder, I highly recommend you spend a day or two in the area. Every outdoor store you could ever want is located on Pearl Street or close by AND the restaurants in this city have true happy hours. The kind where you can get four microbrews and two appetizers for less than $25 and the owner of the restaurant doesn’t laugh at you when you ask what beer tastes like Coors Light.

lucile's restaurant in boulder colorado

Eggs Jennifer with creole potatoes at Lucile’s in Boulder.

I reserved the Courtyard Marriott on Pearl Street because of the location, price and because I’m a Marriott Rewards member (love the points). The hotel was clean, quiet and had free WiFI, some of the important things I look for in a hotel but it lacked a complimentary breakfast which meant we had to eat out. Luckily we found a fantastic local restaurant called Lucile’s. The biscuits were gigantic as were the rest of the portions. The only thing we didn’t like? The tea. Unless you’re into super sweet and spicy tea, skip it and go for the beignets instead. From what I am told, they were delicious but you may want to tell them to go light on the powdered sugar.

Rocky Mountain Park

The drive from Boulder to RMNP is about an hour. As you enter the park, you’ll pay a $20 automobile entrance fee that is good for a week. In my opinion, that’s a small price to pay to be able to experience and enjoy all the natural beauty. In 2013, the entrance fees paid for park improvements such as:

  • Sewer upgrades to piping in Moraine Park Campground
  • Comfort station remodels at Aspenglen Campground
  • Historic rock walls rehabilitated on Trail Ridge Road
  • Trails rehabilitated on Flattop Mountain, Finch Lake, Lawn Lake and North Inlet
  • Park roadways striped and road shoulders stabilized
  • Constructed accessible campsites in Aspenglen Campground

You can also buy an annual pass if you know you’ll be back there more than once. But either way, the price you pay for admission is nominal considering how vast the park is and the experiences you will have.

Bear Lake Trailhead

We were one of the first cars to arrive at the Bear Lake trailhead. I suggest getting there early or plan on playing the vulture game for a parking spot. This is a popular trailhead during all the seasons since it’s a relatively easy hike from the parking lot around Bear Lake. After a slight whine on my part about the wind, I sucked it up and put on all my snowshoe gear and we took off on the trail on our way to Mills Lake. Our goal was to make it our destination around noon, have lunch and then make our way back in time to have dinner with friends.

rocky mountain national park trails

The trails to Mills Lake are easy to follow.

On the way to Mills Lake you’ll pass Alberta Falls, a popular attraction during the warmer months. I don’t think I really looked up for the first mile as I was trying to get used to my snowshoes and regulate my body temperature so all I can do is assume I passed it. I’ve hiked this trail in the summer time and remember it being quite crowded, complete opposite of how it was that day. We encountered a few people on our way up but for the most part, it was just us and a lot of snow.

Mills Lake

snowshoeing gear

After going off-path and taking a “short cut” that almost caused me to say a few cuss words, we found an area overlooking Mills Lake to take off our snowshoes and breakout lunch. As I found clean snow for us to melt, Kurt set up his MSR Reactor camping stove so we could have a warm beverage.  This stove is nice because it boils water quickly, which is important when you’re out in cold weather. We brought one of those dehydrated meals but ended up skipping that in favor of a Larabar for me and a granola bar for him.

mills lake in rocky mountain national park

The spot we picked was perfect. Sunny, to keep us warm and just enough shelter from the wind. The hike up had some challenging moments (remember that short-cut) but overall, I think anyone who is active would have no problem taking this trail as long as they were well prepared. The total elevation gain was around 780 feet and the trail has a difficulty rating of 6.84 (moderate). Of course, with snow that changes the game a bit.

The trek to Mills Lake was much more enjoyable for me than the trip back. I was being stubborn and didn’t want to wear the sunglasses I had bought for this trip and my contacts frosted over. You know what the view looks like when your car’s rearview camera is dirty? That’s what my vision was like. Every 15-20 minutes we had to stop so Kurt could put drops of water in my eyes. He gets bonus points for not making me crawl down the trail on my hands and knees.

I definitely plan to go snowshoeing again but next time I will be better prepared. I won’t be as stubborn (I know, this is going to be a challenge) and pack appropriately. Stay tuned for my next post on a first timers tips to snowshoeing.

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About Sarah

Mom. Blogger. Runner. Hiker. Insomniac. Not necessarily in that order.

Comments

  1. Where are the pictures of YOU all bundled up in your winter gear? ;P Looks like a fabulous outdoor time. And the views are much prettier than my flat blanket of snow in my backyard.

    • There is only one photo of me and it was taken under duress so it will forever remain on my Mac, never to be seen.

      Don’t underestimate flat blankets of snow – they are PERFECT for making snow angels. Something that was promised to me on my snowshoeing trip but never delivered upon.

  2. What an awesome adventure Sarah! I want to try snowshoeing! I look forward to your next post!:)

  3. Looks like an amazing experience! I’d definitely want to try it with someone more experienced (my husband does not do the snow!).

  4. It still sounds like a fun trip. We made on family trip to Colorado and visited many places but I’m sorry that we skipped Boulder and Rocky Mountain park. If we ever make it back again, I’m going to make sure that we go there.

  5. Rocky Mountain park looks like a very nice place to go for a hike. Wish i could go there in the near future.

  6. I have always wanted to try snowshoeing. We have friends who do it all the time. I think we just HAVE to join them some weekend!

  7. I am looking forward to when my boys are a little bigger and we can go on adventures like this.

  8. What a great experience! This looks so awesome!!! I want to visit!

  9. Do you know how much I love love this post?? Way to go out of your comfort zone.. =) Proud of you… and you took some gorgeous shots..

    Way to be adventurous.

    • Thanks Jamie! I’m definitely being more outdoorsy this year. In two weeks I run a 1/2 marathon and then in July I’ll be backcountry camping in Glacier National Park. I can’t wait!

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