Rocky Mountain National Park in northern Colorado offers several ways for families so spend time together outdoors, all above 7,500 feet. Our family squeezed in as many outdoor activities as we could in a short summer vacation.
My husband anxiously drove the entire family up Old Fall River Road up to the Alpine Visitors Center on our first day. This is 11,796 feet above sea level.
The drive that provided panoramic views of Rocky Mountain ridges and elk also made us dizzy and lightheaded. The National Park Service recommends spending time getting acclimated to the moderately higher elevations of the Estes Park area before ascending to the park's highest elevations.
Back down in the meadows, we grabbed our hats and explored the foothills of the Rockies on horseback.
An experienced trail guide helped us see the sights from gentle, slow-moving trail horses. This was perfect for moms like me who want to take lots of photos and for smaller children lacking riding experience.
We saw mountain streams, aspen trees and distant peaks.
|Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park|
The highlight of our Rocky Mountain visit was a family hike up the trail toward Longs Peak. Experienced mountain climbers scale the face of Longs Peak, near the notch that you see. We weren't that motivated.
|Peacock Pool in Rocky Mountain National Park|
Instead, we took what was a moderately strenuous hike to the meadow just above Columbine Falls and Peacock Pool. If we'd started our hike just an hour earlier we could have had time to scale the last section of the trail to Chasm Lake, but we decided against it.
The last 1/2 mile of hiking that we did complete, from the public privy to Columbine Falls has a steep drop-off. It also included a bit of scurrying over snowpack, even in June. We had made it to 11,000+ feet.
|Marmot on trail to Columbine Falls|
We each had a water bottle, which was only about half of the water we should have brought along. When he realized we were running short, my husband tried to be macho and drink untreated water directly from the mountain stream (a big no-no); he luckily did not get sick from a gastrointestinal parasite. The rest of us sipped on an extra bottle of water that a generous young couple gave us.
My family criticized me for slowing them down by constantly stopping to take pictures. Once back home, they thanked me for creating a family vacation photo album with all those pictures. In case you were wondering, hubby was in charge of the planning for this entire trip. I was in charge of photography.
During our stay in the mountains, the hubby and kids were obsessed with chipmunks and ground squirrels. They even tell a story (unsubstantiated) of saving a chipmunk from drowning in the campground pool, with a life preserver. If only they had a picture...