Rocky Mountain National Park in the Fall

We moved to Colorado a few months ago, but haven't really done very much exploring yet. To be fair, we've been working long hours, getting settled after the move, and planning a wedding. But now it's time to explore this beautiful state!

Last weekend we drove up to Estes Park, and then on to the Rocky Mountain National Park for an instameet at Bear Lake, as part of the 10th World Wide Instameet.

If you've never been to the Rocky Mountain National Park it's time to add it to your bucket list! Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful, but the air smells fresher than anywhere I've ever been, and it's full of amazing wildlife. I've seen black bears, elk, squirrels, deer, and some very friendly chipmunks.

The Park also has 60 mountain peaks that are over 12,000 feet high, over 350 miles of fantastic hiking trails, glaciers, stunning lakes, and waterfalls!

Just after sunrise, I drove along the first part of Trail Ridge Road, which gets as high as 12,000 feet in places (the highest continuous paved road in America) and crosses the Continental Divide. The road has some pretty amazing lookout spots, here are just a few of the photos I took up there (using my iPhone in a LifeProof case of course).

It's particularly beautiful this time of year because the leaves are changing colors, and the air is crisp. Be sure to rug up though, it can get really windy up on some of the higher peaks!

Mid morning I started the drive to Bear Lake for the instameet. It can be a challenge to keep your eyes on the road when spectacular mountains greet you around every corner. But make sure you're on the lookout for Elk at this time of year. They come down to the areas surrounding Estes Park in early fall, and can often be seen wandering right through town!

Bear Lake is a very easy walk all the way around, and is certainly picturesque. But my new favorite is Nymph Lake, a half mile further up the trail. The hike is fairly steep the whole way, but the path is clear and easy to navigate. 

Nymph Lake is a lot smaller than Bear Lake, but has beautiful clear water, and is full of lily pads. You can also see Hallet Peak and Longs Peak from the north shore.

We stopped here for a quick picnic lunch, and to play with some friendly chipmunks before walking further, to reach the rocky overlook above the lake.

For someone who is not used to high altitudes (and has moderate asthma) the uphill climb left me a little short of breath...or maybe that was just the view?

Check out my short video wrap up of our mini adventure, and stay tuned for more posts as we explore further into the Park!

Equipment I took with me:

Map of the park (cell phone reception is spotty and Siri doesn't actually know where Bear Lake is)
- Comfortable backpack
- Water bottle
- Picnic lunch
- Sturdy hiking boots (Lowa are my favorite brand)
- Long pants and comfortable long-sleeved shirt (to avoid sunburn and bug bites)
- Waterproof jacket (it's common for storms to roll in later in the day)
- Bug repellent
- Sunscreen
Small first aid kit (I added Band-Aid friction block to prevent blisters - best invention ever)
Bear mace (because you just never know)
- Swiss army knife
- Phone and LifeProof case (protection for drops or falling into the lake while trying to get the perfect shot)

My favorite resource for finding hiking trails is AllTrails.com, which comes in desktop or app form. It even lets you search by difficulty or feature. So if you want to find trails with waterfalls, caves, or hot springs you're in luck!

If you'd like to support our beautiful National Parks with a one-time, or regular donation click here. Membership makes a nice gift for the holidays too! And considering it costs $20 per visit to the Rocky Mountain National Park you may as well buy the yearly membership for $40.

I'd love to know if you have a favorite national park, and if so which one!