This year I decided to go back to school to get a master’s degree in teaching, and I also started working part-time as a preschool teacher. I love it, but I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and write on this site. Now, as the school year is winding down, I’m excited to start planning our summer and begin writing again. The first thing on our list is our annual Memorial Day trip to the mountains. It is hard to believe that we will be heading to our cabin in Estes Park, Colorado in just a couple of weeks.
This Memorial Day, we are excited to host our friends who have never been to Colorado before. As we talked through the new timed-entry permit and the restrictions on hiking in areas of the park due to recent wild fires, I realized that planning a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park feels pretty complicated this year. I’ve attempted to summarize the new system below:
Rocky Mountain National Park Timed-Entry Permit
What: 2 hour reservation to enter the park. There isn’t a restriction on how long you can stay. Parking is not guaranteed. Reservations must be made in advance.
Cost: $2/vehicle + normal park entry fees
When: May 28 – October 11 (pilot program)
Where: There are two types of permits, one for the Bear Lake Road Corridor and another for the rest of the park.
Bear Lake Road Corridor + Rest of the Park– required between 5 am to 6 pm.
Non-Bear Lake Pass – required between 9 am to 3 pm.
How: Reservations for May and June can be made online now through recreation.gov. Reservations for July open up on June 1.
More Information: National Park website.
Some of our favorite early season hikes such as Hollowell Park, Cub Lake and Fern Lake are inaccessible right now (as of 5/16/21) because of damage caused by wildfires in 2020. Before planning hikes, make sure to check out the latest information on closures here.
This year we hope to visit the Wild Basin, Gem Lake, Lily Lake, Bierstadt Lake, and Sprague Lake.
The Wild Basin tops our wish list because it wasn’t impacted by the wildfires and the elevation is lower compared to other areas in the park, which means typically there is less snow in May/June. There are also several beautiful waterfalls, and the trail is pretty easy for young kids to hike (ages 4- 7).
Gem Lake also avoided fire damage. Even though it is a short hike, it gains a lot of elevation (1,000 ft.). I’m not sure if we will make it to the top, but there are great views along the way and unique rock formations that the kids will love. Even if we make it half way, the hike will be memorable.
Lily Lake is our go-to hike. No matter what time of year or time of day, it’s always a great choice. We enjoy adding the Lily Ridge trail to lengthen the otherwise short hike around the lake.
Bierstadt Lake and Sprague Lake are in the Bear Lake corridor. This means they are popular attractions and require the Bear Lake corridor pass. These start at decent elevations, so it’s possible to encounter slush or even significant snow in May. We’ve spotted elk and moose in this area, and the views of the continental divide are truly spectacular at both destinations.
I can’t wait to share our favorite places with our friends. Even though it’s a little complicated, I know our trip will be well-worth the extra effort. I’m also hopeful that the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park that have been overused will benefit from less traffic, and that those impacted by fire will be soon on the road to a beautiful recovery!
How to Survive a Long Family Road Trip
Memorial Day in Rocky Mountain National Park
Moose Spotting Makes for a Memorable Morning Hike Around Sprague Lake