Black Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

This morning I received a text from my husband with a link to an article from an Estes Park newspaper that there is a wildfire near Estes Park today (November 16, 2021). The fire is currently 133 acres. They are calling it the Kruger Rock Fire. Strong winds have not helped the situation. The most up-to-date information can be found on the Larimer County website, here.

Today’s wildfire is located a few miles south of our cabin. It’s hard to tell the specific areas where the fire has made an impact. It looks like it is near a hiking destination that we’ve enjoyed in the past called Kruger Rock which is in Hermit Park. I wrote more about the area here.

Rather than anxiously checking and rechecking news updates, I thought it would be more productive to write a post that I’ve been meaning to write for a while. Back in August, my husband and I went on a hike to Black Lake. We chose Black Lake out of many options we were considering for a ‘date hike’ mostly because it felt like a sure bet. I knew that we would pass by Mills Lake on the way which is one of my favorite destinations in Rocky Mountain National Park.

We got into Rocky Mountain National Park before 6:00 am so that we would have a good chance of getting a parking spot at Bear Lake. I’m not a fan of getting out of bed early in the morning, but I am a big fan of watching the sunrise over the mountains. It was also amazing to have one of the most popular destinations in the park to ourselves. I took the following video of Alberta Falls which is located .6 miles from the Bear Lake parking area.

Alberta Falls

We took the hike on August 1st, which meant we had to purchase a timed-entry permit for the Bear Lake corridor. The permits are required between May 28 – October 11, so if you are planning a late fall or winter visit the permits probably aren’t something you will need to worry about. However, I recommend looking at the national park’s website for the latest information because this is a pretty new system.

Mills Lake is located a little less than three miles into the hike.

Mills Lake

We ran into a group of female elk on the trail. I thought they’d be scared and run away when they saw us… nope. They held their ground and we let them. We backed up and let them have their space and time on the trail. It was slightly intimidating, but it is also one of my favorite memories from the hike.

There was a section of the trail that had a lot of knocked down trees. I did a little research and found that, ‘In November of 2011 a microburst, with winds estimated at 70 to 90 mph, hit the region and decimated hundreds of trees in this area alone. The blowdown impacted a section of trail that extends for roughly a half-mile.’ according to Rocky Mountain Trails.com. I thought that was very interesting because I didn’t realize microbursts occur in mountain areas. It’s also remarkable that the event occurred a decade ago, but you can still see noticeable damage.

This trail featured numerous streams and waterfalls along with spectacular mountain views.

Not far from Black Lake we had to climb up the side of a waterfall. Looking back we enjoyed the view of the lush valley below.

Black lake

Black Lake Trail is rated as a 5 star hike on AllTrails.com. Fellow hikers made comments about the privacy and noted ‘hardly any other hikers’ on the trail after Mills Lake. Hikers also stated it is a ‘good workout’ for moderate hikers. Tips include pre-downloading maps on your phone and wearing mosquito repellent.

Black Lake is also one of the hikes featured on the new Rocky Mountain Channel which is a subscription service that provides high-quality video content about Rocky Mountain National Park that can be streamed from anywhere.

We stopped for a snack at Black Lake where we admired the dark reflection quality which is perhaps how the lake earned its name.

On the way back, the sky turned bright blue and the mountains glowed in the sun. Our total hiking distance was 9.6 miles round trip. I’m so glad that my husband and I had an opportunity to do something we love in one of our favorite places.

The town of Estes Park, the fire crews, and the surrounding wildlife areas are in our thoughts and prayers tonight!

October Hike to Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

The hike to Dream Lake begins at the Bear Lake trail head in Rocky Mountain National Park. The total hike is 1.1 miles each way starting at 9,450 ft in elevation and gaining 450ft. You will cross by Nymph Lake halfway into the hike. In late October, we could see lily pads at Nymph Lake as well as a layer of ice beginning to frost the mountain lake. The pairing made a unique and beautiful combination.

Nymph Lake Rocky Mountain National Park
Nymph Lake

We continued up towards Dream Lake.

hike to Dream Lake Rocky Mountain National Park

dream lake rocky mountain national park

The hike to Dream Lake is one of the most popular hikes in the park. Even though there were quite a few people on the trail, we felt lucky that we could experience it off-peak. October is late in the season for this hike.

We were thankful to the fellow hikers who took a family photo for us with Hallett Peak in the background.

Dream Lake Rocky Mountain National Park
Dream Lake

As we headed back down the trail, I overheard a group of young, fit-looking hikers marvel at how much better our girls were hiking in the high elevation compared to them. I smiled to myself because it was true. Our 4-year-old and 6-year-old made the hike look easy with their abundant energy.

In one of our favorite hiking guides by Erik Stensland, this hike is rated easy unless ‘you are not acclimatized’ – in which case it can be challenging, and it is a good idea to take it slow.

Dream Lake Rocky Mountain National Park

The truth is our girls were motivated by snow, and specifically throwing snowballs (otherwise known as ice pellets) at their parents.

Dream Lake Rocky Mountain National Park

You can see in their smiles that this hike was a lot of fun, but the Mom/teacher in me was excited to sneak in a little education as well. For example, because this hike is so popular, you can see areas along the trail that have been impacted by erosion. We looked at exposed tree roots and talked about how the dirt is needed to keep the trees from falling over. We also talked about snow melt and asked why the waterfall which we had passed in the spring was now a trickle of water in comparison. How do the changing seasons impact the landscape and the animals?

If you have little science and nature lovers in your life, I think a gift from the Rocky Mountain Conservancy would be a meaningful present this holiday season. Purchases support ‘the research and educational missions of Rocky Mountain National Park.’

White River Cabin Rental

Have you watched The World’s Most Amazing Vacations Rentals on Netflix? It’s my family’s new favorite show because it’s just as addictive as HGTV remodel shows we’ve binged in the past, but instead of choosing homes to buy, the hosts travel to three vacation rentals and pick which one they like best. Plus, the hosts are adorable and contagiously enthusiastic.

In that enthusiastic spirit, today I want to share about an AMAZING home we rented in Flippin, Arkansas. Listed as a Stunning White River Retreat, the home has five bedrooms and four full bathrooms. It is located on ‘The White Hole stretch of The White River which is six miles below the Bull Shoals Dam in the beautiful Ozark Mountains with the back of the home overlooking a tree-filled bluff along the river.’ according to the VRBO listing.

Helpful Resources:

There were multiple levels of outdoor space including a fire pit where we roasted marshmallows. Each night we staid outside past dark to enjoy the star-filled sky.

white river arkansas fishing

The property backed up to the river where we spent hours fishing in the cool, clear waters. We used both fly fishing poles and basic kids fishing poles. Arkansas State Parks website offers some fishing tips for this area which include paying attention to the water levels because they change based on how much water is coming out of Bull Shoals Dam. We used both dough bait and worms. You need both a Arkansas State Fishing License and a Trout permit to fish.

Besides fishing, I loved watching the fog roll in over the river from the gorgeous outdoor kitchen.

The house had amazing views of the river from inside as well. The owners did a fabulous job of creating little sitting spots to take in views, read a book, or sip a cup of coffee or glass of wine. I also loved the long dining table that fit all ten of us comfortably for evening meals.

Trout fishing in arkansas

Our girls were excited to catch and release a few beautiful trout. ‘Nearby towns include Cotter, The Trout Capital USA.’ according to the VRBO listing. This property is also located near Gaston’s, a well-known fishing resort with a restaurant. There was a Walmart nearby for grocery shopping where we picked up food and other essentials like bait.

The home was also equipped with a ping pong table which was a blast to play with my sister and mom. My Mom and I also enjoyed a nice walk down to the public boat launch down the street.

Growing up going to the lake, I was surprised at how much fun we could have on the river without a boat. I appreciate how family-friendly this spot felt too. Float trips down the river sometimes feel like rowdy parties, but this area seams to attract a more fishing-focused crowd (in a good way). Flippin, Arkansas surpassed my expectations, and I hope we can return soon.

Hike from Old Fall River Road

Old Fall River road is a gravel road that travels one-way from the Endovalley Picnic Area all the way up to the Alpine Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park. Because of extreme weather conditions at this altitude, the road is typically only available to drive up during the summer months. In 2021, it is scheduled to close to vehicles beginning October 4 according to the national park’s website.

Less busy trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

Driving up Old Fall River Road can feel treacherous because it is so narrow. Plus, once you start, you can’t turn back. However, the drive is slow paced (in fact the speed limit is 15 miles per hour). There are stunning views on the way up to the Alpine Visitor Center. Don’t miss Chasm Falls which I wrote about here.

Rocky mountain national park wildlife

Marmot Rocky Mountain National Park

We spotted wildlife on the tundra including fuzzy marmots basking in the morning sunlight. We noticed an unmarked trail on the final stretch of the drive and decided to pull over and explore.

Old Fall River Road hiking

best views rocky mountain national park

The path was short and steep. Since the starting elevation is so high, we were quickly rewarded with 360-degree mountain views. Check out 9 More Hikes with Amazing Views in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Best views Rocky Mountain National Park

less busy trail in Rocky mountain national park

Our kids who are ages 4 and 6 were able to hike this on their own. We all loved our new discovery! There is another short hike that leaves from the Alpine Visitor Center called the Alpine Ridge Trail. We’ve enjoyed that trail in the past, but I liked this one even more because it’s much less popular.

Getting back to Estes Park

After visiting the Alpine Visitor Center, you can travel back down the mountain towards Estes Park on Trail Ridge Road.

Elk herd Rocky Mountain National Park