A Trail Less Traveled

Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular vacation destination. The month of July is especially busy. According to an article in the Coloradoan, a record 912,507 people visited the park in July 2016.

In my last post I mentioned that crowds were one of my least favorite parts of our July trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. One of the solutions for us was finding less popular trails. One morning we woke up a little late and couldn’t find parking at Bear Lake, Glacier Gorge, Bierstadt or even the Park and Ride. I’m glad we didn’t give up looking, because we eventually found a spot near Sprague Lake.

We decided to give it a go and hike from Sprague Lake to the Glacier Gorge trailhead via the Glacier Creek Trail. If you are in the parking lot and looking towards the lake, you will find the trailhead to your right. From here, head uphill and follow signs leading to Bear Lake.

The further we hiked, the prettier this trail became. Two miles in we discovered a little lake covered in lily pads blooming with yellow flowers. My daughter nicknamed it Minnie Mouse Lake.

Lake on Glacier Creek Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

We also passed over a wooden bridge with a roaring mountain stream classified as a ‘loud waterfall’ by our toddler.

Roaring Mountain Stream in Rocky Mountain National Park

We turned around 2.8 miles into our hike. If we continued we would have made it to Bear Lake or Alberta Falls in less than a mile. The return hike was even more enjoyable because it was a downhill slope.

Trail Signs Rocky Mountain National Park

We really enjoyed our hike and will keep this less trafficked trail in mind for days when the park is busy!

Hiking with Kids Rocky Mountain National Park

Hiking Gear Highlight – Hiking Boots: The dusty first section of this hike inspired me to ditch my running shoes and buy new hiking boots with good wool hiking socks. In downtown Estes Park I noticed a sale sign on the window of Plum Creek Shoe Station. The selection of boots and customer service was amazing. I was given options in my price range that fit the hikes we go on. I’m so glad I bought from a local shop so I could ask questions rather than buying online. Having good hiking boots and socks that fit makes a world of difference!

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Deer Mountain – a Family Friendly Summit Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Looking for a family friendly summit hike in Rocky Mountain National Park? There is something very rewarding about reaching the summit of a mountain, but with young kids it’s hard to spend the time, energy and face the technical challenges of hiking up many of the prominent peaks.

Good news! You don’t have to hike all day to experience wonderful panoramic views and gain that awesome feeling of accomplishment. A three-mile hike up Deer Mountain offers both. The hike is located at Deer Ridge Junction, a few miles west of the Beaver Meadows entrance.

Hiking with a baby in the mountains

There isn’t a parking lot near Deer Mountain. Cars park right off the street making parking limited.

Parking near Deer Mountain is limited

Gear for hiking with young children and babies
I carried our 4 month old in an Ergobaby carrier and my husband carried our 2 1/2-year-old in a Deuter kid comfort carrier. With the added weight, we were happy to take extra breaks to enjoy the inspiring mountain vistas.

Great views on the way up Deer Mountain in RMNP

As we approached the summit, we hiked through melting snow which is pretty common in May –  especially this year.  I was thankful for my waterproof hiking boots, but we still got wet and muddy. Keeping a pair of flip-flops in the car to change into post hike would be helpful.

Deer Mountain Summit near Estes Park Colorado

Trekking poles were also helpful. You gain 1,093 ft of elevation.

Hiking Deer Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park in May

Standing at 10,013′ we made it to the summit. This was our youngest daughter’s first summit hike. Both girls were ready for a snack at this point, but we were worried about dark clouds looming in the distance and decided to start our descent. We probably should have started this hike earlier in the day because storms are more common in the afternoon. Deer Mountain, good spring summit hike for families in Rocky Mountains

On the way down, we had to be cautious in a few areas where slippery rocks were covered in slushy snow (especially with our precious cargo).

Hiking in snow

Luck was on our side, the weather cleared and we enjoyed the 3 mile return trip under blue skies.

Hiking Deer Mountain

 

Riding High in New Kid Carrier

On our most recent trip to Colorado we were excited to try out our new kid carrier for a hike up to Gem Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.
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After renting packs for our last few trips, we decided to buy a Deuter carrier from REI (similar).

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Cecy enjoyed the view riding up high. She seemed very comfortable and there was more space between her and my husband so they didn’t get as hot. We also bought a sun roof and rain cover for the carrier (similar) which will come in handy this summer.

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The Deuter carrier came with a little stuffed bear which we nicked named ‘buddy’.Overall, I think this is going to be a great investment for family hiking adventures.

Rocky Mountain Tot Goes to Cub Lake

Last week we headed to Colorado to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary, because what could be more romantic than bringing a one-and-a-half year old hiking? Well, maybe it wasn’t the most romantic trip we’ve been on, but I couldn’t think of a prettier place to celebrate than Rocky Mountain National Park.

Weather
When we plan hikes with our little one the first thing we think about is the weather conditions. The Bear Lake area currently has 40 inches of snow. We wanted to stay in lower elevation, so we decided to check out the Cub Lake trail which is in the majestic Moraine Valley. We were lucky to arrive on a sunny day, but melting snow made the trail muddy in places and we went through a few snow patches.

Gear
It’s amazing how fast Cecy is growing.  We are planning to replace her beloved baby carrier for a sturdier kid carrier soon, but for this trip we rented one at the Warming House in Estes Park for $10 per day (similar). I bought trekking poles (similar) which helped keep our balance especially in the snow, and took some of the impact off our knees and back. I was also very thankful for my waterproof hiking boots!

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The Cub Lake trail is 2.5 miles each way. The trail-head starts out in the Moraine Valley where we spotted elk grazing right off the trail.

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Feeling the Burn
Beyond the valley you enter a wooded section of the trail that is scarred by fire damage. Truthfully, the first time I hiked through this area I didn’t think it was very pretty. This time I decided to find the unique beauty in it which made a big difference on how much more I enjoyed this section of the hike.

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There were a few uphill bursts before the lake – made more challenging by snow and baby.

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We made it to Cub Lake and took a little refreshment break! Later in the season we’d likely see lily pads on top.

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After our break I offered to take turns and have Cecy ride on my back. This lasted about 25 minutes going down hill. Aren’t I nice? But honestly, I couldn’t have gone much further. It was tough work!! I’m excited to try again and build up some endurance and muscles this summer.

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I took Cecy for about 10% of the hike (downhill). 

 

New Year, New Outdoor Adventures

On New Year’s Day, my husband and I decided to try something new and rented snowshoes from the Warming House in Estes Park, CO.  The $8/day rental included personal instructions on how to properly put them on and trekking poles.

We started out at the Bierstadt Lake trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park and climbed uphill 1.3 miles to the frozen lake and back down.  The views were gorgeous the whole way!

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The snow was pretty packed in, so I don’t know if snowshoes were 100% necessary. We saw several people in them and several people with micro-spikes like these.

I’m a total novice and thought I would be very cold because the temperature was only 22 degrees.  I started with long sleeve Under Armour shirt (similar), a long sleeve t-shirt, a Northface fleece jacket (similar) , a waterproof winter jacket (similar), Under Armour cold weather leggings, athletic pants, two pairs of wool socks, a hat, gloves and waterproof hiking boots (similar).  Once we got moving, I took off several layers.

Speaking of heating up – sunglasses are essential because the snow makes the sun even brighter and for me it’s easy to forget drinking water when it’s cold, so I had to remind myself to drink up. We didn’t bring sunscreen, but I think it would be a good idea next time along with chapstick.

This past summer we went to the same beautiful lake via Bear Lake trailhead with our daughter Cecilia which I wrote about here. Since this was our first time snowshoeing, we decided to be extra cautious and get a babysitter (my amazing sister). We saw a couple on the trail with a baby, and learned snowshoeing isn’t much different than walking, so I would definitely consider taking her on future snowshoe adventures.

Even though I love hiking with our little one, I have to admit it was fun going on a snow day date with my husband!

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What I’m (Constantly) Reading

We are heading back to Colorado in a couple of weeks and I can’t wait. Between trips I day dream about waking up to mountain vistas and research hikes. My go-to hiking resource is “Rocky Mountain National Park, The Complete Hiking Guide” by Lisa Foster.

I bought this guide a couple of years ago as a gift for my husband at Kind Coffee, our can’t-miss coffee shop in Estes Park, CO. My favorite part of the book is the ‘destination chart’ in the appendix. Foster lists basically every destination in RMNP and it’s distance, trailhead, elevation starting point, elevation gain, and rating (grade, class and snow/ice). When we are hiking with our 10 month old, I’ve been looking for hikes that are 6 miles or less round trip and have a low grade and class rating.  Foster also put together a helpful list of over 50 attractions in the book’s index under “family-friendly hiking destinations”.

Sadly, a week after I bought the guide downtown Estes Park and much of the surrounding area was hit by a devastating flood. Even though the town did an amazing job rebuilding, we’ve seen major changes in trails including one of our favorites, Twin Sisters Peak. I’ll write about our adventure with navigating the landslide damage soon!

As a supplement to the guide, we also like to check out sites like Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails.com.

Baby Under Armour

Cecy has sensitive skin and riding in the carrier against her Dad’s back was making her little stomach break out in a rash because she’d get hot and sweaty. Now before we go on hikes I put a protective lotion like Aquaphor on her and then put her in a little pink Under Armour outfit I got at Scheels. I kind of felt silly buying Under Armour gear for my little one who can’t walk yet, but I’m telling you the breathable fabric helped so much. I think the key was getting a romper or onesie. I was afraid a shirt would ride up on her during hikes.

Under Armour Baby
Under Armour Baby

Here is a link to a similar outfit: Girls’ Infant Under Armour Kaleidostar Romper