Seeking Serenity in the Mountains – A Hike To Mills Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

I feel joy and peace when I look at the pictures from our most recent hike to Mills Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. At 5.6 miles round trip, this was our longest and final hike during our Labor Day weekend trip.

Mills Lake

The hike began at Bear Lake trailhead (9,475 ft elevation) with a downhill slope for the first half mile. A female elk crossed ahead of us before we continued on the trail up towards Alberta Falls.

*Alberta Falls, a popular destination, is .8 miles into the hike (200 ft gain )

Hiking with Baby in Rocky Mountain National Park

The hike from Alberta Falls to Mills Lake gains another 500 feet in elevation. Sometimes it’s hard with kids to go on longer hikes, but the longer the distance the more we’ve been able to enjoy the mental, spiritual and physical benefits of hiking in the mountains. It’s worth pushing ourselves through the extra mileage and elevation gain.  Hiking to Mills Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Mills Lake was serene and breathtaking. The weather was sunny and crisp with the first signs of Fall appearing as patches of golden leaves trickling down the mountains.

When things get crazy with scary news, frustrating facebook feeds, dealing with sick kiddos… I’ve been trying to return to Mills Lake in my mind and linger there a while. It’s my ‘happy place.’ Do you have one?

I’m so grateful I get to return to the mountains for another hiking trip this weekend!

 

 

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The Pool: Evy’s First Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

This was a great first hike for our little Evy. She slept the whole way – snuggled in warm against her mamma.

Last week we made a crazy, last-minute decision to take a trip to Colorado with our toddler and newborn. They did  great on the long drive to Estes Park which makes me optimistic about future trips as a family of 4.

We decided to hike to The Pool which is one of our family’s favorite 2-4 mile hikes. The lower elevation was great for me because I haven’t done a whole lot of exercise since Evy was born in January and also great for my husband who had to carry our growing toddler. We started our hike at Fern Lake trail head in the Moraine Valley.

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We walked through a few patches of snow and some areas that were a little wet and muddy from melt, but overall the trail was in good walking condition.

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We spotted this waterfall which seemed to be the culprit for some of the sogginess.

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1.2 miles into our hike we arrived at the always-impressive Arch Rocks.

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Eventually our two-year-old Cecy negotiated with her dad to get out of the carrier. She was carried over jagged rocks that we were afraid she might slip on.

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She walked a good distance too! She got tripped up on a rock, but made a quick recovery.

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We stopped for a snack which made everyone happy.

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1.7 miles into our journey along the Big Thompson River we made it to The Pool.

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If you cross over the bridge, the trail will continue on to Fern Falls and Fern Lake.

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This was a great first hike for our little Evy. She slept the whole way –  snuggled in warm against her mamma.

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We love our girls and can’t wait to take them on more adventures in RMNP!

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.

Toddler Self Guided Tour of Sprague Lake

We took a quick weekend trip to Estes Park, Colorado last weekend to celebrate my husband’s upcoming birthday! His bestfriend staid with us for part of the trip, so my husband got some good ‘guy-time’ hiking in while I took Cecy on a mommy-daughter hiking adventure around Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The weather was perfect, the scenery was gorgeous and we enjoyed taking our time to explore every rock, puddle and log along the half mile loop.

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At 8,688′ of elevation, there was still a little snow melting on the path in a few places.

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Cecy loved running across the wooden bridges that cross marshy areas.

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She climbed on the smooth boulders that rest off the trail.

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Several wooden benches line the path which are great for taking a snack break or just sitting down to enjoy the mountain views. These are also great spots for family photo ops!

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A park sign points out the peaks you can see from Sprague Lake on the Continental Divide: Half Mountain, Thatchtop, Taylor Peak, Otis Peak, Hallet Peak, Tyndall Glacier, Flattop Mountain and Notchtop.

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I cherish this special time with my little hiking buddy.

Rocky Mountain Tot Goes to Bridal Veil Falls

Rocky Mountain National Park’s Bridal Veil Falls is located in a more remote area of the park. The land was once a cattle ranch and was converted to a destination dude ranch before the park service purchased the land in 1988.
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From the Cow Creek trail-head it is a 3.2 mile hike to Bridal Veil Falls.

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The trail meanders along the creek.

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When you get 1.2 miles into the hike you can split off to go to destinations like Balanced Rock or Gem Lake. We will keep this in mind for future hikes, but for this one we kept on our original path. IMG_4877

It definitely feels like an old John Wayne movie out in these parts!IMG_4872

Until we cross over the creek and into the woods.

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Wait, where did the trail go!?

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I’m pretty sure this is not the 20 foot waterfall we were looking for.

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But, that’s okay our little dudette was pretty tuckered out.

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We will have to try this one again. In the mean time if you are interested in hiking to the falls, I recommend reading this helpful post from Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails.com. Good luck!

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). 

 

Our First Hike with Hike it Baby – Kansas City

Yesterday Cecilia and I went on our first hike with Hike it Baby. I’m so glad my friend told me about this group. They are a nonprofit organization dedicated to getting young families outdoors. They have branches in nearly every state.

We met at local coffee shop called The Roasterie in Leawood, Kansas and headed down 119th Street to hop on the Tomahawk Creek Trail. There were 7-8 friendly moms all pushing strollers, so we went at an adult’s pace but stopped a couple of times when our little ones needed some extra attention.

We eventually took a break from walking to let the kids burn off energy at a nearby playground before heading back to our starting point. Cecy and I both had a lot of fun and look forward to our next hike!