Our first BIG adventure in our trailer was a trip to Colorado to visit Tim’s family and take in the sights in and around Estes Park. There was so much to do and see that I couldn’t contain it all to one post and do it justice. Make sure you read all of our Colorado posts to get the full scope of our trip.
We wasted no time in getting to Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado is the furtherest west I’ve ever been and I was eager to see one of it’s main attractions. Tim’s extended family has lived in Estes Park for over thirty years so he’s been to the park many times over the years. He suggested we do a drive up Old Fall River Road to get an “overview” of the park.
If there’s a theme that will come up again and again during this trip it’s that I’m a neurotic mess when it comes to heights and traveling up and down mountains. A perfect mindset for a trip to Colorado, right? I knew Old Fall River Road was a dirt road and there were a lot of switchbacks so of course my mind imagined the most ridiculous scenario. It was not as ridiculous as I imagined but it still was nerve wracking.
There is an entrance fee to the park, as there are with most national parks, and we were prepared to buy a week-long pass. We always ask if there’s a military discount and to our great surprise, the National Park Service provides a one year no-cost pass for military members and their dependents. So thanks, NPS, we’ll be putting it to good use.
Once inside the park, it’s fairly easy to navigate your way around. There are posted signs and we were given a map. We quickly found the road and reached the point of no return no less than ten minutes after we entered. I’m not joking when I say it’s the point of no return. Old Fall River Road is a one way dirt road that switchbacks it’s way up and across the mountains. It was opened in 1920 and was the only road across the Rocky Mountains that connected Estes Park to Grand Lake. It’s current length is eleven miles up to Fall River Pass and the Alpine Visitor Center.
It’s slow going up the trail because of the narrow width of the road itself (no more than fourteen feet), incredibly tight turns (the tightest radius is twenty feet), and the lack of guard rails. Now you understand why I was more than a little nervous at the start of our journey up.
It is a beautiful and scenic drive with several places to stop along the way. Our first stop was Chasm Falls about 2.5 miles up the trail.
There’s a fair amount of parking and viewing areas along a the falls and river that allow for different vantage points.
Back in the truck, we continued up and we began to smell the distinct scent of pine.
We saw a few pika, an animal that’s best described as a cross between a rabbit and a mouse, but no deer or elk. The views of the valley below and the glacial waterfalls above us were spectacular.
Once we were above the tree line we began to see pockets of snow close to the road. We stopped in the hopes of getting to touch some snow in July but didn’t luck out. Our second stop wasn’t a waste though as we got some amazing views just up a hill and saw some marmots playing in a basin on the other side.
We loaded back in the truck and made it to the peak just under two hours after we started our journey. Seeing the view from the top was worth the anxiety getting there but that’s for another post.