Day 3 we started the morning by packing up camp at the KOA and heading into Estes Park. We were not able to get all our nights in the park because we decided to go on such short notice, but Julie was able to get us in the Moraine campground for 2 nights so it was time to move. Since we couldn’t claim our campground until later in the afternoon, we drove up to Bear Lake, which is one of the most popular hikes in the park because it’s beautiful and easily accessible.
All the guide books/online sites/and rangers told us to park in the mega parking lot a few miles from the trail head and take the big shuttle bus to the top. This would have been sound advise since there are only 100 or so parking spots (estimation) and they fill up really really early in the morning. But who are we to listen to EVERYONE that we asked about this… so we drove up to the top and BAM! Got a spot. Nailed it!
So if you are going here, I would recommend at least trying. There are very nice rangers stationed in the parking lot and they will not let you just wait for a spot to open or keep driving in circles. One trick I didn’t try, but would probably would have worked, would be to tell the ranger your kid has to use the bathroom so you can wait a little longer for a spot to open…. it’s worth a shot because that damn tram ride up did not look like any fun.
The trail is just a big circle around the lake. Nice, easy hiking and paved most of the way. I could tell the girls were itching for something a little more adventurous but that would have to wait until the following day. For now, it was great to just enjoy the weather (3rd day in a row of fantastic weather) and take in the beauty. Brooke did happen to find a snake that all of us missed except her. How cool is that? She was so proud.
One thing you can kind of see in this shot of the girls are some dead trees. This is one of the saddest things we saw on the trip. Rock Mountain NP has been devastated by a mountain pine beetle epidemic. It’s very, very obvious when you drive through and on TRR. Not a whole lot they can do at this point, but you can just imagine all the green and how awesome it must have looked before the beetle arrived.
That night, we went back into Estes Park and went to hear Cowboy Brad. This guy plays free concerts in the main square a couple of nights a week. He is great family entertainment and seems like a really nice guy. He played songs just for the kids and some great classic western music. He got the whole family hooked on John Denver for the next couple of months. Rocky Mountain high baby… rocky mountain high.