Estes Park, Colorado
It was a sunny day in the 70s, perfect for hiking. We chose today to drive up Trail Ridge Road to the Alpine Visitor’s Center. The visitor’s center sits at around 12,000 feet above sea level, so the weather is a bit chillier at the top (in the 50s with 20mph or higher winds!). The panoramic views are worth braving the cold and making the hour long drive up.
We decided to hike out on the Ute Trail, a 4 mile one-way trail along the side of the mountain. Because it was a very exposed trail, we were battered a bit by the wind but again the views made it so worth it! It was not a strenuous trail in terms of elevation gain. We ended up turning back at around 2.5 miles.
Back at the visitor’s center there is, of course, a gift shop and a little coffee shop, along with a short but steep hike up to the very top of the mountain. This one is very quick but do be prepared to hike up some steps! From the top you have a wonderful view of the alpine ecosystem, patches of yellow aspen leaves, and the winding Trail Ridge Road that takes you up. If you look closely you can find tiny lakes nestled in the depressions of the mountain peaks, and if you’re lucky you might see mountain goats (we did back in June). The drive up and down is gorgeous as well, as you see sweeping views of the mountains, the fiery colored fall trees, and the changing ecosystem.
After our trek up to the Alpine Center, we drove back over to the Falls River side of the park to see the Alluvial Falls. They were much smaller than they were in June but listening to the water is still nice.
We made our way to Lily Lake for our final hike of the day- a 1.1 mile loop around the lake. This was again a mostly flat trail but had a much more open feeling than Bear or Sprague Lake. All of them are pretty but this one had a different feel to it which we liked.
At the end of a long day of exploring we sat out on the deck of our Airbnb and enjoyed the view while reading.
http://www.rockymountainhikingtrails.com/lily-lake-loop.htm –> Lily Lake Trail