The Alpine Tundra at Rocky Mountain National Park

Never Summer Mountains - View from Fairview Curve
Do you know how it is to go somewhere so beautiful that each corner you turn just takes your breath away? Driving from the West to East on Trail Ridge Road through the Alpine Tundra in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) did this for me, it was one of the most beautiful things I have seen.

Fairview Curve: Never Summer Mountains

Our first stop on Trail Ridge Road was at Fairview Curve (10,120 ft) that had phenomenal views of the Never Summer Mountains, the only volcanic range in RMNP.  I thought "Never Summer Mountains" was a funny name for a mountain range but Summer probably never reaches that mountain range.  The day before we hiked at the Colorado River Trailhead in the valley bellow called, "Kawuneeche Valley".

Continental Divide: Milner Pass

What is the Continental Divide? It is the line that divides the flow of water and snow melt.  On the East Side of the Continental Divide all the water flows to the Gulf of Mexico, part of the Atlantic Ocean and on the West side of the Continental Divde flows to the Pacific Ocean.  To be able to stand at Continental Divide - Milner Pass (10,759 ft), a section of natural occurrence was pretty exciting!

Podre Lake flows to the Missouri then to the Mississippi and ends up in the Gulf of Mexico!

Beaver Creek which is down Ute Trail flows into the Colorado River all the way down to the Gulf of California.

The Alpine Tundra and Visitor Center

The RMNP Alpine Tundra will always hold a special place in my heart.  I felt like I was in another country, I felt like I was back in the place I long to return to, the Peruvian Andes.  The cold, thin air brought me right back to my memories of hiking the Inca Trail.  I instantly fell in love with the Alpine Tundra.

We stopped at the Alpine Visitor Center at 11,796 ft., so we could get our "Passport To Your National Parks" book stamped and let the kids run around.  Amazingly my kids had no issues with adjusting to the elevation change, we live at sea level!  This was also a very memorable moment for me as a mother when my son saw "snow" near the Visitor Center.  He turned to me and with a giant smile and eyes as wide open and says, "Mommy!! That is SNOW!! Let's go get our our snowboards and go down the mountain!".  Soon little buddy...

As we left the Visitor Center, I saw a stairway on Alpine Ridge Trail to Huffer Hill.  I wanted to go to the top but we were headed to hike at Glacier Gorge Trailhead. We had already made too many pit stops so we jumped back into the car and headed down to Glacier Gorge Trailhead.  The beauty of the Alpine Tundra didn't stop with the mountains, we also saw many wildlife in particular the North American Elk all over the tundra.

Many elk roamed the tundra in the far distance when we were going to Glacier Gorge, but on the return trip to Grand Lake after our hike, the Elk were so close to the road that we actually had to stop so the cars would let them pass.  The kids were ecstatic to see them from the safety of the car, we had a very close encounter on the trail, story to come!

Chasqui Run: Alpine Tundra Huffer Hill

After a full day of hiking near Glacier Gorge, on our drive back on Trail Ridge Road to our cabin we stopped at the Alpine Visitor Center.  I wanted to go up Huffer Hill but not walk ...RUN up the hill.  My husband told me I was crazy but I wanted to do it so of course he indulged me,he stopped and waited in the car with our sleeping kids.

I took off running the second I closed the car door, I hit the stairs and ran as much as I could and walked until I caught my breath and ran again until I reached the top.  It was mostly dark, terribly cold, the air was thin but I had such a HUGE adrenaline rush.  I made it to what I thought was the top then end of the stairs and I may have done a "Rocky" victory dance....

The end stairs was not the actual top but there was still another 20-30 feet of paved trail to reach the very top so I finished running it.  I'm not going to lie, I was dizzy, my chest was rattling, coughing but it was the most beautiful thing in the world.


On top of a gorgeous mountain, with the sun barely peaking from behind the mountains. 360 degrees of me and pure mountains.  It was a moment that I will never forget.  I felt so connected to God, so alive, I was on top of the world at 11,938 ft in the sky.  I enjoyed my alone time for a few more minutes and started running down Alpine Ridge Trail.

I was still on my adrenaline high and ran all the way down back to the car.  I got back to the car and my husband turned to me and said, "I saw you running and thought you were going to tumble down!".  I told him, I have now had a "Chasqui Run" in the Alpine Tundra in the Colorado Rocky Mountains an ode to my ancestors.

To my surprise once back in cell phone service territory, I checked my Strava stats on my "Chasqui Run" and I had earned my first Current Record - Queen of the Mountain (QOM) on Old Fall River Road Climb. 

The Alpine Tundra took my breath away....Have you ever experience a place so beautiful that it took your breath away?

Related Post and Links:
  1. The Colorful Colorado River Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park
  2. Dinosaur National Monument, Oh My!!
  3. Summer Road Trip 2013
  4. Rocky Mountain National Park - National Park Service