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

The Colorful Colorado River Trailhead, Rocky Mountian National Park

Our first hike in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)  was an easy one but gorgeous one.  We were itching to get exploring since we had been in the car for a few days and had been running errands our first day in the Colorado.   We stayed in a cabin in the Grand Lake which is in the west side of RMNP, not the main entrance which is around Estes Park on the east side of the park.

We were still adjusting to the altitude so we wanted a short and easy hike so I searched the internet for family friendly hikes and found this wonderful organized list of RMNP hikes by  The hike was listed as 3.7 miles one way but we weren't attempting to hike an almost 8 mile trek with the kids on our first day.  We decided we go out as far as we felt comfortable and turn back, I had been dealing with some post-root canal tooth pain so I wasn't keen on pushing it.

We picked the Lulu City trek which started on the Colorado River Trailhead.  The trail it self was fairly flat other than the initial two switch backs at the beginning of the trail.  We never made it to Shipler's Cabin or Lulu City, but like I mentioned earlier we just wanted to get out and hike.  The trail was very beautiful, open meadows with hundreds of wildflowers, that followed the Colorado river.  I was really amazed with all the "green" around me because I am so used to hiking in dry summer San Francisco East Bay hills.

Earlier in the day it hailed on us (we were in our cabin), a rare thing for Californians to experience, so the trail had tons of puddles for my children to splash in!  Thank you +Hi-Tec USA for making awesome boots!  My son was breaking in his brand new Hi-Tec Reno Waterproof Jr. Hiking boots for the first time in Rocky Mountain National Park!  They still have some mud on it, the way it's supposed to be!

I'm so used to California "brown" summers that I was in love with every mushroom, fern and wildflower that I saw.  Including the Colorado State Flower: The Rocky Mountain Columbine (2nd flower pictured), which stopped me dead in my tracks and I said, "That's the most beautiful flower I've ever seen!" It was all by itself in between some trees.

My son hiked most of the day and my daughter hiked small portions of the trail but was mostly carried.  We made it to a very large open meadow on one side of the trail and a very rocky portion on the other side of the trail and decided to take a long break.  My son climb on every rock he could, my daughter played in the dirt, while us parents tried to relax and snooze on the rocks.

We weren't sure how far the cabins were but decided we were going turn back after our break.  After we finished the hike we were figured only 0.3 miles away from the cabins from the large meadow.  Oh well, there will be a next time!  We could see all the dead trees that were infected by the "beetle" along the trail and it was very prominent across the meadow on the mountainside.  The rocky meadow was very picturesque and I wish we could have stayed for the sunset but we were all getting hungry and looking forward to having dinner at The Grand Lake Lodge.

We quickly packed up and headed back down the trail, stopped for a few breaks so the kids could skip rocks on the Colorado River.  We also saw some elk in the far distances in a meadow.  I was so excited to see wildlife since we had seen fresh tracks earlier in the day.  We saw some moose and more elk on the drive back which was nice as well, but there something more exciting about seeing wildlife when there is nothing in between you and the animal.


I'm a "numbers" person so I always include our hiking information...about 3 hours averaging 1 mph.  Some day we will hike faster!

9,300 ft is a big difference from hiking in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I loved it!!

Our 3.6 mile trek in Rocky Mountain!

We had only seen a tiny portion of Rocky Mountain and I already fell in love with the park as well as the "Never Summer Wilderness" which was across the valley, on the trail we hiked.  The name made me laugh, is it really "Never Summer" there?  Off we went to the Grand Lake Lodge where we enjoyed our delicious dinner and view of Grand Lake and Rocky Mountain National Park!

Related Posts and Links:
  1. Summer Road Trip 2013
  2. Dinosaur National Monument, Oh My!!
  3. Favorite Family Hikes in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park by
  4. Rocky Mountain National Park by National Parks Service
  5. Grand Lake Lodge

Summer Road Trip 2013

Just getting back from our whirlwind family road trip to Colorado!  Have too much to write about but here's a little glimpse of our trip all around the west!

The Loch at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Visiting the Allosaurus at Dinosaur National Monument, Utah.

Elk at the Alpine Tundra at Rock Mountain National Park, Colorado

A quick stop at Arches National Park, Utah

A little camping at Castle Rock Campground, Fishlake National Forest, Utah

A jaunt on The Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada!

A desert stop on the Pacific Crest Trail, in California.

Three National Parks, one national forest campground, two hotels, a cabin and a SUV were our homes for the last week.  So many stories, lessons learned and best of all lots of fun!

Related Posts:

  1. Dinosaur National Monument, Oh My!!
  2. The Colorful Colorado River Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park