We didn’t have any plans for Saturday, so we decided to head up to Rocky Mountain National Park. In COVID-world, the park requires reservations for entrance times, and there were none to be had for a summer weekend. Fortunately, we had heard that arrivals prior to 9am are open, so we hit the road early to get up to the park first thing.
Right from the start, we were having a lucky day. We came in the Fall River entrance, and found a few female Bighorn Sheep grazing just a half mile or so into the park (at a place known as Bighorn Crossing, no less). Just a few hundred yards further, there was a young bull moose grazing in a pond.
Then we headed up the Fall River Road and were treated with a beautiful and reasonably quiet morning drive. Our destination was the Chapin Pass trail, which was recommended to me by a friend. The trail heads north into the backcountry just off the road. It’s speckled with the typical RMNP grandeur, but on this day we were also treated to numerous wildlife encounters.
As we climbed to a ridge headed toward the Mount Chapin summit, we came across a group of young bull elk resting just off the trail. We stopped for some pictures, and a few marmots decided to start darting around us. When one of the elk started wandering closer to the trail, we decided to move away.
Just a little farther down the trail we found a male Bighorn resting just a few yards below. We couldn’t get around without some real rock scrambling, so we hung out for a while to see what it would do. After a few minutes, he got up and started climbing the hillside, giving us some excellent photo opportunities.
We could see some storm clouds starting to move in, so we decided we’d had enough good fortune for the day and headed back to the car for a picnic. We’ll definitely be back on this trail in the future.
After reaching the car and finishing the Fall River Road drive past the Alpine Visitor center, we continued on towards Lake Irene for a picnic. Just as we reached the picnic area, the skies opened up with heavy rain and some hail. That dashed our picnic plans. We ate in the car and waited for the storm to clear. By that time, we were all pretty well tired and decided to make our way back over Trail Ridge Road and head home (with of course a stop for ice cream in Estes Park before leaving town). All in all, it was a really nice day.