Day 1 We assemble in Denver and van shuttle to Estes Park. Today’s hike is on a popular hiking trail and is a great introduction to the area. Starting at the Bear Lake Trailhead, we will take a loop that visits Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake and Lake Haiyaha.
On Day 2 we’ll head to the Longs Peak Trailhead. Our destination will be Chasm Lake. We will begin our hike at 9380 feet, on the East Longs Peak trail. This trail starts in a forest and rises to treeline and above. Marmots and often times elk will be a visual treat along the way, not to mention the beaming Longs Peak Mountain which we keep in our sight all day long ( 8.4 miles).
The Day 3 hike to Ouzel Falls begins from Wild Basin Trailhead. We’ll hike past Copeland Falls and Calypso Cascades before reaching Ouzel Falls. Above Calypso Cascades you’ll begin to catch sporadic views of the surrounding mountains, including Longs Peak and Mount Meeker. We make a loop out of the hike by returning along a little used trail past several backcountry campsites. The quietness of this route gives the opportunity for more wildlife viewings.
On Day 4, we’ll challenge ourselves with an across the divide hike, reaching heights above 12,000 ft and staying above treeline for much of the hike. From our vantage point we’ll see countless peaks, including the mighty Longs Peak that looms 14,259′ in elevation. We climb to the top of Flattop Mountain, then descend gradually across the alpine expanse to follow Tonahutu Creek before wrapping around Green Mountain and rejoining Trail Ridge Road. The van will be waiting to take us to nearby Grand Lake for our two nights on the western side of the Rockies.
We’ll explore the western side of the park on Day 5 with a hike on the North Inlet Trail to Cascade Falls. The North Inlet Trail is part of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, a 3100-mile footpath that traverses the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada. The trail skirts around Summerland Park and follows the North Inlet Creek. This is an excellent place to spot wildlife like elk, moose, deer and various birds. As you get closer to Cascade Falls the terrain becomes increasingly lusher, the canyon begins to narrow, and the evergreen trees appear to grow much taller. Cascade Falls is a spectacular, multi-tiered cascade that drops roughly 40 or 50 feet through a narrow granite chute.
On our return to Denver on Day 6 we’ll have the opportunity to explore several loop trails in the Kawuneeche Valley and above treeline on the spectacular van ride back down Trail Ridge Road. To allow for a full day of enjoying the park, our return to Denver is not scheduled until the late afternoon.