The next stop is the Fairview Curve. I think this stop is misnamed because the view is much better than just fair. As you can see by the trees in the foreground we are at a lower elevation than some of the earlier stops.
I did not stop at the Alpine Visitors Center because the parking lot looked packed, there were even people cruising the lanes looking for parking so I kept going. The next stop heading west from Alpine is Medicine Bow Curve.
Gore Range is just past the highest point on Trail Ridge Road. Gore Range was named after Sir St. George Gore an Irish artistocrat who came through here on a hunting expediation in 1854. The expedition was led by famous mountain man Jim Bridger.
The nest stop is Lava Cliffs. This interesting stop highlights a lava bed and cliffs formed of welded tuff in a volcanic explosion some 28 million years ago. There is a short metal platform extending out onto the lava bed for a better view.
The next stop is Forest Canyon. Highlights at this stop include a close view of 4 12,000 plus foot high peaks; the Big Thompson River and a small lake in the Canyon; and Hayden Gorge which was carved out of the mountainside by a glacier some 18,000 years ago. Forest Canyon is an excellent example of a Sub-Alpine forest. There is a short trail with interpretive signs that leads to the viewpoint. The trail is a little steep at times, but short and fairly easy.
The next stop along the route is Rainbow Curve. I highly recommend this stop also because it gives you a great view of the three different ecosystems in the park: The Alpine (above 11,400 feet); Sub-Alpine (9000 to 11,399 feet); and Montane (below 9000 feet). It also gives a great view of the serpentine route taken by the Fall River. There are restrooms at this stop.
As we continue heading west along US Highway 34 through the park we reach the Many Parks Curve pullout. There is a small parking area just west of the viewpoint and you walk down a short walkway to reach the viewing area. The walkway is paved then wooden boards and is short. Be careful crossing the street, it is a blind curve! The views are spectacular and worth the stop. This viewpoint gets very crowded.
At one point this area was dotted with beaver dams blocking the flow of the water. These dams caused a buildup of sediment washed down from Hidden Valley and when the dams decayed the water flowed away leaving a 20 foot deep deposit of rich fertile soil. Sedges and grasses grow in this soil and form marshes. These marshes develop into grasslands which are then invaded by seeds of trees like the spruce, fir, and pine. These tress then attract beavers who use the trees to build dams starting the cycle over and over again. A wide variety of animal and plant life inhabit these ecosystems.
Another place that normally has Bighorn Sheep on view is West Horseshoe Park, which is a short distance southwest from Sheep Lakes. The area got its name from the shape of the meandering flow of the Fall River. There was a resort built here in 1907 by Wilard H. Ashton. The resort was moved in 1931 after the establishment of tourist facilities outside the park and the land was retaken by the plant and wildlife.
Normally, the best place to see the Bighorn Sheep is Sheep Lakes. There were none there when I visited there though. I believe the rangers had led them away from the area for some restoration work. The hiking trails were closed for the same reason. Shhep Lakes is the first pullout after the Fall River Visitors Center along US Highway 34.
One of the cutest animals in the park is probably the Chipmunk. They are found throughout the park and will approach quite close to you sometimes looking for a handout. Please resist the urge to feed them. They do bite and feeding them anything not within their normal diet could make them sick or even kill them. The chipmunk in the main photo, according to one of the rangers, is "very pregnant".
The moose is even bigger and stronger than the elk but also shyer and harder to spot. They are also more solitary and you don't see the runing in larger numbers. As a matter of fact you frequently don't see them at all except from a distance. This one had wandered down near the Holzwarth Historic Site.
There is a variety of wildlife living in the park. The most prevalent when I visited were three separate herds of elk. Keep in mind these are wild creatures that are bigger and stronger than you. Give them plenty of room.
If you enter the Rocky Mountain National Park from the south via US Highway 34 your first stop should be the Kawuneeche Visitors Center. The center features some nice displays about the park, a free movie, special Junior Ranger activities for the kids, a large bookstore, and backcountry permits. Here you can also obtain brochures, maps and other information to help enhance your visit to the park and satisfy your souvenir needs. The center is open daily 8 AM to 6 PM from 14 June to 7 September.
If you enter the Rocky Mountain National Park from the east via US Highway 34 your first stop should be the Fall River Visitors Center. The center features life-sized wildlife displays, a special children's room with hands-on displays, and a large bookstore. Here you can also obtain brochures, maps and other information to help enhance your visit to the park and satisfy your souvenir needs. The center is open daily 9 AM to 5 PM from 14 June to 24 October.
419 Garfield Street, PO Box 1286, Grand Lake, Colorado, 80447, United States
Good for: Business
County Road 491, Box 629, Colorado, 80447, United States
Good for: Business
Ten miles north of Grand Lake Entrance, Colorado, United States
Good for: Couples