RMNP is an absolute gem. We had visited the eastern side of the park some years ago during shoulder-season. As Susan had a conference in Denver, we decided to take some time afterwards to explore west side of the park, even though we knew that it was very early shoulder season and that there would be some lingering ice and snow on the trails. We based ourselves in Grand Lake, a small town that is apparently quite the scene during the summer, but where most shops were closed while we were there. The two sides of the park are normally connected by a road that runs north of Grand Lake. – except during the winter which goes through May 31 at this altitude. This made the west side even more isolated. We were alone on many of the trails we hiked, except for moose.
We hiked the following trails:
- Cascade Falls (North Inlet) (lots of moose!) – a moderately steep hike up to the Falls
- Adams Falls and about 3 miles further (East Inlet) – a moderately steep hike up to the Falls
- East Shore Trail (to the dam) – fairly flat, but part of it was flooded due to snow melt. Beautiful views of the Rockies behind the lake
- Harbison Meadows – saw a moose grazing
- Holzwarth Site
- Coyote Valley – stunning scenery, but it was the hardest trail, even though it’s a handicapped-accessible trail. We thought that walking a flat trail through a scenic valley would be an easy way to start our trip, but hadn’t counted on the amount of snow that was still on the ground. We continually post-holed in the 3-foot snow, which got really old and exhausting.
- Moose, including a female with 2 yearlings. Nine total. Three were blocking our path on the Cascade Falls trail, and weren’t bothered by us at all, but finally moved out of our way after we made some noise.
- Chipmunks – at least two types, maybe more.
- House wren
- Mountain chickadee
- Northern rough wing swallow
- Black-chinned hummingbird
- Mountain bluebird
- Spotted towhee
- Hairy woodpecker
- Black throated gray warbler
- American white pelicans, with breeding bumps
- Lesser scaup
- We didn’t see any mountain lions, but we were told that they’re become acclimated to humans and pose a significant danger. We did see their scat, but as they usually stalk small children and dogs, we felt pretty safe on the trails.
One thing that surprised us was that we were often the only people on many of the trails. We ran into a school group on the Adams Falls trail, but they only went to the falls, and we went much further.
We stayed at the Western Riviera Lakeside Lodging in Grand Lake. It was a bit faded, but the lake views from the 2nd floor were spectacular. It had a fridge and a microwave, perfect for our evening hors d’oeuvres and meals overlooking the mountains.