We headed up Big Thompson Canyon to Rocky Mountain National Park, choosing Alberta Falls for L’s first real hike on her own and C’s first hike in the kid carrier. And as always, coming around that final bend out of the canyon, we are reminded of the grandeur that is Rocky Mountain National Park. As much as we love our Poudre Canyon, the majesty of RMNP is undeniable.

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After circling the parking lot a couple times trying to find a spot, we began to regret our choice. We prefer a little more solitude in nature and the park on a beautiful spring weekend more closely resembled a shopping mall. We eventually found a spot and after some grumbling and once on the trail, we were immediately reminded why this place is full of people. Such accessible, gorgeous views are something to be treasured. And they are.

We reached the falls and it was a swarm of activity. Visitors taking pictures of loved ones on rocks while children climbed about in flip flops.

Just when we were ready to pack it in, we decided to go a bit farther up the trail. And that’s when something magical happened.

We hiked on and realized, five minutes beyond the falls, the crowd thins out significantly and we could breathe.

We stopped for a snack and heard a twig snap in the woods. An elk was right off the trail. She stood still for a while and we watched her from the opposite side of the trail letting her decide which way she wanted to go. She continued down. We heard some hikers coming up trying to decide if it was a moose or an elk. We were reminded that the majority of the people we shared the trail with today were not from around here. This was where they chose to spend their hard earned vacations. Despite our initial misgivings, it was a reminder we were all enjoying this beautiful space together as intended. Not just local outdoor enthusiasts and REI members. (For a beautifully written piece on this very subject I recommend reading Fresh Air Fort Collins’ essay: For The Benefit and Enjoyment Of the People.)

Sometimes I take our proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park for granted. We tend to prefer trails and campsites that are a bit more off the beaten track, places we can bring our dog along and don’t have to struggle to find parking. But each year we get a park pass and we usually get up at least two or three times a year and I know we have only scratched the surface. We’ve snowshoed up to Emerald Lake, we’ve hiked Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls but with over 300 miles of trails, there is so much more for us to see and explore. It would take another 100 years so we’ll continue to get up there and discover new corners of one of our countries most beloved parks.

What are your favorite hikes in RMNP to take the kids?

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