Key: 2010-09-16:     2010-09-17:     2010-09-18:    

RMNP and Denver

A trip to the Rocky Mountains for backpacking and football

Begin Date:

End Date:

2010-09-16: 6.71 mi
2010-09-17: 3.48 mi
2010-09-18: 2.81 mi

Total: 13 mi

Maximum Elevation*:
10745.28ft (3276.236m)

Minimum Elevation*:
8554.24ft (2608.211m)

Gallery for this adventure:
Click here

* This is derived from GPS data and can have major discrepancies due to poor GPS reception.

Trip Report:

9/15/10 - DIA to Glacier Basin Campground (RMNP):

We landed in Denver at 9:30PM, rented our car and headed straight to Estes Park, hoping to get a spot for the night in RMNP. There wasn't much available at 11:30PM when we actually arrived at Glacier Basin Campground, but we were able to secure one of the few remaining sites. Unfortunately we had neglected to stock up on beer as we had planned and it would seem Estes Park completely shuts down around 10PM, so no beer for us. Elk were huffing and calling nearby which gave us something to listen to as we fell asleep.

Our view of Longs Peak:
Longs Peak from front country camp gound at Glacier Basin.

9/16/10 - Glacier Basin to Thunder Lake:

The sun was shining brightly when we woke and the views out our tent were actually quite amazing with a beautifully framed shot of the north face of Longs Peak. We packed our stuff back up and headed into to Estes Park to gather the supplies that we couldn't bring on the plane or were only available locally (backcountry permits, fishing licenses, fuel, bear bins, etc...).

At this point we headed south alongside Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak until we turned off the main road and onto a dirt road headed west. The trail head was only a few miles down the road and after a quick pack up we were on the trail at about 1PM. Like most busy trails, the trail to Thunder Lake starts as wide as a single lane road, but gradually diminishes to a single file path. We followed a creek up the south side of a pine and aspen lined valley passing by a couple of falls on the way. While pretty, they weren't overly impressive so we really didn't stop for long at either. The hike was rather uneventful, being mostly in the pines, but parting occasionally to reveal snow free peaks (although many were over 13K tall) all around us.

We reached our campsite at Thunder Lake around 4:30PM and were surprised to see we would be sleeping at 10,700ft, which was 600ft higher than we had ever stayed before (Camp Muir on Rainier is 10,100ft). The air was certainly thinner than we were used to, but we were able to manage without much notice.

Thunder Lake itself is actually a very beautiful place with high, craggy peaks surrounding all but the east shore, at which point the outlet creek works its way through a lush meadow. We spent most of the evening down on the lake shore fishing, talking, and relaxing, watching as the skies began to gear up for a spectacular sunset. The setting sun did not disappoint as we were treated to one of the most brilliant displays either of us had ever seen.

The Sunset:
Sunset on Thunder Lake.

As the shades of red and orange gave way to the night sky, we headed back up to our tent and enjoyed the rest of the evening from our campsite, before calling it a night and slipping into our tent.

9/17/10 - Thunder Lake to North St. Vrain:

The hiking for this day was only halfway back out to the trail head we started on so we elected to spend most of our time down by Thunder Lake, fishing and enjoying the sun. The fish in RMNP can be very frustrating. They see the flies, swim right up to them as if they are going to grab a hold, and then at the last second suddenly lose interest and swim on by. It wasn't until later in the day that they would actually bite with any consistency. Never the less, we still had a good time, completely circumnavigating the lake in the process. At about 4PM, we finally broke down the rods and hit the trail, heading 3 miles away to what would be our home for the night.

The hike only took about 1h 20m and we were pleasantly surprised at how nice our site would be for the night. There weren't really any views, but the layout and condition were great. As we had spent most of the daylight hours up at Thunder Lake, it didn't take long for night to descend upon us. It was a very clear night, so Jason set up the cam for some star trails while we both kicked back and read waiting for the cam to finish.

Star Trail:
J's star trail.

9/18/10 - North St. Vrain to the trail head:

Staying true to form on our last day in the wilderness, we were up and on the trail early. It was a short hike, but still a pretty one with the aspens trembling in the morning sun. We were back at the car before we knew it and with that, our first adventure into RMNP came to an end.

The rest of the weekend in Denver:

The second half of our trip consisted of mainly football, although the outcomes weren't quite what we had hoped. We saw UWyoming fall to Boise State (Boise's not a state) and then our beloved Seahawks fall to the Broncos.

Invesco Field:
The weather was about 90 degrees. Luckily we were under the big screen in the shade!