So I ended up “stuck” in Colorado over the weekend on a business trip. Fortunately Saturday was beautiful and I was free. Decided I’d head over to RMNP since it was less than an hour drive.
I know I should have checked the park website to see if there were any “conditions” to be aware of, but I got sidetracked on other things and never did… Driving towards Estes Park there seemed to be a lot of traffic, but I figured “it’s just a Saturday morning and it’s beautiful”. Then I saw the first sign indicating there might be an issue – something about only shuttle access into the park, uh-oh.
As I got closer, the traffic got even thicker and I saw another sign mentioning the shuttle. Then I hit Estes Park and it was a mad house! I turned around and headed back out of town and pulled over to do some investigation. OK, there is a major construction project to renovate the main road through the park. Only shuttle access between 9am-4pm. Expect delays of up to 2 hours! No thanks. Checked the map and decided to head to the Longs Peak area about 10 miles south.
That’s when I discovered the real reason for the traffic and crowd in Estes Park – Scottish and Irish Festival days, apparently one of the biggest of it’s kind in the country. Took me about another half hour to get thru town, but then I was finally free! Got down to Long’s Peak but given it was already about 10:30 the parking area was filled and the road down the hill was fully lined with cars. OK, plan C; a bit further south to the “Wild Basin Area”
Finally, no major crowds and parking only about 3/4 mile from the trail head, this’ll work! Finally got on the trail a little after 11 and made my way out to Ouzel Falls. The destination was a bit underwhelming but the journey was worth it. The day was clear and cool with a nice breeze – absolutely perfect for a stroll through the mountains! On the way back to the car, I decided to take an alternate route based on the park map I had. It looked only slightly further than the route I had gone in on.
A topo map would have been helpful. Turns out this route took me up the valley that I had come in on which was great for the views, but I wasn’t prepared to keep going up… It was worth it in the end – or what I thought was the end. I reached a distance marker at one point expecting it to be a bit less than a mile further to the car. Turned out to be almost 2.5 miles! Oh, well. I finally made it back to the car around 5 and was beat! Checked the map and plotted a course around Estes Park and was back to the hotel around 6. Time to relax!