Like many others, I hopped on Aspire’s Rocky Mountain National Park Full Day Hiking Tour to get a bit out of my comfort zone.
When it comes to enjoying the great outdoors, count me in! But scaling a 14er? Not really my speed. I'm all about savoring nature, wildlife, and soaking in the views without pushing my limits to the max. Living in Colorado, it's a balancing act, and Aspire Tours nailed it with their Rocky Mountain National Park Full Day Hiking Tour. This day was a perfect blend of stunning vistas, insightful knowledge, just the right amount of hiking, and unforgettable moments. If you're looking to experience the best of the Rockies in a single day of fun, this tour is a must.
Our adventure kicked off at Union Station, where we met our guide, Joshua. As we headed to Boulder to gather the rest of our group, Joshua regaled us with fascinating Denver history, from its origins to the Colorado Gold Rush and more. The drive along Route 36 treated us to views of the Flatirons and glimpses of the looming Rocky Mountains awaiting us. As we gained elevation into the mountains, we had our first wildlife encounter: adorable Pikas alongside the road.
Once we hit Lyons, things started to feel a whole lot more “mountainy.” We took a quick coffee break in this adorable mountain town. While to many, a coffee shop line may be a bad thing, I see it as a sign that the coffee is actually really good, and naturally, I was right. Estes Park was only about a ten minute drive from Lyons and if you haven’t been, make a plan to go. We checked out the Stanley Hotel, the hotel that inspired The Shining, and made our way into the park.
The views driving through the park are spectacular, awesome, wondrous, and every other epic adjective you can throw at them, but really, it’s impossible to do it justice. You absolutely must see it for yourself. After a twenty-minute drive into the park, we at Bear Lake. Joshua handed out sandwiches while we threw on our jackets, made sure we had full waters, and trekked across the parking lot to the Bear Lake trailhead. There, we were greeted by the picturesque alpine lake. After a brief photo op, we were on our way down the Alberta Falls trail.
Picture your quintessential forest trail: babbling streams, rustic bridges, leaves crunching beneath your feet, and fellow hikers sharing warm smiles. The route alternated between pine forests and aspen groves, each turn offering a new, visually pleasing vista.
We approached a canyon gorge, snapped some pictures, and then rounded the corner to see the sight we were all waiting for: Alberta Falls. The scenic 30-foot waterfall cascades down a narrow gorge on Glacier Creek, and offered an ideal picnic destination. I ate my turkey sandwich on a large boulder right beside the top of the falls.
I have a busy life. Between work, family, friends, chores, errands, pets, and everything else that goes into city life, I rarely get a moment’s peace. But at the waterfall, I enjoyed a unique moment of serenity. As I ate, squirrels scurried around me and the constant hum of the waterfall underneath the blue sky allowed for a meditative, peaceful moment – the kind only nature can provide. I was reminded why I love the outdoors, why I should use every spare moment to enjoy all that Mother Nature has to offer, and how I’m so dang lucky to live so close to such incredible wonders.
After about 45 minutes of enjoying the falls, we trekked back to Bear Lake to complete our group hike. The 1.5 mile hike back was a bit more difficult than the 1.5 miles to the falls, but we bonded over the walk, making the experience all the more fulfilling.
When back at the trailhead, Joshua left us with a choice to either walk the ¼ mile around Bear Lake together or individually. While I really enjoyed our group, I was on a bit of a high from my solo nature time, and glad to take this fabulously scenic stroll alone. I figured out why they call these the Rocky Mountains. The pictures don’t do it justice, but I tried my best to capture the majesty.
We loaded back into the van and Joshua handed out well-deserved cookies. We drove through Morraine Park, a valley carved by ancient glaciers, and made a quick stop at the visitor center for souvenirs and to check out the exhibits inside. As we drove out of the park, we lamented at the lack of large wildlife sightings, but the animals of the park must’ve heard us, because they made a point to be known.
Over the next 15 minutes, a large herd of elk crossed the road directly in front of us, including an enormous male with mature antlers. We passed by a large female moose just to our left, and a pack of deer pranced by on our right. I know this sounds fake, but the park is magical, I swear.
All in all…
I would absolutely, 10,000% recommend this tour if you fit any of the following descriptions:
- You’re visiting and you need someone to show you where to go.
- You want to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, are short on time, and don’t know where to even begin.
- You just moved to Colorado and you want to appreciate the state like a native.
- You’ve lived here forever, but you have yet to venture out to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Or, any of these:
- You want to learn about Colorado wildlife.
- You want to learn about Colorado ecology.
- You want to learn about Colorado scenery.
- You want to learn about Colorado history.
- You want to learn about Colorado, period.
This tour offers something for everyone, and I could not be more satisfied with how this day went.