Bear Lake stands at an elevation of 9,475 ft. For many, that’s not a problem. However, for people like me, that was going to be a problem. My body starts to get elevation sickness at around 9,000 ft. Knowing this, I still said I’m going to go. So off I went for a day trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Most of the park is above 9,000 ft. so I knew that I was limited in what I could explore. I was further encumbered by the threat of severe afternoon storms. So rather than hit a few of the lower elevation hikes to help acclimate, I went straight to what I definitely wanted to see.
Bear Lake Trail is a short, level .7 mile trail around the entire lake. The ease of the trail allowing you to focus on the scenery. And the scenery is WOW. As I made my way around, the view just kept getting better and better. For such a short trail, it took me nearly an hour to finish.
I then headed to Nymph Lake, .5 miles away. Though it was a very gently uphill climb, I could feel my body working against the elevation. But the effort was completely worth it. I could not think of a more idyllic or magical place. The lake, strewn with yellow flower lily pads, perfectly reflected the surrounding trees. As I made my way around, the view of towering mountain tops and their reflection in the lake was stunning. If there is such a thing as perfection – this was it.
When visiting a national park, you hope to see wildlife. I had already seen a herd of Elkhorn galloping through a meadow upon entering, but it was at a distance (still a sight!). While I was sitting on a bench admiring the view, I heard a noise. Looking over, an elk emerged from the bushes, not more than 6 feet from me! Munching on the grass, the elk made her way closer to me seemingly untroubled by my presence. She finally went her way, passing close enough for me to touch her if I wanted (don’t worry, I didn’t). Being that close to an elk, I realized just how massive they are!
Then it was back down to the trail junction where I started down the mile trek to Alberta Falls. You could certainly hear the falls before you saw them. The water was gushing that day! I couldn’t even begin to guess the volume of water falling per second. It’s a beautiful spot despite the crowds.
I then decided to try to make my way to the view point of Longs Peak past the falls. Unfortunately, I began to feel the first symptoms of elevation sickness, so I decided to be safe and head back down. I’m not sorry I attempted the hike as the scenery was gorgeous – so green.
It was a good thing I turned around when I did, as the clouds started to gather in the distance. It did not take long for everything to turn grey before the massive downpour began!
While driving back along Bear Lake Road, I noticed a massive pile of boulders with a river tumbling over them. I had to pull over. I took a stroll along a path in Moraine Park following the Big Thompson River. With the peaks in the distance, it was a beautiful view. It was a lovely stop and a fitting end to my visit.
Though my time in the park was short, it was certainly memorable. I only wish that I didn’t suffer from elevation sickness as I know the park has so much more beauty to offer that I’ll never know.