Sunday, April 27, 2014

Visiting the Rocky Mountains -- Early Spring in Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park, part 2

aspens in April
aspens in April
We drove to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park at the beginning of April from the lowlands at the base of the Rocky Mountains.  If you don’t know the area, Estes Park is the city at the east entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). Unless you camp in RMNP, if you come from the east, you are likely to stay in Estes Park to explore Rocky Mountain National Park.  

Estes Park is a small city, not a forest reserve. There are a number of towns with park in their name at about 8000 feet on the front range of Colorado. It means a level area up in the mountains. (From the Oxford English Dictionary: "park. In some parts of the United States, especially Colorado and Wyoming: a high plateau-like valley among the mountains." )

We stayed at Della Terra Mountain Chateau. Built in 2009, this family-owned complex is a year-round bed and breakfast but also a major wedding destination. They said they host hundreds of weddings a year. We were there in midweek and missed the excitement of a wedding. We indulged in a suite. It was luxurious and attractive, with all kinds of things to try, from a hot tub facing the mountain to fancy shower options to the electric fireplace. (See Della Terra's website).
Suite at Della Terra Mountain Challet

In addition to being a fun place to stay, it was right on the edge of  Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park is a 415 square mile, 265,769 acre, national park that straddles the top of the Rocky Mountains in north central Colorado. LINK Founded in 1915, it hosts approximately 3 million visitors a year.
Those of us who live within an hour or two can escape urban life or summer heat for an afternoon hiking around in the mountains.

At the start of April, it was beautiful and chilly. 

Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
the little sage plants are turning green
The little sage plants were turning green

snow cover mostly gone
Snow cover was mostly gone.

snow here but not snow free in the distance
Snow here but snow-free in the distance
a dusting of new snow
A dusting of new snow fell on us.
One added advantage to early spring was that the animals were easy to see. I presume that was because there was less disturbance by people. We saw mule deer, elk, coyotes, a rabbit, a flock of turkeys, magpies…both in Rocky Mountain National Park and at Della Terra.

flock of wild turkeys
Flock of wild turkeys on the slope behind Della Terra.

mule deer
Mule deer crossing Della Terra.

elk eating pine needles
Elk eating pine needles, Della Terra.
Seeing the elk reaching up to eat the pine needles made me take a second look at the pines in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park (for example, "Snow cover was mostly gone." photo, above). I  had not previously paid attention to the fact that the vast majority of the trees had no branches going down to the ground. Other explanations are possible, but pruning by animals is probably an important part of the explanation.

It was a brief escape--from spring back into very early spring, from suburbia to the mountains --and rejuvenating!

Comments and corrections welcome.

More on Rocky Mountain National Park at their website and at

Kathy Keeler


  1. Hello, is April really a good time to visit the park? Should we rent snowshoes? We are really worried that many roads will close or hard to drive, and lots of place close during early april

  2. If you've never seen Rocky Mountain National Park at all, I don't recommend your first trip in April. Higher-elevation roads are likely to be closed and there are no wildflowers. But if you've been to RMNP and liked it except for the crowds, April is lovely. Enough stores and restaurants are open for the number of visitors, the views are glorious and as noted in the blog post, animals are easy to watch.

  3. Thank you for your reply, we never been to RMNP before.

    So which national park(or city...more laid back one) in the US that you recommend to visit during early april ?(except for those in Arizona, New mexico, utah, Texas.We want to see tree & river & animal)

  4. In early April, spring is well underway across most of the United States, it is early spring in Rocky Mountain National Park because of its elevation. I'd recommend parks in the Appalachian Mountains, for example Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Parks on both the east and west sides of the Appalachians will be gorgeous in early April.