Happy Friday eve! I’m so excited to share with you some of the photos from our backpacking trip last weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park. We booked our overnight camping permit about a month ago on their website here. Alex or I had never done any sort of Wilderness camping where you needed a permit, so we were both a bit excited and nervous! It was so easy to book the site and navigate through their website to find the best location for us on the date that we were looking for (plus it was inexpensive too! $26 to book online). I ended up booking Snowbird site at Timber Lake because it was a relatively do-able distance for us (4.6 miles 2,000’ gain), close to the lake, and close to the Grand Lake entrance of the park (closer to our home!). It ended up being National Parks Day on Saturday so the park and trailhead was busier than we expected, but it wasn’t anything unmanageable. We picked up our permit at the Kawanachee Visitors Center around 11:15am and got to trailhead before noon! We ate the sandwiches that we had picked up at Natural Grocers earlier in the morning and headed out. The Ranger that gave us our permit said to be on the lookout for Moose (they were rumored to be active in this area) and that the hike would take us 4-5 hours. We were hopeful we could get to the site around 3pm!
The trail to Snowbird site was so beautiful and well-maintained. I honestly think it was one of the best trails I’ve been on since moving to Colorado 5 years ago!
We crossed over several streams, but there were great man-made footbridges which made it easy.
It was also a pretty gradual ascent (hard, but still do-able if you’re used to the elevation) for most of the hike which was nice since we had our heavy backpacks on!
At mile 2.6, we made it to the Active Landslide area. I had read reviews where most people went around the landslide, but that it was very steep and difficult. We looked at the landslide area (it was short - maybe 1/10 mile long (if that))- gravel and a few downed trees to go over and under, but we decided to give it a try! It was definitely trickier with our backpacks on and I think that if the trail was wet at all or if we were just beginning our hiking/backpacking season then it would have been much more difficult/near impossible. We made it to the other side (thankfully) and soon arrived at the Long Meadows trailhead.
At this point, the trail climbs up a bit steeper (with several switchbacks) and you never really get a great view of the Never Summer Wilderness region. Another mile or so past the trail crossing, we came to the Jackstraw site (it was unavailable this year) and to the open meadow (SO BEAUTIFUL).
We knew that once we hit this site that we were getting close (our mileage said we were around 4.5 miles and ~2,800’ in gain)!
We crossed by the privy and at this point the trail subsides a bit and rolls in-and-out of the forest and meadow area, until we arrived at Snowbird site! Our mileage said that we were at 5.0 miles and gained 3,000’ in elevation (a bit off from the designated site details). We arrived at our site at 2:55pm and I think we really made excellent time. We didn’t stop too much coming out, but I was definitely TIRED once we got there!
We set up our tent, sleeping bags & pads, and gathered our chairs/books/cameras to head to Timber Lake around 4pm. Once we got there, we were the only ones! It was so beautiful- the photos absolutely do not do it justice. The lake was about a 5 minute hike from Snowbird campsite.
We turned in relatively early (both had a mild case of (what we think) Altitude sickness, a bit of nausea) and had all of the winter layers since it was anticipated to get down to around 30* that night!
Thankfully we packed all the layers (plus hand warmers which I put on my toes!), so we weren’t too chilled when we woke up the next morning. We retrieved our bear box (necessary for the wilderness camping) that we set out 70 steps from our campsite the night before and made coffee (always tastes so much better outdoors!)/ a Mountain House for breakfast.
We both wanted to get back home, so we packed up pretty quickly and were out hiking back by 7:45am! It was still chilly for the first 2-3 miles so I kept my mittens and down jacket on for a bit.
We made it out of the trailhead by 10am and only met a handful of hikers heading out onto the trails. The other snowbird site was never filled and overall it was so peaceful! We got a bunch of reading done and the beauty of the Fall Foliage during the hike was spectacular. It is definitely longer than the NPS suggests, but I think you should be able to make it to the Lake within 3.5-4 hours even if moving at a gentle pace. The biggest factor in this trail is making sure to be prepared (you have zero cell service) for all weather conditions (including First Aid/ food/ layers) and going through the landslide area (it is pretty dicey for anyone who is not experienced or if the trail conditions are even a bit damp/ frosty).
Overall- I’d highly recommend backpacking out in Rocky Mountain! The trails were so well-maintained. We didn’t see any wildlife (slightly disappointed), but I know it’s out there so please remember to leave no trace when hiking and respect the animals who call these places home.