Having visited Denver before, just seeing the vastly wide range of mountains all around you is impressive enough. However, I have always loved hiking and knew that I would have to go hiking the mountains in Denver at some point in my life. So when Ryan told me he had a business trip in August I immediately knew what my goal for that trip would be.
We had no idea that my brother, Josh and his girlfriend Stachia, were going to be in Denver at the same time as we were. Yay! They had already been doing research for their vacation and Rocky Mountain National Park was on their list. They offered to pick me up and so I rode along with them to Estes Park, CO about an hour and fifteen minutes from Westminster, where I was staying. Josh found out that preventative measures were put in place because of Covid and you would have to make a reservation online to get into the park. They are only allowing a certain number of people in each day and at various times. So he made the reservation for noon and paid the $25 admission fee per vehicle to get in. I highly recommend you make reservations too as we saw so many cars turning around to exit the park that day because they didn’t know they had to make a reservation online ahead of time.
Once in the park you will make your way to the shuttle parking lot. There is not a lot of signage to keep you from second guessing if maybe you passed it already, so hang in there. You will run into the parking area, I promise. When you find the parking lot, park your vehicle, and then hop on the shuttle. The shuttle makes 3 stops, depending on where you are heading in the park. We chose stop number 3 which was Bear Lake. Stachia had a friends, sisters cousin tell her how great Bear Lake was and she wasn’t lying. We had no idea how awesome the views were going to be on this hike. We just had to get past the cutest little chipmunks (will post that on my IG feed, seriously so cute and they loved people…. no fear!) I could have spent hours taking videos of them but we were here for the hike. We found the first entrance to some trails and decided to go for Odessa Lake. You know only 4 miles each way. We’ve got this!
Not too long into the hike Josh found a spot where we could climb the rocks and look out onto Bear Lake. While they were enjoying the views I was mesmerized by the cluster of birch trees around me. I had never seen birch trees in real life and they were stunningly gorgeous even with the carvings of lovers passing by over the years. I thought how romantic that would be to come back years from the time the first initials were carved to see them still there. I have always been a romantic soul. Which then led me to feeling sad my husband was working and not enjoying this day with us. Thankfully I had my brother and Stachia there to enjoy nature and all the beauty of this day. Once they were done enjoying the view from the rocks we hiked a little further to where we noticed that Bierstadt Lake was actually closer. So we chose that path next. Sorry Odessa, in all fairness we were way too ambitious in the beginning.
If you have never hiked in the Rocky Mountains then you should know that the change in elevation makes it harder to breathe. Throw in some wild fires to the west of Denver and the air quality wasn’t the best this day. Surprisingly enough we still saw people with little children, around 4 years old, some families and older folks hiking with sticks. So it couldn’t have been that bad. Until you journey up hill. Side note: Hiking at the State parks in Pennsylvania growing up is a little different then hiking up a mountain. Especially after being quarantined for 4 months in Isla Mujeres, MX. My activity levels dropped to almost nothing each day. So to say I am probably out of shape is pretty accurate. With that being said, as we were hiking up hill it literally felt as if I may die. Strangest feeling ever to be gasping for air. So we took some breaks (A LOT) and made sure to drink plenty of water. I brought along some electrolytes and am so glad I took them mid-hike because I had no pain or aches even days later from this workout. You can find the ones I use on Amazon here.
A little victory pose since we were done hiking up the mountain, for now, and were starting to descend down towards the lake. It took us about an hour to get down the mountain. Beautiful tall trees surrounding us and keeping us in the shade. The nice breeze that would pass by made the 98 degree F weather bearable. At the bottom we saw a clearing and a sign that horses weren’t allowed past this certain point so we knew we must be close. Sure enough we walked through a little clearing in the trees and there was Bierstadt Lake. Looking so pretty!
We were taking photos, thinking how peaceful and serene this moment was, and no camera was going to truly capture this moment as we saw and felt it. When we heard a little rustle around us and in a few moments a couple of ducks had begun to appear looking for food. Sadly for them we didn’t have anything to give them and I don’t think that made them very happy. So we took that as our sign to head back to the trail and start climbing back up the mountain. It was a really beautiful and calming lake. I wished they had a bench there to sit an relax while taking in the views.
Heading back we crossed paths with a woman who asked us, “Where are you going?” We told her we were heading back and she insisted that we had to hike to the other side of the lake. We were pretty tired and expressed that to her. She then went on to tell us that we were missing the best views of the entire hike if we didn’t go. So we took her advice and hiked around to the other side. I can’t believe that we hiked all that way and almost missed this view!
As you can see on the other side of the lake is where the real view was. I mean seriously, how beautiful is that landscape with the lake, pine trees and then mountains. Some with snow still on them. Feeling so thankful she insisted that this view was worth the extra 1/4 mile. Don’t you think so? I felt it definitely was and look, more duck friends on the other side. They were much more friendly too.
Just as we were about to walk back the sun came out and was shining right on us. I thought the picture before was pretty. This literally just lit up like this moment was just for us. (Chills) I believe it truly was. After capturing so many pictures from different angles we turned our backs to the lake and the sun went back behind some clouds. Where it wouldn’t stay for long.
Feeling extremely satisfied with this hike we headed back towards Bear Lake. You guessed it, we had to head back up the mountain. I had to take multiple breaks and one point and enjoyed a few handfuls of Pistachios at another. I needed something in my stomach to mentally prepare myself to keep going. Some parts weren’t bad and then there were the parts that were steep and kept Stachia and I feeling out of breath. This part of the hike took the longest as we would rest and drink water pretty frequently.
We ended up making it back up and then down the mountain to Bear Lake. As we were wrapping up our hike we saw a momma deer and two of her babies as we got closer to the end of the trail. Seeing animals in nature is one of my favorite things, next to flowers. So this “sighting” was an extra bonus at the end.
What are your favorite things to do in nature? Is it biking, hiking, swimming, kayaking or even running? Tell us in the comments below and if you have any other must see/ things to do next time we are in the area we would love to hear from you!
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