Autumn in Rocky Mountain National Park

Autumn is a great time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. Crowds have thinned. Leaves are turning. And the elk are bugling. I just returned from several days in the park. I was thrilled to have one morning with perfect conditions at Dream Lake. These high alpine lakes can be perfectly still at sunrise, and within minutes the winds have kicked in and the reflections disappear. The first morning went great at Bear Lake, but Dream Lake and Emerald Lake were rough by the time I got to them. So I hiked in the next time well before dawn to catch the very first morning light hit the high peaks behind Dream Lake. What a special view!

Dawn on Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Although I hurried uphill from Dream Lake to Emerald Lake, the winds had already started when I arrived. I will have to get up a bit earlier for Emerald Lake next year!  As I was hiking back, I met a nice gentleman who was quite familiar with the park. He commented how uncrowded these beautiful places are at dawn, and then how very crowded they get when the spectacular views are gone. His analogy was it’s like lots of people going to a great restaurant and ordering the worst thing on the menu!

Of course, one of the most memorable aspects of Rocky Mountain National Park in autumn is the elk rut. The first night at Moraine Park Campground, it was a bit difficult to get used to sleeping through all the bugling. But I actually really enjoyed the sounds on subsequent nights. Here’s a view of a fellow that performed nightly by my camp.

Bull Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

I’m already looking forward to another visit next fall.


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