Here’s some pics from two of my recent hikes: Glacier Gorge Trailhead to Alberta Falls, The Loch and Timberline Falls followed by Alberta Falls to Mills Lake.

I didn’t realize until recently just how many bodies of water reside near Bear Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park. Keegan and I hiked from Bear to Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lake a few years ago, but we still have yet to see Lake Haiyaha, Lake of Glass, Sky Pond, Ribbon Falls or Black Lake. And this area marks a small fraction of what the park as a whole has to offer. There’s so much to see and do!

I sporadically decided to hike by myself when I remembered my husband was working the next morning. I got on Alltrails to search for the best hikes at Rocky Mountain National Park. All it took was one pic of the Loch to lock me in.

I woke up at 4:00 a.m. to arrive to the park by 6:30. I knew better than to arrive at 8:00 as online seasoned hikers recommended. This is peak season at RMNP and sure enough, I arrived just in time to secure the third-to-last spot at the trailhead. It would have been severely inconvenient to wait on the first round of shuttles, so I was elated to nab a parking spot.

Alberta Falls, The Loch and Timberline Falls

20170812_064815

The first of many splits: I loved how many options hikers were presented with in this area.

20170812_070236

Alberta Falls would make a great screen saver.

20170812_102646

The Loch: Quite possibly my new favorite spot in the park.

20170812_081753

Pics don’t do it justice

20170812_083057(1)20170812_083449_HDR20170812_100950

For a mile or so after The Loch, the trail remains seemingly flat. But to get to the bottom of Timberline falls, you have to scramble. It was all I could do to make it this far. Some people climbed to the top of the falls and continued towards Sky Pond. I was encouraged by friendly strangers to do the same, but I was so done. I was running on adrenaline that morning, hiking all by myself “like a big girl”. I high fived random people on the way back down from Timberline Falls proclaiming, “I did it! I made all the way out here alone, without getting lost!!!”. It was such a glorious feeling.

20170812_092927_HDR

Can you see the Loch in the distance? This is right below the falls!

20170812_093026

Had I known how much farther Timberline Falls was, I probably would’ve turned around at the Loch. I naively guessed it was only another half a mile further but it was one and a half miles, adding three total to my trip. But I definitely don’t regret it. This marked my favorite hike of summer, and I kind of felt like a badass.

I had such a good time that I convinced Keegan to join me the following weekend. We woke up at the same time and headed towards Glacier Gorge. We hiked to Alberta Falls and took a different turn towards Mills Lake. This hike was equally as beautiful and about 3 miles shorter than the jaunt to Timberline Falls. For 10 minutes we had the entire lake to ourselves, which is generally rare and especially so during peak season.

Alberta Falls to Mills Lake

20170820_062038_HDR

Something I noticed was these perfect reflection opportunities. I’ve never taken such amazing photos; I suspect it’s because the early morning hours allow for better lighting. Plus the temperatures are cooler, allowing me to sustain my energy and save my water. Keegan and I arrived at Mill’s Lake at 8:15, whereas I made it to the Loch by 9:15 the previous weekend. One hour makes all the difference in lighting, but my pics from both hikes are incredible nonetheless!

20170820_080627_HDR20170820_07482620170820_08161620170820_08163120170820_080429_HDR20170820_083057

What have I learned from these early morning hikes? You beat the crowds and avoid people wandering in the background of your pics. More importantly, you enjoy the solitude, peace and quiet of having the place to yourself. The cooler temperatures are a mood-saver, the trail isn’t as crowded and you’re leaving when most people are just arriving. You have the rest of the day to run errands, relax, or in our case, go to David’s surprise party. And last but not least, it’s invigorating to wake up so early to accomplish a goal, to seize the day and make it your own.

Hiking has renewed my confidence and given me a sense of bravery. I absolutely love the Rockies and am so grateful to have such a huge playground in my back yard!!