Rocky Mountain National Park – Born of the Glaciers

Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Beautiful mountain lakes, grassy meadows, and spectacular mountain panoramas. There is plenty of variety in this park not too far from Denver and just outside of Estes Park, Colorado. Like many U.S. National Parks, during the summer, reservations are required for entry at a specific time, so planning your arrival is essential. This park can get crowded, but it wasn’t bad when we selected to arrive last September on our annual fall trip.

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Scenic drive in the park

There are two entrances from the east near the city of Estes Park, Highway 34 and Highway 36, but a short distance inside the park, highway 36 ends as it intersects with 34. From there, that single road meanders through valleys and peaks eventually exiting at Kawuneeche Visitor Center on the west side of the park. Of course, there are many viewpoints, campgrounds, and trailheads along the way. The image above features a view of the highway as it winds through the lowlands. We were stopped at a viewpoint higher up along the road.

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Scenic viewpoint

At first, I was going to reject this image of the high plains meadows as the dark areas on the mountains made it look like I shot through a closed car window. Then I realized that the dark areas are just shadows of the clouds on the ground.

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High mountain view

In the summer, the beauty of the high mountains is on full display for all who visit. There is magic in the winter as well, but it requires extra planning and awareness of the fact that winter weather can make the road snow-packed and icy. Road closures outside the park could also affect your arrival time in the park. On the bright side, winter reservations are not necessary.

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Viewpoint along the high mountain road

Except for taking a short feeder road to Sprague Lake, we stayed along the main highway and captured the images in this gallery along the way. Weekend trips are challenging in the summer only because of the large crowds. The Bear Lake Road area has a separate reservation and on the day we reserved, and even though we arrived on a Tuesday, we couldn’t get a permit to enter the Bear Lake corridor. Reserve early and expect to arrive in your reservation window.

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Mountain stream

Hikers are best advised to hike early or late in the day. The trailhead parking areas fill up fast in the mornings, and as hikers finish their day hikes, leave the parking area open for other visitors. The lots, however, are mostly full through the mid-day hours. Only if you are lucky enough to arrive just as someone is leaving, you will be able to secure a place to park.

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Sprague Lake

We spent some time at Sprague Lake as we did a few years ago, back then, we visited on a November day when snow and ice were plentiful. I wanted to capture some summer views of the lake.

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View along the lake

Sprague Lake has a nice trail that is short and is simply a path around the lake. It affords many views of the mountains around this high-altitude lake.

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Sprague Lake

This is probably my favorite summer photo of the lake. I was struck by how the ripples in the water made the clouds look like an artist’s brush strokes.

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High mountain view

I end this post with a view of the higher Rockies that ring the park. For more information on making a trip to this beautiful park, you’ll find the park’s website here. This photo gallery was processed in Lightroom and Luminar Neo in 2K HD. You can click on any image to view it full size, or you can click here to see the entire gallery on my Flickr site.

Rocky Mountain National Park, however, begs to be photographed in panoramic vistas like the one in the opening photo of this post. Next week I will present an entire post featuring only panoramic images created on that beautiful autumn day in the park. I will also include a winter panorama of Sprague Lake to give you an opportunity to see the lake in November from a few years ago.

John Steiner


  1. Just my sort of place! But I’m surprised to read you need to make a reservation to visit. I’ve never done that for any US National Park – reserve accommodation, yes obviously, but not entry. Is this a new thing triggered by Covid? Or is this park especially busy? The thought of not being able to park because of the crowds would put me off, much as I love these landscapes! Anyway, I’ll look forward to seeing more of it in your panoramas next week 🙂

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