Two Easy Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park

Adams Falls hike

Some streams are like people. Their true character shows only when they fall.

Adams Falls was the first attraction on the list during out trip to the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. We started driving from Granby and passed three beautiful lakes on our way to the East Inlet trailhead. Highway 34 took us along the shore of Lake Granby. The lake looked serene with blue water glistening in the sun. It was surrounded by misty dark mountains looming in the distance.

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We passed Shadow Mountain Lake, turned right onto West Portal Road and drove along shores of Grand Lake. Grand Lake is nestled between mountains, which are overgrown by thick woods of pines, fir trees, and aspens. Houses, which are built on the shores of Grand Lake, have definitely the best views of the lake.

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Waterfalls have an irresistible appeal to me. Maybe it’s because of a sudden change in how the water flows and the exhilarating fall which is sometimes accompanied by spray and rainbows. We were looking forward to see what Adams Falls looked like. We paused at the East Inlet trailhead, to view the lake before we started this short 0.7 miles hike.

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The trail was well trodden and meandered through slender aspens, stately tall fir trees, and pines, which exuded the smell of amber colored sap. A slight breeze blew and bent the thin branches of aspens and flipped their round tiny leaves, like coins. The wooded area was occasionally crossed by the fallen trunks of dead trees. A chipmunk hurriedly crossed the trail and ran on the top of a fallen tree. This trail is popular and soon we ran into a group of hikers staring into the thicket. We asked what’s going on and got an answer: “There is a moose and her baby out there!”

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We scanned the slope of the mountain where people were pointing and finally saw the black rear end of a large moose. The rest of her body was obstructed by trees. Then, the moose moved reaching for green leaves. She stretched her neck and stuck her large, long muzzle into the branches, lazily nibbling on green leaves.

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We scanned the steep slope in search of the baby moose with our camera’s zoomed in, but could not find him. Finally, mama moose had enough of her food or got tired of our attention and withdrew into the woods. We continued our hike to the waterfalls.

Here is a video of the moose.

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We reached an observation point and watched a seething white water stream gushing down in a narrow gorge. The waterfall is 55 feet high. The rebellious and playful stream of water rushed between craggy walls of the gorge and rising boulders. On its way the stream washed off smaller rocks and flipped the fallen trunks of trees. We listened to the lively uproar of the creek forcing its way to Grand Lake.

Here is a video of the waterfalls.

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There is a great view of Grand Lake from a huge boulder next to the waterfall, but the trail headed higher up steam. From this vantage point there was a greater view of the lake surrounded by the mountains, seen through the tops of pine trees. At the top of the waterfall the creek was quiet and peaceful. Tall fir trees reflected in the calm surface of the stream, before it gushes down with a commotion to break the peacefulness and the calmness into thousands of splashes.

 

This waterfall was named after Jay Adams, who was one of the first homesteaders in the area in the late 1800s. From the top, the trail continues for a short distance and connects to the East Inlet trail. To come back to the parking lot take a left at the junction.

Coyote Valley Hike

Our next point of interest was Coyote Valley, which is a few miles north on Highway 34 from Adams Falls. The hike there was a very enjoyable and pleasant one mile walk out and back along the Colorado River. We looked down from the bridge, which crosses the river, and could see every rock at the bottom of the pristine and peaceful stream.

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The Colorado River starts about 10 miles from the trailhead, in the northern part of Kawuneeche Valley and carries its water 1,400 miles to the Gulf of California.
The river was formed from creeks and streams fed by glaciers and snow, which remain high in the Never Summer Mountains.

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After we crossed the bridge a view of the valley, created by a genius artist, Nature, opened in front of our eyes. Bright green grass framed the stream. Tall fir trees, pines and aspens growing on the banks, were reflected in the water. The trail followed the river along a lush meadow of grasses showing a pallet from light green to honey yellow. Spring brings more colorful flowers, but in the end of the summer we saw only chamomiles. Dark green pines grew in this vast meadow in groups or as single little trees. The meadow stretched to the foothills of the mountains, which were overgrown by a thick forest. The ultimate background was formed by the dark forested slopes of the Never Summer Mountains, which change their color from green to grey depending on the sun. Dark clouds give the mountains their grey and blue hue, while sunshine brightens the green cover of the trees. The barren rocky top of Baker Mountain rose 12,397 feet to the northwest.

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The trail has interpretive signs, which describe the ecosystems, the wildlife, the history and the geology of Kawuneeche Valley. We sat on one of the benches and looked through our binoculars in the hope of seeing a moose, an elk, or a coyote. But we did not see any. Moose and elk come to feed on the grass early in the morning, and coyotes are very elusive.
Kawuneeche Valley was formed by a glacier millions of years ago. The glacier, which caved the valley, was about 20 miles long and stretched to Shadow Mountain Lake. It was about 1,500 feet thick. After the glacier receded it left lots of rock debris, called glacier moraine. The forest at the foothills of the mountains grew on this rubble at the edges of the valley.

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Ute and Arapaho Indians used to hunt in the valley until 1870, when prospectors moved into the area in search of silver, gold, and other minerals. In fact, Kawuneeche in the Arapaho language means coyote, thus the name of the valley. The name for the Never Summer Mountains also came from Arapaho. They called the mountains Ni-chebe-chii, which means Never No Summer.
Later, homesteaders settled the area, but the climate was too harsh for farming and homesteaders ran dude ranches. One of them was Hotel de Hardscrabble, run by Squeaky Bob Wheeler. Another was the Never Summer Ranch, run by the Holzwarth family.

This beautiful trail was not the last attraction we were going to see because the Holzwarth Historic Site was also on our list.

5 comments

  1. Love this post! The Rocky Mountains are on my bucket list and I’ve been wanting to visit so badly! It must have been surreal to see the moose (I kind of saw it – or thought I saw mama moose in the picture – but the way you described the moose made me smile).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Anne! I wish your dream of visiting the Rockies comes true. I posted a video of the moose as an addition to the photos. Even though the moose was black it blends with the surrounding forest. Only when she mooved were we sure that it was the moose.

      Like

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