tina on mount ida

Roadtrip to the Rockies: Mount Ida

  • Mount Ida
  • Distance:  9.6 miles
  • Type: Moderate, out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 2.388 ft
  • Other: Fee Required, No Dogs Allowed
  • All Trails Link

Where to Stay

While I generally travel a lot, in the summer I stick to Colorado for the amazing hiking.  As a result, I planned a few days of hiking near Grand Lake and in Rocky Mountain National Park with my friend Tina who drove in from New Mexico. Miraculously, we secured a cabin last minute at the historic Grand Lake Lodge which was perfect.

The lodge is in the park, though not associated with it, and is located just before the entrance. The atmosphere is lovely. We enjoyed both our quaint cabin located next to the one in which Ford stayed in 1928 and the picturesque views of Grand Lake. We weren’t up too late though, as getting into Rocky Mountain National Park during COVID takes some effort.

Grand Lake Lodge

Rocky Mountain National Park

The park requires additional steps beyond just having a National Parks Pass or entrance pass.  Currently park entry is limited and monitored by time slots for which visitors need a reservation for an additional $2.  I tried getting a 6-8am reservation by signing in on the computer exactly at 8am two days before the 65 slots were released, as required.  They sold out in about 10 seconds!

Without a reservation, visitors may only enter the park before 6am or after 5pm when the booth isn’t manned.  Consequently, we got up early and passed through the entrance by 5:45am amd continued on the west side of the park to the trailhead for Mount Ida.

The Hike to Mount Ida

The trail to Mount Ida is 9.6 miles roundtrip.  It begins at 10,620 feet and ends at the summit which stands at 12,964 feet.  We arrived at the trailhead with a herd of elk grazing in the meadow.  One elk came up to our window as we slowed to pull into the small parking lot!

elk sticking nose into car window

After admiring the herd full of males with spectacular racks, we walked up the trail by the lake where we promptly ran into to two deer!  We carried on through the forest for the next 1.5 miles or more, mostly following switchbacks up the mountain.

elk at rocky mountain national park

Soon we reached the open tundra which provided spectacular views of distant peaks.  As we continued our ascent, we reached a trail junction above which two ridges met at a saddle.  We stopped to be sure we were headed the correct direction when we glimpsed some antlers.

Two Bull Moose

Within a few seconds a bull moose appeared from the other side of the ridge as the sun was rising.  It was just so exciting.  We stood silently in awe as it eyed us cautiously, stepped forward, and then sped across the trail and down the slope.  In the meantime, another bull moose, though a bit smaller, followed in its path.

moose on mount ida trail

7 Second Video of Moose

As we watched them descend the slope, we saw them enter into a tree dotted meadow with a herd of elk!  The elk watched them too…haha!  I just love seeing wildlife and when I think about the timing of it all, it truly amazes me.  If we hiked one minute slower or faster we would have missed the whole show!

moose and elk on mount ida trail

Lots of Pika

The higher we ascended, the more talus fields we entered.  This rewarded us with marmot and pika sightings.  The pika sightings were particularly special.  I’ve never seen so many.  It is lucky if you hear the squeak of one of these tiny bunny-like creatures, must less see them.  There must have been one-hundred of them…no lie.  We saw about 30 just while walking and not stopping to wait, listen, and look like usual.

pika pulling up grass and flowers
pika pulling up grass and flowers

1 second clip of FAST pika

These pika were darting all over the place collecting bundles of flowers and grass for their homes beneath the rock.  One scampered right over my foot!  And I still hardly managed to capture an image.  They are fast little things! It was a joy to see the early morning activity. With Tina’s goal setting pace, however, I tore myself away and chased after her.

tina on mount ida trail

Views from Mount Ida

Eventually, we made it to the peak which Tina had to herself briefly as she sped by the few folks that started before us.  Mount Ida offers 360⁰ panoramic views.  At its base are two lakes, still with some ice.  Off to the southeast stands Longs Peak, one of Colorado’s famous 14ers.  Grand Lake is to the south and to the west is an entire mountain range.

The views from Mount Ida are truly rewarding.  Adding all the wildlife to the mix made for an outstanding experience!  We couldn’t have asked for much more on this brisk morning except for less smoky skies from a distant fire.

All in all, we really enjoyed our hike Mount Ida in Rocky Mountain National Park during COVID.  The early start definitely worked to our advantage for wildlife spotting! We’ll be back for more.  ETB

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Published by

Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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