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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inside mad creek barn

Eight Great Hikes in Steamboat Springs

Having been to Steamboat Springs a handful of times over the last several years, I have accumulated a list of hikes from easy to moderate that are great for most visitors.  The hikes range from 0.5 miles to 8+ miles and the majority are easily accessible.

The trails are listed below:

view from summit of Pennsylvania Mountain

Happy Hiking: Pennsylvania Mountain

  • Pennsylvania Mountain
  • Distance:  4.7 miles
  • Type: Moderate, out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,341 ft
  • Other: Dogs Allowed
  • All Trails Link

Pennsylvania Mountain is a 13,000 foot mountain located near Fairplay, Colorado.  Access to the trail head is via a well graded dirt road. When I arrived early on a Saturday morning, I was the first car in the cul-de-sac parking area.


Happy Hiking: Shrine Ridge Trail

  • Shrine Ridge Trail
  • Distance:  4 miles (6.6 if adding on additional trail)
  • Type: Moderate, out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 961 ft
  • Other: Dogs Allowed, Dirt Road to Trailhead
  • All Trails Link

Shrine Ridge Trail is located off Shrine Pass Road in the White River National Forest near Vail, Colorado.  Though dirt, Shrine Pass Road from I-70 is easily navigable to the dirt parking lot complete with pit toilets.  Tanya and I arrived just before 8am on a Thursday and there were only a few other cars.

view of blue lake

Happy Hiking: Little Blue Lake

  • Little Blue Lake
  • Distance:  6.2 miles (but we hiked closer to 8)
  • Type: Moderate, out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,411 ft
  • Other: Dogs Allowed
  • AllTrails Link

After thoroughly enjoying my hike to Lake Isabelle last week despite parking challenges and a failed off trail excursion, I returned to the Brainard Lake Recreation Area.  This time, with my friend Colin and my National Parks card in hand.


The High Line Canal: Segments 8-11

Continuing our journey to cycle the entire High Canal Trail, Nancy and I set out on a Sunday evening to complete segments 8-11, approximately 20 miles.  Parking for the beginning of Segment 8 at mile 20.5 is on neighborhood streets near Horseshoe Park.  While the High Line Conservancy guide suggests parking at S Elati St., we followed Google maps to Horseshoe Park in Littleton (not Aurora).  The directions led us to a cul-de-sac next to the trail entrance.

old engine at Fredonia mine

Happy Hiking: Fredonia Gulch Trail

  • Fredonia Gulch Trail
  • Distance:  4.5 miles
  • Type: Moderate, out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,341 ft
  • Other: Dogs Allowed
  • All Trails Link

I have recently been on a kick to hike to lakes as I find the beauty of the lakes peaceful and the challenge rewarding.  Today, however, I changed up the scenery.  After a few days of longer hikes, I wanted something short.  With it being the weekend, I also looked for a trail less traveled.  While staying at our family cabin near Bailey, Colorado, I searched for nearby options on All Trails. 


Happy Hiking: Hunt Lake

  • Hunt Lake Trail
  • Distance:  7 miles
  • Type: Moderate, out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,945 ft
  • Other: Dogs Allowed
  • All Trails Link

Hunt Lake Trail is located in the San Isabel National Forest near Salida, Colorado.  As I mentioned in my previous post about Kroenke Lake, both Salida and Buena Vista are great towns to visit while exploring the surrounding wilderness area that feature some of Colorado’s famous 14ers.

kroenke lake

Happy Hiking: Kroenke Lake Trail

  • Kroenke Lake Trail
  • Distance:  9.3 miles
  • Type: Moderate, out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,673 ft
  • Other: Dogs Allowed, Rough Road to Trailhead
  • All Trails Link

Kroenke Lake lies in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness and is just a short drive from Buena Vista.  Buena Vista and Salida are wonderful small towns to visit while exploring this amazing wilderness area chock full of Colorado’s famous 14ers

lake isabelle

Happy Hiking: Lake Isabelle

  • Lake Isabelle
  • Distance:  8.6 miles RT (7.6 from where I started)
  • Type: Moderate, Out-and-Back
  • Elevation Gain: 950 ft
  • Other: Toilets Available, Dogs Allowed

Brainard Lake Recreation Area

I have been wanting to hike to Lake Isabelle for a long time.  For some reason, however, I only think about it in the winter time when the gate is closed which requires many extra miles along the road.  Finally, I timed my hike to coincide with opening day at Brainard Lake Recreation Area.