For those of us living in Fort Collins, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is a treasure. In less than one hour we can travel to a world class destination. If you doubt the world class claim, Google "best natural areas in the world" or something similar. If not number one, RMNP is sure to be in the top ten or twenty, depending on who makes the list. Any search should confirm the fact that RMNP is a world class destination.
The most direct route to RMNP from Fort Collins is to travel US Highway 34 through the Big Thompson Canyon just west of Loveland, CO. That route was closed last fall because of damage caused by flooding. About December 1, the road reopened. Still there were reports in the popular media that the road was "temporary". I have heard neighbors say that the road was not paved all the way...that stretches of it were still gravel, etc.
Yesterday, Anita and I set out to see for ourselves. As we headed up the canyon we were saddened to see the extensive damage done to around 24 homes (there may be more that had extensive damage but that was our guess just looking at the outsides of homes...maybe many more had serious but less visible damage) and the realization that many many more required clean up and repair. But we were happy to see that there was pavement all the way. The pavement is not the newest or best highway in Colorado, but it does the job in getting travelers to Estes Park and the surrounding RMNP in a very safe a comfortable fashion. The posted speed limits have been reduced, but you can still get there in less than an hour with a very safe and comfortable ride.
After an enjoyable ride up the canyon we opted for a nice hike in RMNP instead of snow shoeing. In the winter there is plenty of cross country skiing, snow shoeing, ice climbing and hiking available in RMNP. Just choose your sport and then find the proper location. For hiking a great alternative is the Lumpy Ridge area of RMNP which can also be found under the McGregor Ranch designation. Anita and I enjoyed a 3 mile round trip hike up to Gem Lake. I always call it Gem Puddle since in my mind it is way too small to be considered a lake. It was a great hike.
After the hike we returned to Estes Park to check out our favorite place to eat...Poppy's. Though it had sustained some flood damage it has been repaired and is fully operational. As usual we enjoyed our meal and we did some shopping before returning to Fort Collins.
I am very happy to report that we in Fort Collins again have great access to RMNP. Enjoy it.