Beaver Meadows

Mounts Chapin, Chiquita and Ypsilon
Andra on a frozen creek in Beaver Meadows
Andra on a frozen segment of Beaver Brook
Andra on Trail Ridge Rd
Location: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Access: From the Beaver Meadows Entrance, drive west on Trail Ridge Rd for ~1 mile to a 180-degree bend in the road. Park in the pullout and start walking, or hang a left on the Beaver Meadow gravel access road and follow it 1.5 miles to the Upper Beaver Meadows trailhead. Large herds of elk congregate in Beaver Meadows in September-October.
Lower Pullout: NAD 83 zone 13 449772e 4468971n 8301'
Upper Trailhead: NAD 83 zone 13 447888e 4469333n 8439'
Trails: The Ute trail begins at the upper TH and heads 4 miles up Trail Ridge to Hwy 36. There are multiple smaller loops and spur trails in Beaver Meadows that allow myriad individual hikes of varying lengths. 
Maps: Trails Illustrated 1:59,000 Rocky Mt National Park (#200) 
          USGS 1:24,000 McHenry Peak; Longs Peak
Fees: $20 week pass, or $35 annual pass per vehicle
Dogs: Not allowed on trails, kept on leash everywhere else
Webcam: Estes Park, 3 miles to the east
Weather: Current and recent conditions
            Local forecast

January 16, 2002

Because Iíve had a dog longer than a car, and because national parks have very strict rules about dogs in parks, Iíve only been hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park twice, despite living only an hour away for the past 8 years. The only other time I entered the park was at night, in the fall, to listen to elk bugling. We did not hike that particular evening. I know that someday Iíll be living far away and regret not spending more time in one of the most beautiful national parks in the world. Andra and I decided to leave Frank at home for once and spend a day at the park, though we knew we would be stymied from exploring the park's higher elevations because of the snow. The particular day we chose was cold and clear: very pretty to look at, but not a great time to be out hiking. The wind was brisk. On the other hand, these factors virtually guaranteed that we'd have the area to ourselves. 

We entered via Beaver Meadows, and once inside the park, we stopped almost immediately along Hwy 36 to get out and bushwhack across a few hills and walk along ridges and deep snow, avoiding the heavy timber on the north faces of the hills where the really deep snow was. 2002 was a particularly dry year for Colorado, and you can see from the photographs that the snow in January really wasn't that deep, and practically non-existent on south-facing slopes. We didnít take any particular trail, but instead just wandered around, probably in violation of Park policy. We came upon a thin creek that was frozen solid. The ice had cracked into blocks here and there, and was pretty deep, seeming to go down a few feet, but still allowing perfect clarity to the creekbed in spots. It looked like a giant seam of glass, as if glass were a mineral occasionally deposited in the earth. 

After strolling around Beaver Meadows for awhile, we drove up Trail Ridge Rd, which I have heard is the highest paved road in America, to a locked gate. We parked the car and walked through the unplowed snow on the road beyond the locked gate for about 1.5 miles. To the right of the road was a low rock wall with a steep drop-off beyond. Standing on this low wall was a great way to soak in the beauty of the snow-capped peaks visible to the north and west. We turned around when the wind surpassed ridiculous, and crept into what I would label insane. By that point we were both bundled up completely, leaning into the wind and not talking at all. On the way back we passed two people snowshoeing, and as we arrived back at the car, we encountered quite a few people milling about. The mountain to the southwest blocked most of the wind at that point, so we took the time to walk along a trail that paralleled the road and had little information kiosks that identified the peaks in view, wildlife, vegetation, etc. In the calm air and the mid-day sun, it almost felt warm. By mid afternoon we had been thoroughly replenished with the cleansing quality of the forest, and decided to return home to hassle the poor dog we left behind

April 10, 2010

Andra and I stayed in Estes Park at our favorite overpriced cabin rental location, and took a morning stroll through Beaver Meadows starting from the upper trailhead near the Deer Mt TH. The sun was shining and the day was pretty warm when we began. Longs Peak  was cloaked in snow, and blazing white in the sunshine. We hiked downhill through the grassy plain dotted with ponderosa pine, an area heavily utilized by elk and deer, and looking somewhat like an overgrazed horse pasture.  At the first trail junction, we turned west and hiked uphill through a burned area. I recognized the area as one where I took vegetation pictures with a Rocky Mt NP field crew in 2003 as part of a study comparing image analysis vegetation monitoring and field techniques. I remember being very confused about the geography of the area at the time, as I hadnít spent any time at all inside the park before that. 

We continued on west, over a ridge and down to Beaver Creek, where we stopped and had a snack amongst an aspen grove, still laden with snow. Our progress beyond that point was impeded by deep snow, and we hadnít thought to bring snowshoes. So, we took a side trail that looked a bit unofficial, but it led us right down to another trailhead that I actually hadnít expected, showing that even now I was a bit confused about the geography of the area.

 We followed the road a bit east, then found our trail heading north, by which time clouds had rolled in and a freezing wind was scouring the meadow. Because of the sunshine earlier in the day, I had only brought a light jacket, and I zipped it up and scrunched my neck down into it as we were buffeted by the cold, spring wind. We tramped back to the car doublequick, and returned to our cabin to enjoy hot chocolate and the hot tub. 

This was the last time Andra and I hiked together in Rocky before moving to Tennessee a month later. I note that my original thoughts included a sentiment that one day when I lived far away I'd regret not hiking in Rocky more when I lived so close to it. Well, I'm happy to say there's nothing I'll regret since I managed to squeeze in another 40 days of hiking in Rocky after my initial hike at Beaver Meadows 9 years ago. 

Beaver Meadows, Rocky Mt National Park
Deer Mt from Beaver Meadows
Beaver Meadows, Rocky Mt National Park
Longs Peak and aspen along Beaver Brook
Beaver Meadows, Rocky Mt National Park
Longs Peak from upper Beaver Meadows
Beaver Meadows, Rocky Mt National Park
Longs Peak and associated peaks from 
Upper Beaver Meadows
Beaver Meadows, Rocky Mt National Park
Beaver Meadows, Rocky Mt National Park
Andra on the uphill segment of the trail
Beaver Meadows, Rocky Mt National Park
Along Beaver Brook


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Page created 3-18-03
Updated 1-22-11