The location: Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is the third most-visited national park in America and Colorado’s most popular destination. The epic beauty of the Rockies is complemented by the lush forests and clear rivers and lakes that surround them. The area is a woodland wonderland. No wonder 4.5 million people visited in 2018 alone. Most guests enter via Estes Park, though there is a western entrance near Grand Lake, Colorado.
The story: visiting before and after
We first visited Rocky Mountain National Park in July 2017 when Megan was five-months-pregnant with our daughter. On that trip we came from the Estes Park side and took Trail Ridge Drive up above 12,000 feet. We also hiked to Dream Lake and Alberta falls. This summer, June 2019, we returned to Alberta Falls with our daughter toddling up the trail all by herself. Our family may have changed, but our love of the outdoors, and capturing it in photos, has not.
The season: May to August
High altitude means extreme weather for Rocky Mountain NP. Snow can fall from September to July and temperatures can drop 10-20 degrees at any given moment. Since few choose to visit during the coldest months, the park swells to bursting with tourists in the summer. Even then, temperatures are cool and afternoon showers are common—so pack a raincoat. If you’re headed to the popular Bear lake area, we recommend taking the free “Hiker Shuttle Express” from the Estes Park Visitor Center instead of entering the park in your own car.
Favorite photos: Alberta Falls
Alberta Falls is accessed by an easy trail of 1.2 miles that begins at the Glacier Gorge shuttle stop. Plan for an hour of travel time by shuttle from the Estes Park Visitor Center to the trailhead.
Great photo ops abound as you follow the creek up to the falls. It’s a special treat when the entire trail is as beautiful as the destination. Alberta Falls itself is a stunning white cascade that coats the surrounding area, and visitors, with a light mist.
To capture the rush of the white water in contrast to the rocks and trees, you’ll need a tripod and a neutral density filter. This will allow you to keep the stationery objects sharp while catching the perfect water blur. A good wide angle lens will serve you well as you take photos of the falls and throughout the park.
The gear: Canon
These photos of Rocky Mountain National Park were taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, with either a Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L telephoto lens or Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L wide lens, both with a polarizing filter or neutral density filter.
All images are copyright of Josh Schaulis and may not be reproduced or used in any way without written permission.