We will meet this morning at an airport area hotel in Denver for our departure into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. We stop to enjoy a nice warm up day hike to three different waterfalls in the Wild Basin before heading to our comfortable front country campsite where we learn the basics of building and maintaining a campfire (camp at 2550m). Enjoy a sumptuous grill dinner and campfire as the setting for our group briefing.
Hiking elevations: min 2600m/max 2890m
Today we head out for a classic loop hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. It's easy to see why this is a local favorite, with visits to four separate alpine lakes - Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Lake Haiyaha - plus a scenic 30 foot waterfall that thunders down a small gorge on Glacier Creek. The route offers sweeping views of Hallett Peak and Longs Peak reflecting in the shores of the crystal clear lakes. Along the way, we choose an idyllic lake-side spot for a gourmet picnic lunch on the trail. This evening, back at our front country campsite, we enjoy another big meal before our true backcountry adventure begins the next day.
Hiking elevations: min 2900m/max 3100 or 3350m
We leave early this morning for a journey on the highest paved road and one of the Top Ten Highways in the USA, Trail Ridge Road, where we have the chance to spot wildlife such as big horn sheep and black bears right along the side of the road. On our way to the main trailhead for the Continental Divide Loop, we stop to enjoy some short hikes on alpine ridges with sweeping mountain views (max 3750m). We arrive at the trailhead (2600m), shoulder our packs, and start off on our backpacking adventure. It's a short day to get used to the altitude and the weight of our packs. Tonight we enjoy our first night in the complete serenity of backcountry camping (2627m).
After breakfast, we pack up and work our way up and deeper into the backcountry along the North Inlet. Passing through Summerland Park, home to many moose, Cascade Falls, and Big Pool it is a day of wondrous discovery and Rocky Mountain solitude. For those interested in stretching their legs without packs, there are some optional side hikes your guide can add in as timing allows. We camp tonight in the upper reaches of the forest (3280m).
Today we trek up to the physical Continental Divide! We will climb from camp up out of the forest and into the alpine tundra. As we work our way through this fragile landscape, the guides will point out some of the strategies of various plants and animals in this harsh environment. For several miles, we will be almost on top of the Continental Divide (max 3750m), the waters on the east side work their way into the Mississippi River and the Atlantic Ocean, while those on the west side head down towards the Colorado River and the Pacific. After traversing the tundra, we will drop back down into the Tonahutu Valley where we camp nestled among the trees again (3220m).
It is a new day as we continue our backpacking trek. Today is mostly downhill as we travel down from the heights alongside Tonahutu Creek. Take in sights of beautiful Granite Falls and the ever changing landscapes as we descend through the park and traverse the open country of Big Meadow where we will make camp for our final night in the backcountry (2865m).
Today we complete our trek down and out of the backcountry. It's a shorter hike, giving us time to sleep in and take a more relaxed approach to the day. However our adventure ds not stop here. Tonight we stay in a lakeside front country camp (2480m) where we will enjoy a sumptuous feast of fresh food.
We leave our camp in the morning for a scenic drive down the Colorado River, through the small ranching community of Kremmling and over a pass in the Gore Range where we re-join the Colorado River at Pumphouse Recreation Site. Here we meet our guides and are issued PFDs, paddles, and inflatable kayaks. There will be a choice of double or single kayaks so either team up or go it alone! After safety instructions and paddling tips, we head off down the river. Along the way, we can take a soak in a small natural warm springs, enjoy a riverside lunch, and hopefully spot bald eagles, otters, and maybe a black bear. Return to camp for one more celebratory dinner around the fire.
We will enjoy a hearty breakfast prepared by the guides, then all pitch in to pack up the tents and other camp gear. Once this is done we make a short drive for a final hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. We may only go a mile or two up the East Inlet but the reward is another spectacular valley view and an enticing invitation to return for more exploration. During the scenic drive back to the Denver area we re-cross the Continental Divide, enjoying a last lunch together at a local pub along the way. Expect to arrive back in Denver between 4-6pm.