You know you’ve been in Miami too long when the sight of mountains literally takes your breath away. Our long awaited trip to Boulder promised to be one of our best hiking experiences. A weekend is not enough time to explore the many trails in this part of the Rocky Mountains. So many trails, so little time.
A scenic one hour drive from Boulder brings you to the quaint and charming mountain town of Estes Park, just outside Rocky Mountain National Park.
Not knowing the area we were pleasantly surprised to come across The Stanley Hotel, known to be the inspiration for Steven King’s, The Shining. We decided to take a moment to visit the hotel. Giant Bull Elk are an attraction at Estes Park, wandering through town and around the Stanley. What a sight to see these massive animals coexisting peacefully with people.
The views from the Stanley were breathtaking.
It’s time to head to the trailhead at Bear Lake. We had decided on a moderate trail, but soon realized we were mistakenly on a challenging and difficult trail. Flattop is an 8.8 mile, in and out trail, beginning at an elevation of 9,475 ft. at the Bear Lake trailhead, and climbs approximately 3,000 ft. to the top elevation of 12,324 ft. We began our climb on a chilly 35° temperature day but quickly needed to peel away outer layers of clothing as our body temperature rose from the uphill climb.
A short distance into the hike we are at Bear Lake. Several trails, from easy to strenuous, begin at the lake.
You can expect many tourists in this high trafficked area since the lake is easy to get to, and is a scenic stop before heading on to your trail of choice. After a moment of reflexion and many photos later, we begin our hike to Flattop.
The most difficult part of this hike was the constant upward climb. For two Miamians not used to the altitude, it was also a slow climb. Most of the terrain at first consisted of a narrow smooth and fairly even trail. We were very excited to see snow on the ground, and in true tourist fashion, we had a little bit of a snowball fight.
After hiking about a mile, we came to this awe inspiring scene. We sat on a rock, let the pure and crisp air fill our lungs, and took it all in.
The physical strain on our bodies came second to the spiritual high of being surrounded by the beauty of the mountain. For a moment I felt all of my day to day worries and stresses dissipate on the trail.
The trail overlooks Dream Lake and Emerald Lake, seen in the picture above.
The higher we climbed, the rockier and more difficult the trail became. The steady steep climb, and maneuvering your way around the rocks to get a secure footing can be challenging. After one wrong step, my husband’s knee gave out and we were forced to descend before reaching the peak of the trail. We were disappointed; we were so close.
Although not completed, our hike on the Flattop Trail was worth every step. This trail will challenge your body, heighten your senses, and nourish your soul. We will return someday to complete the journey.