Up close view of a musk thistle in Moraine Park. (Matthew Poust, Estes Park Trail-Gazette)
Moraine Park Valley is verdant meadow cut by meandering streams that is given character by the alluring sunrise to the East and the snow-capped Rockies to the West.
This area is home to the Moraine Park Loop trail and is an ideal spot for anglers hoping to land a fish. Visitors can gain access through the Beaver Meadows entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. If you don’t have a season pass or day reservation you’ll have to get an early jump on the day and make it through the gates before 5:00 a.m. so for those who don’t fancy waking before cockcrow it’s advised to plan ahead.
The loop trail is accessible from paralleling Fern Lake Road, but if you’re into a little seclusion you can find a parking area at the end of South Moraine Road. For those looking to do some fishing, Fern Lake Road gives great access to Fern Creek, while the latter route will butt you up against the Big Thompson River.
These creeks hold brown, cutthroat and brook trout, but can be tricky to find success on for those who are inexperienced in open field stream fishing. Shadows are easily visible on bare grounds which can likely result in fish being spooked. The Big Thompson is narrow and peters out at the end of the meadow, but Fern Creek allows more room to work and carries on throughout timbered regions for those willing to trek deeper down the dirt path.
As mentioned before, if you’re looking to hike the loop trail, parking on Fern Lake Road and South Moraine Road will give you direct access. The trail is a near five and a half miles of flat ground that will give way to meadow views frequented by elk, mule deer, black bear and many more wild critters.
Since the trail places you at the foot of the Rockies instead of directly in the high mountain landscape, it serves as a safe haven away from the crowds of gawking tourists that frequent more popular park views during the Summer months.
If you’re an adventurer who enjoys sights found off the beaten path, this area also holds suitable features for you.
At the meadow’s end lies rows of roving boulders, each bigger than the next. On the South Moraine Road trail side, you can travel off the flat land and work your way up the rocks. As there are hardly any clear-cut pathways on this route, it’s wise to navigate this area with a partner due to dicey step-ups and steep drops between boulders.
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Once you’ve worked your way atop these platforms you’ll be greeted by a full-scale sight of the meadow you previously hoofed through and a clear view of the Rocky Mountains that you can’t get from the loop path.
On the grass patches of these rocks lie clusters of daisies and rose-purple musk thistles that make the voyage all the more rewarding. An overview of the wildlife that roams beneath you doesn’t hurt in making the trip worthwhile either.
For anyone looking to find an unbothered-effortless hike or a bold rock-scaling adventure, Moraine Park Valley holds all the essentials for you.
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