Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs


Garden of the Gods Park is a natural National Landmark in Colorado Springs which is about an hour drive from Denver, Colorado. The park has dramatic views of 300 feet towering sandstone rock formations against a backdrop of snow-capped Pikes peaks. Rufus Cable, a surveyor, first saw these gigantic towering fins of rock formation near Pikes Peaks back in 1859 and with great excitement he declared that it was a perfect place for the Gods to assemble. From here on, it is known as Garden of the Gods. 

There is NO entrance fee for both the park and Visitor & Nature Center. The park opens daily from 9am to 5pm except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Year’s Day. The Visitor & Nature center have wonderful exhibits that explain the history of this beautiful natural landscape. The park offers hiking trails, rock climbing, scenic driving, biking, and horseback riding.  Allow at least 2 hours to stroll on some pretty trails that take you between the towering Gateway Rock Formations and into the heart of the Park. There are 21 miles of trails to explore and free trail maps are available at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center information desk.

These photos are from our visit to Garden of the Gods on October 1st, 2019. We stopped and spent a couple of hours at the park on our way to Denver. It is worth visiting if you are around Denver or Colorado Springs area.

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Mount Evans Scenic Byway, Colorado


Mt Evans Scenic Byway is the highest paved byway in North America that climbs more than 7,000 feet in just 28 miles. This scenic byway passes through different climate zones and reaches an altitude of 14,130 feet. The 60 mile one way road trip from Denver takes up to 2 to 3 hours with many zig-zags, hair raising hairpin curves, sudden drop offs, and stomach churning twists up the mountain summit. Driving on Mt Evans road is somewhat adventurous and terrific, but is definitely a thrilling and memorable experience. When the clouds are rolling, it creates an illusion of driving on the clouds like flying cars. This exciting drive up to Mt Evans summit offers the breathtaking views of Mount Evans peaks, the highest peak in the Mt Evans wilderness area in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains along with sparkling alpine lakes, massive granite walls, ancient bristlecone pine, and carpet of seasonal wildflowers.

These photos are from our drive up to Mount Evans on 30th September, 2019. Although the summer brings the best of the summit with breathtaking views of gorgeous lakes in the backgrounds of snow capped peaks and colorful wildflowers valleys, we thoroughly enjoyed our drive.

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Quick Facts and Tips for driving up

  • Best time to visit: Late May to early September
  • Fly Into: Denver International Airport which is approximately 84 miles away
  • Mount Evans Scenic Byway is generally open from Memorial Day to Labor Day depending on weather conditions. 
  • The Mount Evans Byway starts at the beautiful Echo Lake and climbs 14 miles to the summit
  • Snow can fall at any time, even in the summer. Dress in layers and bring jackets
  • Be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms
  • The road can get over crowded on summer weekends with cars and bikes. Avoid weekends and start early for best views and more elbow room. 
  • The road is narrow, has no guardrails, no shoulder and there are serious drop-offs and hairpin turns. Drive with caution, follow speed limits and traffic
  • There is a $10 fee to drive up to summit and additional $5 to park at Summit Lake
  • Watch for Mountain goats and bighorn sheeps which are often spotted along the road 
  • Summit:  Summit is at 14000 feet elevation. A short hike to the actual summit from the parking lot offers magnificent views of the mountain peaks, sparking lakes, and jagged aspen valley 
  • Summit Lake. Take a short trail from the parking lot to a spectacular viewpoint. The trails offer a stunning sparkling lake surrounded by seasonal wildflowers or orange hue alpine thunda with a snow capped peaks in the backdrop
  • Mount Goliath Natural Area: The trail winds across tundra, purple fringe, and trunks of the bristlecone pine trees.
  • Walter Pesman Alpine Garden lookout: Offers massive view of 1,700-year-old Bristlecone pines
  • Echo Lake: There are some nice trails that offer the gorgeous views of the lake and surrounding peaks. There are picnic tables, restrooms, and an authentic log building Echo Lake Lodge 

A Guide To Maroon Bells in Colorado


Maroon Bells in Aspen, Colorado, is the most photographed place in the U.S.A. It’s perfect reflection of the glowing giant snow-striped Maroon Peaks during sunrise on the Maroon lake is truly magical. People stand shoulder to shoulder, even in the freezing cold to experience and capture this phenomenal moment every day. The first sun rays falling on the snow capped peaks set them on fire and make them glow golden yellow while competing with the shimmering surrounding Aspen trees valleys. During sunrise on a calm and clear day, you can see the beautiful reflection of the magnificent peaks on Maroon Lake. Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak are separated by less than half a mile and are two Peaks in the Elk Mountains. No matter what the season is, the Maroon Bells mesmerizes with its remarkable views. The Maroon Bells Wilderness area also offers many wonderful hikes. It is approximately 10 miles from downtown Aspen which is known as the year around destination for outdoor activities, high-end restaurants, boutiques, ski resorts, and hotels.

These pictures are from our one morning at Maroon Bells on 30th September, 2019.

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Quick Facts and Tips

  • Best time to Visit: June to September
    • Fall is great with clear and crips air, blue sky with aspen trees turning golden, but prepare yourself for very chilly morning and evenings
    • Summer is most comfortable, but be ready to beat the crowd
    • Spring is unpredictable as the weather varies and many trails are still covered with snow
  • Fly Into
    • Nearest: Aspen Airport (ASE) which is 12 miles away; Eagle Airport (EGE) in Veil is about 40 miles away; Montrose Airport(MTJ) in Montrose is about 63 miles away
    • Good Deals: Colorado Springs (COS) which is 125 miles away and Denver International Airport which is approximately 135 miles away
  • Clothing
    • Summer: Casual t-shirts, shorts, tank tops, capris, rain jackets, comfortable hiking shoes, light jackets or long sleeves for the cool morning and evenings
    • Fall and Spring: Long sleeves, fleece and warm jackets, vests, scarf, cap, gloves and comfortable hiking shoes
  • Accommodation: Downtown Aspen is the base to visit Maroon bells. It is recommended to book accommodation in advance due to high popularity
  • Check Maroon Bells Scenic Area for trails conditions and road closure
  • Free shuttle labelled as Castle/Maroon runs every 20 mins from Rubey Park Transit Center in downtown Aspen to Aspen Highlands Visitor Center
  • Maroon Bells wilderness area is closed for private vehicles between 8am to 5pm from June to October and it can only be accessed by public bus. The public bus is operated by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA)
  • The Maroon Bells guided public bus runs every 15 mins starting from 8am to 4:30pm from Aspen Highlands Visitor Center. The ride is about 20 mins and a $16/person ticket can be purchased at Aspen Highlands Visitor Center. The last bus leaves Maroon Bells at 5pm from Aspen Highlands Visitor Center
  • Parking is limited at Aspen Highlands Visitor Center. Parking is free for the first hour, then $5.00 for each additional hour up to a maximum of  $30.00
  • Private vehicles can drive up to the Maroon Bells before 8am and after 5pm for the standard $10 cash/check per vehicle. Reservations needed for overnight parking to backpack into the Maroon Bells Wilderness. More info here
  • It is worth getting up early and drive down there for best lighting, best photo op, more chance of wildlife, convenience of your own vehicle and also not to pay extra money for shuttle and parking
  • It is really hard to get a parking spot at Maroon Bells during the sunrise; It would be lucky to get a parking spot even before an hour early to sunrise 
  • Getting a good spot or squeezing yourself to capture the magical Maroon Peaks during sunrise could be a bit challenging. Try to be there really early before sunrise to secure your spot
  • Stay on designated trails and try to hike in the morning to avoid unpredictable afternoon thunderstorms
  • The air is dry and there is less oxygen at higher elevations, so hydrate yourself if you go hiking
  • Weather changes quickly, be prepared and dress accordingly
  • No cell phone service around the wilderness area
  • Bring food and water as there are no food stations/vending machines at Maroon Bells
  • Restrooms are located at the shuttle pick-up/drop-off place
  • Best Things To Do
    • Experience the magical moments of glowing Maroon Peaks during the sunrise 
    • Take a stroll along the Maroon Lake to get a closer look of the alpine meadows, the Maroon Lake and the Maroon Peaks. The Maroon Lake Scenic Trail is a short and easy 1 mile round trip trail that begins at the parking lot/bus stop. The trail along the lake offers breathtaking views of the Maroon peaks, the active beaver pond, aspen forest and seasonal wildflowers meadows. On a clear and calm day, the reflection of the peaks on Maroon Lake makes a perfect and truly phenomenal vista. Continue walking further and cross the wooden bridge to hike another scenic trail: the Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail 
    • Enjoy hiking the Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail. This easy 1.5 mile loop trail starts from the upper end of the lake just past the wooden bridge. The trail opens up to the wilderness and offers cascading waterfalls, rushing streams, mountain meadows, aspens forest in the backdrop of stunning Maroon Peaks
    • Hike the adventurous trail Crater Lake Trail. This 3.6 mile round trip trail is considered as moderate and begins at the Deadly Bells Kiosk from Maroon Lake Trailhead. The trail is steep and rocky, but offers breathtaking vistas of bushy aspen woodlands and a gorgeous Crater Lake
    • Do an enjoyable hike on the Maroon Creek Trail. This 3.2 mile one way trail that goes along the Maroon Creek and winds through rocky slopes, mountain meadows, and aspen forests

Independence Pass, A Scenic and Historic Byway, Colorado


The drive on the historic byway Independence Pass is as scenic as it is scary. It is a thrilled, adventurous, and memorable experience when you drive on the Independence Pass. The Independence pass is a 32 mile stretch on highway 82 over the Continental Divide in Colorado and winds between Twin Lakes on the east side and the world famous Ski Resort village Aspen on the west side. The Independence Pass summit is midway between Twin Lakes and Aspen and it crosses the Continental Divide over the Sawatch Range. The road twists and turns  around stunning groves of aspen trees, scenic mountain views and hugs the roaring Fork River. This highest paved lane in Colorado is full of steep drop-offs, hard switchbacks, tight curves, hairpin turns, narrow winding, with no shoulder and no guard railings. Some sections of the road are so narrow that they can fit only one car at a time. Driving on the inside lane may give some secure feelings, but driving on the outside lane is nail biting. Not only drivers, but passengers will not be able to enjoy the breathtaking views as some portions of the drive are really intense.

These pictures are from our drive on Independence Pass on 29th September, 2019. It would have been better if we could visit in the summer as the summit offers breathtaking views of snow capped peaks and colorful valleys of wildflowers.

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Quick Facts and Tips

  • The summit of Independence Pass (Hunter Pass) is 12,095 feet above sea level and is located 18 miles west of Twin Lakes and 19 miles east of Aspen
  • Independence Pass is closed for the winter and is generally open from Memorial Day until late October or early November depending on weather conditions.
  • The Independence Pass overlook at the summit offers excellent views of Mount Elbert (the second-highest mountain in the U.S. and the highest peak in both Colorado and the Rocky Mountains) and La Plata Peak to the east; Maroon Bells and Capitol peaks are to the west towards Aspen. The trail to the overlook is a paved short 0.4 mile round trip hike from the parking lot
  • The Parking lot at the summit stays busy with people entering and leaving the scenic byway to enjoy the breathtaking views
  • It will be cold even in the summer at the summit so dress accordingly
  • Vehicles over 35 feet long, oversized and overweight vehicles are prohibited on Independence Pass
  • Take extra caution, drive slowly, always keep eyes on the road, watch for the cyclists especially around the curves, and pull over only at the designated areas.

A Drive from Grand Lake to Twin Lakes, Colorado


The drive from Grand Lake, the west side of the Rocky Mountain National Park, to Twin Lakes, Colorado is pleasant, calm, and offers scenic views of the countryside. This 2 and  ½ hour drive, about 130 miles, is delightful with a number of roadside scenic vistas, large open fields, shimmering aspen trees, gorgeous sparking glacial lakes, amazing mountain peaks, and beautiful small towns. What else do we need to enjoy the ride!!

These pictures are from our drive on 29th September, 2019.

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Vista points along the drive

National Parks

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado


Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the USA and is definitely one of the bucket-list destinations for many national park and outdoor lovers. Rocky Mountain National Park has spectacular landscapes and spans over the Continental Divide in northern Colorado, USA. The park is situated between the towns of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west. The Park offers different landscapes through majestic snow capped rocky mountains, jagged granite peaks, vast and windswept alpine tundra, picturesque forested valleys, wild woodlands, pristine lakes, tall and seasonal golden aspen trees, graceful waterfalls, colorful wildflowers, and amazing wildlife and many more. The park is home for more than 60 species of mammals, including elk, bighorn sheep, and moose.The park features astonishing alpine scenery through a well accessible series of extraordinary trails.

Click on the links below to explore more.

Quick Facts and Tips

  • Best time to Visit: June to September
    • Fall is great with clear and crips air, blue sky with aspen trees turning golden, but prepare yourself for very chilly morning and evenings
    • Summer is most comfortable, but be ready to beat the crowd
    • Spring is unpredictable, varies between warm, cold, wet and dry and many trails are still covered with snow
  • Fly Into
    • Denver International Airport: Approximately 80 miles to Beaver Meadow visitor Center
  • Clothing
    • Summer: Casual t-shirts, shorts, tank tops, capris, rain jackets, comfortable hiking shoes, light jackets or long sleeves for the cool morning and evenings
    • Fall and Spring: Long sleeves, fleece and warm jackets, vests, scarf, hat, gloves, and comfortable hiking shoes
  • Accommodations: East side Estes park is bigger and has more lodging and restaurants compared to West side Grand Lake. No lodging inside the park, but campsites are available
  • What to expect
    • Impressive snow capped mountains, Wild Woodlands, Jagged Granite peaks and Forested Valleys, Windswept Alpine Tundra, Pristine Lakes, Graceful Waterfalls, Colorful Wildflowers, and Amazing Wildlife
  • How many days: 2 to 3 days
  • Entrance Fee: $25 per vehicle,  $15/$25 per person/motorcycle
  • Be sure to check the Park Website for current updates on roads closures and trails conditions before you heading out
  • Check the weather forecast before you go. Weather changes rapidly so wear layers and  carry rain gear/extra clothing
  • Trail Ridge Road is generally open from the late May through October, depending on weather conditions. Take food and water so you can spend the day touring
  • Starting early is the best way not only to beat the traffic, but also for the best lighting, more elbow room, increased chance of seeing wildlife, and beating out the afternoon thunderstorms
  • Expect long lines, wait times, and delays at entrance stations during the busiest summer season
  • Use park free shuttles as the parking lots fill up quickly and roads are getting congested due to heavy traffic. The free shuttle runs every 30 mins between 9am to 8:30pm from Estes Park Visitor center. Free parking is available at Estes Park Visitor Center. The free Hiker Shuttle Express Route takes you into the park and you can catch the shuttle to Bear Lake Route, Moraine Park Route, or just start hiking directly from the Park & Ride along the Bear Lake Road corridor. More info here
  • The trails are busy during the summer season. Bring plenty of water and snacks like granola bars/frozen grapes
  • Take caution and follow the posted signs while driving through the park for pullovers to take photos or to view wildlife
  • Keep some extra time for stopping for photos, sights, unexpected wildlife encounters, detours, and for unplanned delays
  • Be aware of wildlife on the road or near the road. Viewing wildlife from inside the car is the the best and safest way
  • If you experience high altitude sickness, slow down, sit for a while, drink plenty of water, and take your own time while hiking high elevation trails
  • Weak/no cell phone signals, highly recommend to have maps downloaded or printed
  • There is a lot to capture, so keep your camera ready. Make sure that camera is fully charged and also keep backup battery and memory cards
  • Best things To Do
    • Explore the Estes Park, the east side of the park. Picture and more details here 
    • Enjoy hiking to gorgeous lakes by taking well maintained scenic trails. For more details with images click on Lakes and Trails
    • Have a thrilling and memorable adventure drive on the highway to the sky, the Trail Ridge Road. Pictures and details here
National Parks

Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado


Trail Ridge Road, a highway to the sky in Rocky Mountain National Park is the most scenic, highest, and continuous two laned paved road in the United States. The Trail Ridge Road is actually a stretch of U.S. Highway 34 and the road covers 48 miles between Estes Park on the east side and Grand Lake on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The road winds and climbs up about 4,000 feet in a matter of minutes. It crosses the Continental Divide and reaches the high point at 12,183 feet elevation where evergreen forests come to a halt. Depending on weather conditions, Trail Ridge Road is generally open from late May through October. This fascinating drive takes you to a variety of habitats through woodlands of aspen/pines to thick subalpine forests of fir and spruce, and from lowland mountain meadows to alpine tundra. The drive on Trail Ridge Road offers phenomenal views of mountain range, amazing wildlife sightings, and spectacular seasonal alpine wildflower. The drive on Trail Ridge is so thrilling and is definitely a memorable experience.

Along the way there are numerous overlooks. It takes anywhere between 1 ½  hours to 4 hours to drive on Trail Ridge Road depending on traffic and stops at overlooks. Drive slowly and follow the traffic. Stop at every overlook, don’t rush, take a stroll to overlooks, relax, and enjoy the remarkable views. If you experience high altitude sickness, slow down, sit for a while, drink plenty of water, and take your own time.

These photos are from our drive on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park in late September 2019. Drive through Trail Ridge Road in summer is more beautiful and pretty as the landscapes welcome with more green lands with a blanket of colorful wildflowers, amazing wildlife, and stunning snow capped peaks in the backdrops.

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Trail Ridge Road Attractions from Estes Park (east side) to Grand Lake (west side)

  • Many Parks Curve Overlook: A hairpin turn at Trail Ridge road. The boardwalk across the road from the parking lot takes to the sweeping views of Longs Peak, the park’s only peak that rises above 14,000 feet, Deer Mountain, many towering peaks, and massive lowland meadows Moraine Park, Horseshoe Park, Upper Beaver Meadows
  • Rainbow Curve Overlook: Features incredible views of Horseshoe Park, Deer Mountain, the Mummy Mountain range, and Alluvial Fan Falls
  • Forest Canyon Overlook: A short stroll offers massive views of eastern edge of Forest Canyon and a deep U-shaped green valley
  • Toll Memorial Trail (Tundra Communities Trailhead): The trail features beautiful seasonal wild flowers, alpine tundra meadows, Mushroom Rocks, viewpoints of Longs Peak, the Continental Divide, and wildlife sightings
  • Lava Cliffs Overlook: Features a rare section of volcanic rock cliffs
  • Gore Range Overlook: Offers views of the Never Summer Mountains and the Gore Range as it sits above the treeline in the alpine tundra
  • Rock Cut: Feathers a beautiful projecting rock formation looking like big welcoming towers. The rock had to be cut in order to allow the Trail Ridge Road to pass through it
  • Alpine visitor Center: Located at the top of the Trail Ridge Road at 11,796 feet above the sea level,  and is a great place to relax. It features a 360 degree view of the remarkable alpine mountain peaks and alpine tundra. Restaurants, gift shops, and restrooms are available. You can hike the short, uphill, steep 0.6 mile Alpine Ridge Trail. The hike offers outstanding panoramic views of mountain peaks, beautiful alpine tundra scenery, and seasonal wildflowers
  • Medicine Bow Curve Overlook: A hairpin turn on Trail Ridge Road. This is the right place to take panoramic views of the Medicine Bow Mountains, known as the Never Summer Mountains
  • Farview Curve Overlook: Features spectacular views of an expansive Kawuneeche Valley and the Never Summer Range 
National Parks

East Side, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado


Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the USA. It is renowned for its spectacular landscapes. The park is situated between the towns of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west in the state of Colorado. Estes Park town is in northern Colorado and it is the base for the Rocky Mountain National Park. Estes Park has more lodging and restaurants than Grand Lake. The East side of the park mesmerizes with its incredible landscapes from snow capped granite peaks to crystal clear lakes and gorgeous waterfalls along with many accessible trails with stunning views.

These photos are from a two day visit to Rocky Mountain National Park in late September 2019. The Aspen trees started turning into golden colors, the alpine tundra turned to yellowish brown, and the elk mating season had just begun. These brought the park’s magnificent views though it was a cloudy and gloomy day.

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Places to Go

  • Moraine Park, Horseshoe Park, Sheep Lakes, Moraine Park discovery Center and Amphitheater, Alluvial Fan Falls, Alberta Falls
  • Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, Lake Haiyaha, Sprague Lake, Bierstadt Lake, Cub Lake

Best Things To Do

  • Drive along the scenic Bear Lake Road. Visit Moraine Park Discovery Center and Moraine Park Amphitheater. There are plenty of pull-outs or overlooks along Bear Lake Road. Keep some extra time for stopping for photos, wildlife, sights, and for unplanned delays
  • Take a short drive on South Moraine Road and Fern Lake Road. Enjoy Moraine Park which has vast beautiful meadows and amazing roaming wildlife in the backdrop of snow capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains in the distant
  • Drive Fall River Road and stop at the scenic overlook Horseshoe Park and Sheep Lakes. Good photo-op for elk and sheep in this scenic meadow
  • Hike the Bear Lake Loop Trail and embrace the gorgeous lake surrounded by the magnificent peaks. More info here
  • Enjoy hiking to Emerald Lake, a stunning emerald green alpine lake which offers outstanding views of Longs Peak, Hallett Peak, and wildflowers. The hike is more delightful with the beautiful floating lily pads covering Nymph Lake and gorgeous Dram Lake along the way. More details here
  • Hike to the gorgeous waterfall Alberta Falls that falls over a rocky cliff. This waterfall is easily accessible from the Glacier Gorge parking area or the Bear Lake parking area
  • Relax and relish at Alluvial Fan Falls. The trail feathers a waterfall over big boulders. This trail also offers hiking, walking, nature trips, and bird watching
  • Hike the popular and splendid Sprague Lake Trail, Bierstadt Lake Trail, Lake Haiyaha Trail, Cub Lake Trail and Fern Lake Trail
  • Explore downtown Estes Park
  • Ride the Estes Park Aerial Tramway
  • Enjoy kayaking on Lake Estes