Late April in Rocky Mountain National Park can mean quite a few things. It can mean the days are getting longer, sunrise is getting obscenely early again, the first wildflowers of the season are appearing and theres a good chance your going to have quite a few snowy days in the park. In a nutshell, spring in Rocky Mountain National Park typically consists of what feels like two steps forward towards summer, and 1 step back towards winter each week.
This tango that the weather plays this time of year can be frustrating, especially if one is champing at the bit to start hiking far into the backcountry, photographing reflections and just enjoying the short but spectacular summer season in Rocky Mountain National Park. So slowly but more steadily everyday the tides are turning and the weather is becoming more summer like.
On a clear morning this week I slapped on the microspikes and headed out for a hike to see just how much snow was still lingering around the higher elevations of Rocky. On my way up Glacier Gorge in the blue light of the predawn hours I stopped at Alberta Falls to survey the scene and see how the thaw and water flow were progressing.
Alberta Falls a few days after a large spring snowstorm may not look like the most photogenic location in RMNP when you first decide to take a look around. Most of Alberta Falls was covered in crusty snow and the water flow was still pretty modest. Even with that being the case there were plenty of opportunities to take advantage of what Alberta Falls had to offer a photographer. Lots of smaller scale landscapes with water and ice and the blue light from the early morning hour helped to convey the mood of a cool spring morning at Alberta Falls.
More and more opportunities for photographers are now presenting themselves each day in Rocky Mountain National Park. In between snowstorms and the big thaw out the opportunities may no be as dramatic or iconic as one would like but taking the time to look for the smaller details will result in some interesting seasonal imagery.
Leaves are starting to bud on the tree’s, early season wildflowers have begun to make an appearance, the grass is turning green and the days get longer and longer. Spring is in the air here in Colorado and what better way to enjoy a mid April spring weekend with anything other than a nice big drop of fresh snow. It would not be a true Colorado spring if it was not for the warm weather head fake that the Front Range of Colorado is so well versed at performing.
As I write this, heavy wet spring snow is falling hard outside my office window and the mountains are covered with snow reminiscent of a scene straight from a Christmas movie. While meteorologists were calling for some of the areas of the foothills to receive between two and four feet of new snow, warmer temperatures seem to have kept the snow totals down in many areas. Even so, there is a significant amount of snow that has fallen over the higher elevations of Rocky Mountain National Park as well as the foothills just west of Boulder. So while my excitement grows each day as we move towards my favorite season (summer) in the Rockies, we photographers get another chance to get out in the field and enjoy this white winter landscape that now sits before us.
So when the weather gives you lemons, it’s best to make lemonade as they say. Break out the winter parka’s, snow boots and gloves and get out and make some new images. These spring storms often offer the best opportunity to photograph your favorite landscapes covered in snow.
I spent the early part of the storm enjoying a beautiful hike up Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder. I love to get on Flagstaff Mountain when its snowing. Not only is it a great hike, but Flagstaff Mountain has in my opinion some of the most beautiful sets of Ponderosa Pines in all of Colorado. Ponderosa’s and there red colored bark make for beautiful subjects when their pine bows are crusted in snow. Before you know it we will quickly resume are melt off and the snow will once again be gone. With mild weather and temperatures predicted to near 80 degrees by the end of the week, this opportunity to photograph the snow wont last long. So while many of us are looking forward towards summer, unfrozen lakes and wildflowers have fun with the weather curveball we are so often thrown here during spring. Who knows, maybe we will get a few more chances at snow before its all said and done for the season.