Grin And Bear It

The NPS was finally able to reopen Bear Lake Road last week inclduing some of the trailheads in the area after the East Troublesome Fire subsided. Getting up to Bear Lake once again for sunrise was something no photographer should take for granted. Portions of Bear Lake were still free from snow even in the middle of November which helped to make for a nice composition at sunrise of Hallett Peak reflecting in the ice on the east shore of Bear Lake. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 20mm F1.8 S lens

Rolling into the Bear Lake parking lot long before sunrise always brings excitement. So many of Rocky Mountain National Park’s most scenic and beautiful locations emanate from the Bear Lake Trailhead. Bear Lake itself is a classic iconic Colorado location in itself and its only a few hundred yard walk from the parking.

As somebody who photographs RMNP a lot, its really easy to take the accessibility and beauty found in the Bear Lake area of Rocky for granted so after the entire area was closed for the past few weeks due to fire activity from the East Troublesome Fire, it was great to be able to get back up to Bear Lake for a sunrise.

Even better than getting back up to Bear Lake for sunrise was fining a small portion of Bear Lake with open water and clean ice. Normally by the end of November Bear Lake would be covered with snow and lots of footprints.

Warm weather had kept a small portion of the east side of Bear Lake open and free of snow making for a nice welcome back and a short trip from the parking lot. As I write this snow is falling on Bear Lake so it will now remain covered until late spring when the thaw starts.

While access is still limited on many of the trails around Bear Lake, including the Fern Lake section, its good to see snow falling on the dry landscape and access to Rocky Mountain National Park opening back up once again.


Some more areas of Rocky Mountain National Park opened up this week providing the opportunity to work on some compositions and locations the previously were difficult to access. With it being brown season in the park and with so many areas of Rocky still closed due to the fires, its just nice to head out and work on some more subtle images. A colorful sunrise this morning provided a nice backdrop for this lone pine I’ve been eyeing near Lower Beaver Meadows. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F4 S lens
A few more areas of Rocky Mountain National Park have opened in the past week. On the west side of Rocky, the East Inlet Trailhead is now open. All of the west side of RMNP was previously closed as of last week as they recover from the East Troublesome Fire so its great to see a small but spectacular portion of the west side of Rocky reopen.

On the east side, the portion of US 36 from the Beaver Meadows entry station to Deer Ridge Jct is now open. The caveat here being that the construction project to improve pullouts and repave the road is still ongoing. This project was to be completed in September but still has a small portion of the road to complete.

Bear Lake Road remains closed so the most popular part of the park is still inaccessible and Trail Ridge Road is closed at Many Parks Curve for what I have to believe will be the remainder of the season even though NPS still is calling it a temporary closure.

Regardless of the fact that its both now the brown season and many parts of Rocky remain inaccessible its still fun to get back out in the grove of things and kick the rust off the cameras. The weather remains very moderate and the pattern other than for high winds has remained tame for the most part.

I’ve been using this time to work on some other projects and look to find locations and compositions I’ve previously not photographed prior. While I’ve scouted out this location awhile back, this morning the skies and sunrise looked like it might be a good time to revisit this composition in Lower Beaver Meadows now that the road has reopened and access is a little easier.

I’m a sucker for twisted and tortured trees and given the fact that the one has very limited options with the restricted access in the park, I was happy to hike out to this spot and enjoy the colorful sunrise with this ‘loner’. Sometimes having fewer options is more preferable to having more after all.

Open For Business

Rocky Mountain National Park finally reopened last week after the East Troublseome and Cameron Peak Fires were brought under control with the help of both the firefighters and some winter weather. Currently, there are limited opportunities on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park for photographers as the west side of RMNP remains closed. I made a quick run up to the park earlier in the week and photographed sunrise over Deer Mountain from Many Parks Curve. While its sad to hear and see of the destrucition in the surrounding areas, it did feel great to be able to get back out for a morning. Technical Details: Nikon Z6, Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8 S lens
It’s been quiet here on the blog for the past few weeks. After a busy summer and autumn season here in Rocky Mountain National Park, both the Cameron Peak Fire and the East Troublesome Fire’s played spoiler to the end of the fall season.

The two fires which exploded at the end of October and burned nearly 30,000 acres of RMNP as well as large areas outside of Rocky. Snow finally appears to have brought both fires under control and each day that we move closer towards the winter season and snow cover on the ground is positive. In fact other than a few hot spots, there has been no growth of the two fires in the past week.

While the damage is still being assessed, we do know the fires caused significant damage both inside Rocky Mountain National Park as well as outside. Since this blog relates to photographing Rocky Mountain National Park, I’ll stick with what I know as of this writing.

On the west side of the park, the NPS office at the entry station burned down. Somehow, the two kiosks did not sustain any damage. The seasonal employees cabins across from the Green Mountain Trailhead also burned down as well. Portions of Trail River Ranch in Rocky Mountain National Park also sustained damage but Little Buckaroo Barn is ok as is the Holzwarth property.

On the east side of the park, the East Troublesome Fire made a run over the continental divide through Spruce Canyon and down into Upper Beaver Meadows and Moraine Park. To date, the only structure that I know that was damaged by the fire on the east side of Rocky is the Fern Lake patrol cabin which was destroyed.

Small portions of Rocky Mountain National Park are now open again outside the zones where the firefighters are still monitoring the fire, building containment and putting out any hot spots. Currently, the entire west side of RMNP remains closed with no known date of when it will reopen.

The east side of the park is open through the Fall River Entrance through Horseshoe Park and then up Trail Ridge Road to the Many Parks overlook. US 36, Bear Lake and The Beaver Meadows Entry station are currently closed. Old Fall River is open for hiking and bikes until December 1st at which point it will return to a trail until spring. Wild Basin is open to the winter gate and access along Highway 7 including Lily Lake and the Twin Sisters and the Longs Peak trailhead is currently open.

I was able to make a quick run up to the park earlier in the week just to kick off the rust and get out and explore for a morning. While much of the park is not currently accessible, its good to have portions of it back. We’re basically now in the winter season in Rocky, so Trail Ridge will remain closed.

With that being the case, the best locations for photography are going to revolve around smaller areas with access to much of the backcountry of Rocky currently being limited. I’ll keep things updated here as locations open up or I get any new information pertinent to the fires and damage inside of RMNP.