The unofficial start of summer has finally arrived and lots of photographers are loading up their vehicles, packing the camera and camping gear, and heading out to shake the rust off after a long winter.
Theres nothing quite like the anticipation and excitement that comes along with that break in run to start summer. A fair share of landscape and wildlife photographers will be heading up here to Rocky Mountain National Park over the Memorial Day weekend to get their photography fix. For those heading up here to Estes Park and RMNP this weekend here is what you can expect.
First off as it currently stands the weather looks decent compared to the winter like weather we have been experiencing for much of May. With the exception of Monday, the weather in Rocky looks more or less seasonal with partly sunny days. As is often the case with Rocky Mountain National Park it appears the wind will be accompanying photographers much of this weekend so plan accordingly. Mornings look like they will be mostly clear and with higher winds, capturing reflection at many of the lakes and open bodies of water may be tricky.
Photographers will find the lower elevations mostly clear of snow by the time they arrive though trails will be muddy and wet in spots. Higher elevations such as the Bear Lake trailheads will still be packed snow and ice. Traction such as Microspikes or Yak-Trax would be highly recommended. As it warms during the day the snow will soften and post holing through soft snow is likely. Meadows in the lower elevations of the park have just started to green up and the aspen trees in locations such as Moraine Park and Horseshoe Park are just leafing out now. Aspen trees and deciduous plants above 9000 ft are for the most part yet to leaf out.
Roads in the park that are closed seasonally are mostly now open. Upper Beaver Meadows, Wild Basin Road, Inn Keepers Road on the west side of Rocky are now all open. Old Fall River road wont open until July as it stands now which is inline with its normal opening time. As of this writing the road to the end of the Twin Sisters trailhead was still closed which will require parking at the two Lily Lake parking lots.
Trail Ridge Road, the highlight of Rocky Mountain National Park for many visitors will not be open this Memorial Day weekend. The National Park Service crews have been working tirelessly since April in an attempt to open Trail Ridge Road but heavy snowpack over the winter combined with powerful late season snowstorms have made it impossible to safely open Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park through to Grand Lake.
Make sure to enjoy RMNP this weekend as well as the unofficial start of summer. Remember that Rocky has been experiencing record visitation and this weekend will be busy. Be respectful of the park, wildlife and other visitors. Remember to stay on trail and use Leave No Trace principles if you are going to deviate from visiting locations off the beaten path.
In a nutshell remember to leave Rocky better than you found it. Pickup any loose trash, think about visiting areas that are less likely to be crowded and try to be mindful of your impact on the land, wildlife and the park. Most importantly have a great time visiting Rocky Mountain National Park while hopefully coming away with a handful of great images you can add to your portfolio when you get back home.