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Moraine Park and Cub Lake Trail, RMNP, CO November 1, 2008

August 22, 2009

Posted August 22, 2009

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(Yes, I was late in getting this trip posted.  My next postings will be about some great hikes I’ve been taking this summer : )

So, it’s the middle of Fall in the rocky mountains (northern Colorado).  Where to go for a hike?  Especially if don’t get an early start, and you don’t want to play hide and seek with the hunters (nothing against hunters, just don’t like hiking around lots of people carrying guns and looking for an animal to shoot : )

The answer?  RMNP (Rocky Mountain National Park).  The trails and roads are a lot quieter than during the summer (well, except for one small issue, but more on that later).  So, RMNP here I come.

Before I go any further in the trip’s description, here is my standard comment. Please check my photo galleries here for all the larger and higher quality photos for this trip. The photos in the gallery are a quantum leap in size and quality compared to the little teaser photos I put in this site’s trip narrative. I have two other links that will help locate the area if you are interested in making the hike yourself. A Google Earth map can be found here. Use the scale bar on the left side of the Google map to help zoom in or out to help locate the area based on where you live. (This link will direct you to a Google map that shows ALL my trips.) In order to help you with the actual trail itself, you can use this link to view a topo map (a low quality one, care of the great National Geographic TOPO program that one of my sons purchase for me : ) of the Moraine Park to Cub Lake trail. All links open a new browser window.

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In addition to the Google map link above, below is a Microsoft Live map. The red tack shows the general location of the trail from Fort Collins, CO. You can click on the map to bring it up in a “live” mode and zoom in or out (move the map around) to get more detail.

Map image

One very cool part of RMNP is Moraine Park.  Great big wide open meadow.  Lots of great views.  Nice hiking for people of all ages.  And, this time of the year, if you are really lucky you may see a couple of elk walking around.  That is, a couple of hundred (or, maybe thousand, anyway, lots).  Yep, they all start coming down out of the high country, getting away from the colder higher elevations.  And, of course, it’s the rutting season.  So, if you are real lucky, you might see some elk fighting and/or hear them bugling.

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Oh, and no insects.  Nice.  So, I took off and got up to the park relatively late in the morning.  Decided that while I wanted to hike Moraine Park, I didn’t want to do it the normal way.  So, I pulled into a parking lot near the end of the meadow and headed to a what looked like had to be a trail that followed the edge of the moraine (old glacial till) along the south side of the big meadow.

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I did find a lovely trail.  Better yet.  I had it all to myself all the way to where it intersected with the main trail that goes to Cub Lake.  So, a great mile or more of trail that wound it’s way along where the pine trees intersected with the meadows and streams.
And, sure enough.  Elk.

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Closer.

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Yes.  Lots of elk.  And, some really nice views of the mountains to the north. The Lawn Lake area.

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Close up of that.  If you look closely, you can see a couple of horse riders moseying along in the lower left section of the photo.

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Elk at a watering hole.

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Anyway, I kept moseying up the trail.  Moraine Park is actually quite long (as I found out on the way back), but there was plenty to see.  Nice late fall foliage and colors (in a fallish way : )

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The trail is easy to follow.  There are usually two routes to follow.  One lower down in the meadow grass, which could be somewhat wet depending on the time of year.  And another a little further up in the trees.  Both are nice.

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At this point I’m getting fairly close to the intersection with the main Cub Lake trail.  It will be coming in from my right behind the trees in front of me and up against the rocks in the distance.  Also, note that the afternoon is already present.  The shadows are already starting to grow.

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At this point I’ve intersected with the main trail.  And will slowly start gaining altitude.  Very slowly at this point.

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A little zoom of the farther mountains.

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As I round one corner I see that the elk are again close by.  This bull had quite the collection of cows.  Or, maybe it was the other way around.  Anyway, hard to see here, but he only has one side of a normal set of antlers.

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Some of the rest of the herd taking it easy.

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And then, amazingly enough, ha ha, I saw more elk.  Only this time I would be walking “thru” the herd.  They were situated right on the trail.

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Kinda cute youngster.  Not that I’d want to get close enough to pet him/her.  No thanks : )

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As I said earlier, if you want to see elk.  This is the time and place to do it.

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I’m heading right up the valley.  Eventually up through that patch of leafless aspen in the distance.

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Zoom in on that patch of aspen.

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This is the trail section that actually goes through the aspen.  Be real pretty in the fall with the leaves all golden.  Not too shabby right now.

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Cub lake at last.  Everyone was gone for the day.  So, I had it all to myself.

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I hiked up the trail to where it left the lake at the upper end (see above; the trial heads through that rocky looking area on the other side of the lake).  You get to an intersection of trails.  One way will take you down to the Spruce Canyon trail (which loops back to the Moraine Park parking lot or go the other way to Fern Lake).  The other (to the left) will take you back to a LOT of different trails and loops.  Including Mill Creek Basin and Hollowell Park, Bierstadt Lake, and Bear Lake.

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Strange guy I met above Cub Lake.

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And a slightly more scenic overview of Cub Lake.  Gee, is the sun heading down?  Guess it’s time to head back to the car.

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Over the top of the aspens just below the lake, I spot my car in the distance.  Moraine Park is that big meadowy looking thing in the distance.  And the car is parked on the far side of the meadowy thing.

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Well, its kinda hard to see.  For some reason.  Here, I’ll zoom in a little.  So, if you know just where to look………

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Ok.  Better zoom in a little further.  So, it’s in that parking lot that’s at the foot of that hill.  When I get down there, my trail follows the edge of the meadow/park on the right.  Guess I should start hiking.

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Caught a little color on the way down.  Small spring, leaves, red rose hips.

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After I get a ways down, I snap a photo looking back at the mountains.  Getting a little darkish.

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Zoom a little.

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Eventually I’m able to look out over Moraine Park.  And, of course, the elk

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Zoom in on some.

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Spooked a few elk at o’dark thirty about halfway back down Moraine Park.  I lightened up the photo quite a bit.  It is actually quite dark.  They had a hard time figuring out just what the heck I was.  I get a lot of that : )

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The moon and venus (?) just over the moraine itself (you can barely see it; it’s just a barely black shadowy line right below the moon).

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Zoom just for the heck of it.

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Ah, the trustworthy steed awaits me : )

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Really nice hike.  Great for kids of all ages (well, you can shorten it up for the really small kids).  And, depending on the season obviously, a cool way to get pretty close to the elk (without having to kick all the other people out of the way : )

– Geoff Weatherford

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