Expedition to Rocky Mountain National Park

Just got back from this year’s expedition to Rocky Mountain National Park yesterday. Every trip to the park is glorious but some are better than others, and this year was a great one! For starters I finally figured out how to navigate the timed reservation process so we got access to the entire park all day everyday, and even a campsite in Moraine Meadows Campground overlooking the meadow and the elk herds!

We arrived too late on the first day to get any shooting done, and had to sign in on the register at the ranger station close to the entrance to the grounds. We quickly located our site and put up the tent to the sound of many bulls bugling out their message to the herds and especially the other bulls! I couldn’t wait for morning light so we could get down the hill and have a look at the action!

ELk Herd

The first morning was crazy… There were bulls and cows running everywhere, galloping in circles and every which direction. I’m not sure why the bulls were in such a hurry to get the herd up into the trees that morning, but they were. It was difficult  to get good shots with so much motion but I did my best to watch carefully and shoot as much as possible! The shooting was over with as quickly as it started and we decided to drive over Trail Ridge Road to see the high elevation scenery and see if maybe there might be a moose to photograph on the west side of the park. Just for the heck of it I shot some phone video out the window as we ascended above tree line

We had no luck with moose, but a trip over the high mountains is always a treat! The evening session with the elk was pretty good, we moved around quite a bit and took in some herds that we don’t always see, particularly the Beaver Meadows animals.

Elk Herd

It was the second morning that made the trip though! I was listening to the bugling while having my morning coffee and I could tell all the action was on the west end of Moraine Park, so just before first light we went directly over there and got a parking spot before the crowds arrived. We could hear animals in the distance so we packed up whatever gear we needed and hiked the Cub Lake Trail back into the meadow. I got some nice backlit shots there as the animals moved north toward the hills and the cover of pine trees. But they weren’t in as big a hurry as the day before and stopped to linger near the headwaters of the Big Thompson River. It was awesome, but bulls and the cows both made a few crossings, splashing and drinking the clear mountain water as we shot to our hearts content. By the end of the morning I had added another thousand captures to my haul for the trip!

Thursday was the Estes Park Farmers Market and we had good intel from the year before that the tamales are excellent, so we made it a point to hang around town for that. Indeed the Tamale Guy was there again with his tamale truck and we loaded up on chicken and pork tamales 🙂 With a full belly it seemed like an afternoon nap would be a good idea, and then it was time for another evening session with the elk! We had a couple of rain delays on Thursday evening, but still acquired a good number of captures. However it was obvious the weather was changing and a quick check of the weather revealed that Friday’s photography was going to be cut short as a major weather system moved in over the peaks.

Approaching Storm

We managed to get the tent packed just as the first raindrops started to fall, but decided to make one more lap through the park to see if there might be some shots through the rain out the car window. It sprinkled a bit here and there but the approaching storm over the high peaks of the park was amazing looking. I had to stop quite a few times for shots of the peaks as the clouds rolled in!

It seemed like a good omen and a fitting farewell to the park when a coyote took a break from hunting to pose for us and stare for a while! He was sneaking stealthily through the mountain grass and it didn’t seem we would be able to get a good shot of him, but just before he disappeared into the woods he raised up so we could see him and gave us the perfect opportunity!

Anyway, here’s a few more of my favorites from the trip, hope you enjoy them!



Also don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon including my latest, “Wildlife Photography in the Colorado Rockies” and this year’s wildlife calendar “Colorado Wildlife 2023“!

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

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Coyote on the Hunt

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