Rocky Mountain National Park's west entrance is just north of Grand Lake, where we had previously camped at Arapaho Bay. Rocky Mountain National Park’s 415 square miles features spectacular mountain environments.
The major feature for most visitors is the Trail Ridge Road – which crests at over 12,000 feet including many overlooks to experience the subalpine and alpine worlds – along with over 300 miles of hiking trails, summer wildflowers, varied wildlife, and amazing starry nights, “Rocky” literally puts you “on top of the world”.
Kawuneeche Visitor Center is on Hwy 34 at the western entrance to the park. We quickly called in (no parking for RV’s), picked up some walk trail details and headed just 8 miles further up the road to Timber Creek Campground.
Being in early meant we had time to do a hike that afternoon. The Holzwarth Historic Site is sometimes referred to as the Never Summer Ranch and was less than a mile’s hike from the campground. John Holzwarth Sr., was a German immigrant, who moved to the Kawuneeche Valley in 1917 after his job as a saloon-keeper in Denver came to an abrupt end, a result of the enactment of prohibition in Colorado. Holzwarth took his family to the upper Colorado River at the foot of the Never Summer Mountains to build a homestead and start a cattle ranch. His location on the west side of the Colorado River (then known as the Grand River), and next to the newest national park, soon began attracting guests. The family decided to open a guest ranch, which they called the Holzwarth Trout Lodge. As tourism in the area increased over the next decade the Holzwarth family began development of a “dude ranch” on the east side of the Colorado River, which became known as the Never Summer Ranch.
Having walked around the various log cabins at the ranch we decided to take the trail heading west and up the escarpment behind towards The Grand Ditch. Two hours and 3 miles later, we had climbed 1,800ft up to the service road that runs along the ditch…it was a very steep climb at altitude….there were many stops on the way to get our breath…and as we crested the ridge at 10,600ft…….we had snow drifts still in place at these cooler altitude temperatures.
As we walked the track alongside the ditch we had a fantastic encounter with a mother Moose and here very recently born calf, maybe just hours old as it still teetered around quite unsteadily on its long spindly legs. They had been into the ditch for a wash.
We followed the Grand Ditch Road some 3 miles north before descending on Red Mountain Trail back to the valley bottom and then by a round about route back to the campground…..15 miles….just an afternoon stroll The Blonde said! The first Gin & Tonic never touched the sides….neither did the one after that…and then we were to be entertained by four large bull Elks posturing around the campground.