Kruger Rock in Hermit Park, CO – A Short Hike to a Great 360 View

   I hiked to Kruger Rock recently and now it’s one of my favorite local hikes. A two mile long trail leads to Kruger Rock which offers beautiful 360 degree views of mountains, lakes, and the nearby town of Estes Park. Kruger Rock is located in the Roosevelt National Forest, 3 miles east of Estes Park on Highway 36, in the Hermit Park Open Space.

 entrance to the Hermit Park Open Space near Estes Park, CO

Entrance to the Hermit Park Open Space

There is a six dollar fee to enter the open space, payable at the park office near the gates. A free map is available, but it’s mainly good for finding parking areas and campsites. The trail map isn’t very detailed. Parking for the trail is located about two miles back a dirt road on the left. To reach the trailhead from the parking lot, walk past the pavilion and toilets and look for the trail sign near the road. The rocky peak of Kruger rock is visible from here, jutting up from the forest to the west.

The path starts out going through open fields, past a stand of aspens, then around a few rocky switchbacks before entering a pine forest. Along this ridge is where the first really nice views can be seen.

View along the Kruger Rock Trail near Estes Park, CO

View along the Kruger Rock Trail

The trail turns left (west) at this point and climbs steadily uphill until it reaches Kruger Rock. The last fifty feet or so of the hike is a little rock scramble to the peak, but nothing too hard. After reaching the top of Kruger Rock at 9,355 ft. in elevation, you’ll have climbed almost 1,000 feet up from the parking area. The reward, a spectacular 360 degree view (check out the video below).

Phil Lesh & Friends at the Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas

Outside the Las Vegas Brooklyn Bowl

Last weekend I headed to Las Vegas. I wanted to see the Phil & Friends (Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead) show at the Brooklyn Bowl and also check out my good friends’ new pizza lounge, Grinders.

We arrived in Vegas Saturday afternoon, a few hours before the show. After a quick bite at Bally’s, where we were staying, we walked over to the Brooklyn Bowl. The venue is easy to find. It’s located close to the High Roller (a 550 ft tall Ferris wheel) ,just off of the strip, in a shopping, eating, entertainment district known as the LINQ.

High Roller observation wheel in Las Vegas, NV

The High Roller observation wheel in Las Vegas

The Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas, like the others in London and New York, has bowling lanes, private boxes, and multiple bars with craft beer and food. We had general admission tickets, but were still able to get a good view from the bar area. I don’t think there’s really a bad seat in the house.

Phil & Friends hit the stage at exactly eight o’clock. The band was Phil Lesh (of course), John Kadlecik, Jackie Greene, Jason Crosby, and John Russo. The sound was great and the setlist was filled with some of my favorites. Phil, at 70+ years old, seemed to be going strong and having a great time, as evidenced by his ever present smile and between-song fist bumps.

Set 1: Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad > One More Saturday Night, Cassidy, Doin’ That Rag, Liberty, Easy Wind > Brown Eyed Women > Cumberland Blues

Set 2: Uncle John’s Band > Any Road > Let It Grow, Mason’s Children > Lady With A Fan > Terrapin Station > Standing on the Moon > Playing in the Band > The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion) E: Box of Rain

Phil did his “donor rap” after the show, encouraging people to be organ donors and letting the audience know that we wouldn’t have seen him that night if it weren’t for a person who donated their liver. I’m not sure how many people heard it well, the crowd was screaming and yelling for more music. Phil obliged the crowd by playing a classic, composed by Lesh himself, Box of Rain.

After the show, some filed out into the street, but many stayed to enjoy the beautiful night on the balconys at the Brooklyn Bowl. We made our way back towards Bally’s for a few more drinks, then eventually to bed with Dead songs playing in my head.

Phil & Friends at the Brooklyn Bowl, Las Vegas

Phil & Friends at the Brooklyn Bowl, Las Vegas

Phil Lesh and his band at the Las Vegas Brooklyn Bowl

Phil Lesh and his band at the Las Vegas Brooklyn Bowl

 

PS: We did make it to see my friends at Grinders on Sunday to watch the Bronco game, have a cheeseburger sub, and a few Rogue Mocha Porters. If you’re looking for a good place to enjoy east coast style subs, pizza, craft beer and wine, off strip, check them out. John and Rick are great hosts with lots of stories and enthusiasm. You won’t be disappointed.

 

The Pool and Fern Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Fern Falls in Colorado

The Pool and Fern Falls are two, easily accessible, attractions in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trailhead is located in the Moraine Park area approximately two miles down a dirt road off of Bear Lake Road. Signs mark the way. Get on the trail early to avoid Summer and holiday crowds. I hiked this trail mid-day the weekend before school started here in Colorado and the trail and parking areas were packed.

A kiosk with a map and trail rules marks the beginning of the path (elevation 8,155 ft.). The trail to The Pool is an easy 1.7 mile hike (one-way) along the clear Big Thompson Creek. The path is a little rocky, but mostly flat. Along the walk, hikers will pass through areas alternating shade and full sun.

Trail to The Pool in Colorado's RMNP

The trail to The Pool, Fern Falls and Lake

There are great views of The Pool from a bridge that crosses the Big Thompson and from cliffs above the creek.

A bridge over "The Pool" in Colorado's RMNP

A bridge over “The Pool” in Rocky Mountain National Park

To reach Fern Falls, follow the trail signs and continue another one mile along the path. The trail gets steeper as it winds its way uphill to the falls. Along the way, small cascades can be seen to the right. You’re not to Fern Falls yet. Keep going. Fern Falls sit at 8,800 feet above sea level, about six hundred feet higher than the trailhead.

chipmunk in Rocky

A chipmunk along the trail

The trail to The Pool and Fern Falls is part of a larger network of trails, so those wanting more of a challenge can easily stretch this hike. Fern Lake, Cub Lake, and Odessa Lake can all be easily combined with a trip to Fern Falls and The Pool.

The Pool in Rocky Mountain National Park

The Pool in Rocky Mountain National Park

Fern Falls in RMNP, Colorado

Fern Falls near Estes Park, Colorado

 

The Hike to Crater Lake near Aspen, Colorado

While visiting the Maroon Bells recently, we decided to take the 1.8 mile hike (3.6 round-trip) from Maroon Lake to Crater Lake. The Maroon Bells Recreation Area brochure, available at Aspen Highlands, describes the path as a ,”steep and rocky trail ..,climbing an ancient rockslide that holds Crater Lake”.

Crater Lake in the Maroon bells Recreation Area

Crater Lake

The trail from Maroon Lake to Crater Lake (10,076 ft.) is definitely rocky, but not super steep. It gains about 500 feet of elevation over the 1.8 miles. There are a few spots with steeper switchbacks, but for the most part the climb is gradual.

The trail starts at the Deadly Bells Kiosk on the north side of Maroon Lake. The kiosk warns visitors not to attempt climbing Maroon Bells or Pyramid Peak without being a qualified climber.

Sign warning visitors about the dangers of climbing Maroon Bells

Deadly Bells Kiosk

As the trail winds upward, there are great views of the Maroon Creek and mountains beyond. Just up the path, about a couple hundred yard, is where I saw a bull moose for the first time in the wild. It was walking along the clear mountain creek below. I ended up seeing four more moose that day. Three of them close to the first and the fourth from the shuttle bus window on the way back down to Aspen Highlands.

A moose by the Maroon Creek near Aspen, CO

Moose along the Maroon Creek

After a long gradual ascent, there are a few steeper switchbacks before the trail plateaus into a rocky clearing. Next, the path goes slightly downhill and Crater Lake comes into view to the left. The trail is out- and-back, so just retrace your steps to return to Maroon Lake.

View of Maroon Lake from the trail to Crater Lake

View of Maroon Lake from the trail to Crater Lake

Crater Lake in the Maroon Bells Recreation Area

Crater Lake through the trees

The trail to Crater Lake near Aspen, CO

The trail to Crater Lake