Rocky Mountain High: Alpine Beauty in Colorado + Trout Lake!

June 2023 – After a great stay at Grand Canyon’s South Rim, we suddenly had an urge for a Rocky Mountain High!

We were eager to feel the cold crisp mountain air on our faces, be surrounded by tall pines, hear the spirited burble of streams rushing past, and see snow-capped mountain peaks punctuating every view.

So, we jumped on the San Juan Skyway (CO-145) in Dolores and headed high into the Rockies, thrilled to immerse ourselves in the alpine beauty of Colorado!

Rocky Mountain High - Alpine Beauty in Colorado! + Trout Lake

Buddy loves to run ahead of the RZR, and when he saw the first snow-capped mountain, he turned back to look at us, as if to say, “You won’t believe what’s around the next bend!”

Trail Scout dog pauses on a Rocky Mountain trail...Alpine beauty in Colorado

“OMG! Look at what’s ahead!”

I couldn’t believe it either when we got up there. What a fantastic “Rocky Mountain High” moment that was, especially after scurrying across the arid orange and red badlands and mesas of the Navajo Nation in Arizona. Suddenly, we were surrounded by rich shades of blue, green and snowy white!

Rocky Mountain alpine beauty in Colorado

“This is so great!”

Over the next week or so we went on a flurry of daily back country rides in our RZR side-by-side. The wonderful Springtime results of a very snowy winter surrounded us: fast flowing rivers…

Rocky Mountain Stream in Colorado

The rivers everywhere were moving fast!

Vibrant green meadows filled with large puddles…

Back country scenery and Rocky Mountain alpine beauty in Colorado

Deep snow had left large puddles everywhere.

Spontaneous waterfalls and streams gushing out of the earth…

Water gushing from the mountains at Trout Lake in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

It was as if the earth were oozing water from every pore.

And beautiful lakes and ponds backed by snowy mountain peaks…

Rocky Mountain alpine beauty in Colorado, lake and mountains

Classic Alpine beauty in Colorado!

Spring was in the air, and the world was full of life everywhere. Mark spotted a lovely butterfly in the flowers.

Moth in the Colorado Rockies

What an exquisite butterfly (or moth?)!

Then his sharp eyes caught a Western Tanager perched on a railing.

Western Tanager in Colorado Rocky Mountains

A Western Tanager checked us out while munching on a snack

Western Tanager in Colorado Rocky Mountains

Then he turned around to show off his tux and tails.

We drove one Forest Road after another, going all through the woods, up and down mountainsides, and across undulating meadows.

Alpine beauty in Colorado Rocky Mountains

Our RZR rides on the back country roads were breathtaking!

Colorado Delorme Atlas

We just took whatever road looked appealing, not paying too much attention to maps but instead following our instincts when we’d get an inkling that there might be something exciting around the next turn.

Squiggly roads with lots of turns—and possibilities—were our favorites. Forest Roads 535 and 578 off of CO-145 north of Rico in San Juan National Forest were especially scenic. These roads can be driven by passenger cars, and we saw quite a few out exploring Colorado’s alpine beauty!

Rocky Mountain High in the alpine beauty in Colorado

A curvy road like this is so inviting — where does it go??

Buddy’s inner puppy came out in spades.

We came across an old hunting cabin deep in the woods by a stream, and he ran between the cabin and the stream over and over, leaping across the snowy patches by the river with glee while flashing us the biggest smile.

He finally settled down in a meadow filled with flowers in front of an idyllic pine tree studded mountain backdrop. Perfect!

Puppy, Wildflowers and mountains at Trout Lake in the Colorado Rockies

What a beautiful place to rest between sprints!

We never knew where these rides would lead. Often, we wound up at remote trailheads or old bridges over fast flowing streams.

Bridge over a stream in the Colorado Rocky Mountains


One day we emerged from a short hike in the woods to come face to face with a Class C RV from Germany. We were miles from nowhere! Buddy ran up to the door, put his muddy front paws on the stairs, and looked at us, asking if he could go in!

Puppy checks out an RV

“I think they’re home. Can I go in and meet them?”

It turned out the owners were indeed home, although Buddy’s muddy paws remained firmly planted outside! We discovered they had shipped their RV from Stuttgart, Germany, to Baltimore, and they were on a seven month tour of America! She was a photographer, and right now they were on the hunt for ladyslipper flowers deep in the woods!!

Colorado Scenic Drives

These were happy, fun-filled days, and Buddy was ever the Trail Scout.

Trail Scout in the Rocky Mountain alpine beauty in Colorado

“Follow me!”

One day, we were driving on the highway when our heads whipped around as we saw the most exquisite lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains out the window. Talk about alpine beauty in Colorado! It was gone in a flash, but we later met a Forest Ranger who told us it was Trout Lake and that there was a rails-to-trails dirt road that went all the way around it.

Trout Lake in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

Trout Lake, Colorado.

So, we returned with the RZR and took a very leisurely drive around the lake.

Into the alpine beauty in Colorado at Trout Lake - Rocky Mountain High

The view of Trout Lake that caught our eye from the highway.

Trout Lake in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

Down at the shoreline of Trout Lake we found lots of flowers in bloom.

Trout Lake is much loved by locals and visitors alike, and we saw people out on the water in kayaks and stand-up paddle boards and standing along the shoreline fishing.

Kayak on Trout Lake in Colorado

What a beautiful spot for a ride in a kayak!

Standup Paddleboar and picnic ramada at Trout Lake in Colorado

Heading out on a stand-up paddleboard.

Trout Lake fishing in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

These folks were fly fishing.

An ancient log cabin had a wonderful, rickety old porch out front where the owners had no doubt enjoyed the dazzling view over many a morning or evening brew, back when the porch was strong and solid.

Porch view from an old cabin at Trout Lake in Colorado

An antique porch with a view.

Pour Over Coffee Maker for RV dry camping
Alpine beauty and snow-capped mountains at Trout Lake in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

Colorado’s alpine beauty at Trout Lake.

The narrow guage Rio Grande Southern Railroad used to go around the north end of the lake. The steam powered trains hauled silver ore and supplies, and there’s an old water tank sitting up on stilts that filled the boilers back in the day.

Antique steam train water tank at Trout Lake in the Colorado Rockies

This massive water tank used to fill the boilers on the trains that rolled by.
We experienced having a train’s boiler filled with water on the Cog Railway in New Hampshire!

The vast network of Rio Grande Southern Railroad trains meandering throughout Colorado’s mining areas on narrow gauge tracks ran between 1891 and the early 1950s. The 65 mile long “Middle Division,” of which this area around Trout Lake was a part, was considered the railroad’s most difficult stretch.

The road isn’t long, and it winds gently beyond the lake into the woods.

Back country road at Trout Lake in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

Is this inviting or what??!!

Rocky Mountain high on back country rides through alpine beauty in Colorado

We spent as much time out of the RZR admiring the views as we did in it going from one view to the next!

We turned a corner and saw an old trestle bridge over the river. It was not only built quite high in the air, but it curved as it crossed over the river. What a complicated structure to build, especially back in 1891!

Trestle Bridge at Trout Lake in Colorado

There’s a trestle bridge at the far east end of Trout Lake.

Steam train trestle bridge at Trout Lake in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

The trestle bridge not only spans the river but it curves too!

It is hard to imagine a train loaded with ore passing over this bridge. This is the kind of bridge that always gets blown up in old western movies, making for a very dramatic train crash as the whole train takes a nose dive into the river.

Reflectix for RV

The engineering behind the trestle is either very complex or very haphazard, I’m not sure which. Every plank was notched so it wouldn’t slip, but nails were pounded in at crazy angles, and we wondered if the planks were cut to specific measurements or if they were just fit into place at whatever angles seemed best at that particular spot.

Complex trestle bridge contruction at Trout Lake in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

The design and construction of this trestle bridge is mind boggling.

The train’s whistle had been silenced long ago, but this trestle still stands as a reminder of a time when this very quiet part of the world was actually a hub of activity. The road today where the train tracks ran is utterly peaceful and silent. Not one car or person passed us the whole time we explored the area.

Alpine beauty in Colorado on the back country road around Trout Lake

Mark began singing, “The Hills Are Alive!” from the Sound of Music!

Alpine beauty in Colorado brings a Rocky Mountain High

A century ago, this was a busy train track!

As the road looped back towards the lake, we came across a huge field of dandelions. They’re so common, it’s easy to forget they are actually beautiful flowers. The vibrant yellow carpet beneath the blue sky and snowy mountain peaks was breathtaking.

Wildflowers and mountains and a Rocky Mountain High in Colorado

The lowly dandelion completes this awe-inspiring view!

Wildflowers and mountains at Trout Lake in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

A carpet of yellow leads to the mountains.

Buddy decided a little bed of dandelions looked like the perfect place to lie down for a while.

Puppy resting in the wildflowers in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

“Let’s rest here for a bit!”

We thoroughly enjoyed this glorious welcome to the alpine beauty in Colorado. We had purchased the RZR for just these kinds of adventures quite a few years ago, and even though we’ve done a lot of great rides since then, the back country roads around Trout Lake and in the San Juan National Forest gave us a Rocky Mountain High we’ll never forget!

Puppy on the back road around Trout Lake in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

Our Trail Scout leads us back to our rolling home.

RV Door Shade

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20 thoughts on “Rocky Mountain High: Alpine Beauty in Colorado + Trout Lake!

  1. Emily, your photos and Mark’s are always amazing, but I was wondering why these, in particular, were striking a chord with me. Then I realized that it was all about the colors. It was scenery like this that prompted the color scheme in our home – muted shades of blue, green and yellow with stone and lots of wood – all of my favorite colors from nature. Personally speaking, I don’t think many designers even come close to the inspiring work of nature. By the way, it looks like all of you were having way too much fun!

    • The colors struck me too, Mary. We were so immersed in the rust, reds, browns and oranges of the Grand Canyon and as we crossed the Navajo Nation. Then, as we arrived in Colorado, it was a total shock to be surrounded by the dark green trees, rich blue sky and white highlights on the mountains! I just love that these two radically different landscapes are so close together in the West. You must have a beautiful home decorated with those shades!! We are definitely having fun out here. Like all travelers, not everything has gone our way, but how totally blessed we are to be living this way, a lifestyle of complete freedom!!!

  2. Inspiring narrative and pics, Mark, Emily and Buddy. Love that you incorporate the history with the scene. And Buddy sure knows the right place to plop down to enjoy the big picture. Love, Mom

  3. I so look forward to your photos and narration of the places you have gone! We only spent a smattering of time in Colorado this spring as we drove our RV from Moab to Denver, on our way home to Toronto for the summer. The Rockies and Colorado are truly spectacular and inspiring to keep seeing more of both of our amazing countries!
    Thanks as always for your posts.

    • Wow! Thank you, Leonard!! We both love sharing our photos, and for me, the stories just unfold on their own and tell themselves. We’ve only seen bits and pieces of Colorado too, so we’re really looking forward to getting to know the state better this summer!

  4. Dirt Roads, Green Mountains and rushing streams — sounds like Ver-mont but the views are more panoramic! This week we are also experiencing flooding rivers as the saturated earth can hold no more. BTW we also have two local “fens” with both “Showy” (pink) and yellow lady slippers. What beauties! Thanks for the tour of Colorado’s high country! Stewart

    • You are welcome for the tour, Stewart — thanks for coming along! Vermont is a gorgeous state and I love the rolling hills, but the Green Mountains are not quite as craggy and tall as the Colorado Rockies (which are again not quite as craggy and tall as the Canadian Rockies!). I’ve only seen the pink ladyslipper flowers — so delicate and pretty! I didn’t know they came in yellow too. I hope the floods abate for you soon. Stay dry!!

  5. For birthday I was west and north into the mountains a bit from Ely, NV. Was BEAUTIFUL! How long did it take you to go from AZ to CO? Two day trip? I had to stop midway and stay a night outside of Carson City because it was my kitty’s first 5th wheel trip and she was a bit spooked. I let her out in the 5th wheel and she was under the table in her box. She did good overall though. Stayed only 3 days, but did not see another human for 2 of those day and it was amazing!

    Anyway, I plan to go to CO, but only when I go full time so that I have enough time to do it all. Right now I am limited to about 400 miles from Sacramento.

    • We did the trip from the eastern edge of Grand Canyon’s South Rim to the Rico area in two days. That was taking it slow, though! Our max comfortable distance for a day of driving nowadays is about 150 miles. Buddy hates driving in the truck, especially towing the trailer, so we stop about every 30-50 miles for him to get out and stop shaking for a while!! So, I understand your kitty’s nervousness and the impact it had on you. Before we began full-timing (and when we were younger and under time constraints due to work and vacation schedules), we drove from Telluride, Colorado, to Phoenix, Arizona, in one day!!

  6. Forgot to mention, and am not sure if you have and CB or ham radio experience (or if your readers do), but I was up on the mountain west of Ely, NW pretty high up, and I had amazing skip happen. I was able to talk to British Columbia, Louisiana, Alabama, Puerto Rico, and a few SoCal and NorCal locations. For my birthday my parents gave me this extendable pole which does not require guywires and you can mount it direct on the 5th wheel. It goes up to about 30 feet when fully extended. I was so amazed how far I could get, but they were hearing me as loud as if I was a mile away from them. That pole let me get up high enough where the 5th wheel interference doesn’t get in the way.

    • That’s very cool, Gary! We don’t have CB or ham radio experience, but it would be fun to talk to someone so far away as if they were right next to you. While we were sailing across the Sea of Cortez at the bottom of the Baja California peninsula (about 330 miles across) between Cabo and the mainland to the east, while we were out in the middle of the crossing we picked up men speaking Russian (and several other languages — different conversations) on our VHF radio. There were skips out there that made it possible for us to hear conversations between boats that were floating around who knows where!! It happened for about 50 miles in the middle of that trip in both directions (3 years apart), but the voices vanished once we got through that stretch of water!

  7. I finally got a chance to look at this article. Some beautiful photos but too much snow showing for us in NH in July! As a kid, I too was able to ride the Cog up Mt Washington when the train was used to stopping for a load of water! So I know exactly what you are talking about!

    • We were amazed there was so much snow in late June too, Pete. We’re still in CO now in late July and there’s still snow on some peaks…incredible! When we rode the Cog Railway a few years ago, the train stopped to get a load of water. We were so surprised. We learned a lot about old trains on that ride. When we saw the water tank here at Trout Lake, we knew exactly what it was because of that train trip!

  8. In August when little snow remains it soon returns. Some years ago a friend says, “if you have not been to Colorado in the summer you don’t know what you’re missing.” We have been many summers since.

    • I think your friend was right, Jeff. Colorado in the summer is just gorgeous. However, Fall may be even better. When the aspens turn to gold and snow blankets the peaks, it is a sight to behold. I guess Colorado is fabulous at any time of year — such a beautiful state!!

  9. Catching up with your posts and I am really glad I saw this one. I bookmarked it so that Wally and I can take a trip up there, perhaps this fall. Colorado has had lots of rain this summer and looks beautiful. As I write this comment in Phoenix it is 110 in Phoenix with no monsoon. Thanks again for your beautiful pictures and commentary. This is one area we have not visited since we were always headed to Estes Park …..

    • Oh gosh, Liz, you are in for a treat!! That whole of Highway 145 is gorgeous — in both directions — and around September 20 to October 1 the aspens will be shimmering gold everywhere. Have a blast on your trip and take your time. An ideal route is up Highway 145 and then at Ridgeway get onto US-550 and head south through Ouray, Silverton and Durango. There are a lot of mountain passes, but at that time of year the whole world is orange and yellow and is totally spectacular!!


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