Max Visits RMNP

Rocky Mountain National Park is our second favorite of the western US national parks behind the extraordinary Glacier NP which is on the America-Canada border at the top of Montana. We’ve been to Rocky Mountain National Park several times (Max has been there twice) and we are always ready to make a repeat visit.

Bridge at Grand Lake

The lucky folk in Grand Lakes, CO have gorgeous lakeside homes and cabins with boat houses in lieu of garages.

We entered the park on the western side through the small, touristy town of Grand Lake which boasts a population of 500 full-timers and about a bazillion or two tourists annually.

Town Grand Lake

Town GL 2

Main street of Grand Lake, CO. Malt provided for scale.

Grand Lake sits at near 8, 400 feet (2,550m) above sea level and is named for its lake (duh, really?) which is the largest natural lake in Colorado.

Spirit Lodge

We stayed at the famous Spirit Lake Lodge and Snowmobile Rentals.

Here’s something I learned: tread very carefully when booking accommodations that append the phrase “…and snowmobile rentals” to their name as though that were a major amenity.

There is a reason you’ll never see “Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Snowmobile Rentals.” ‘Nuff said.


Grand Lake offers visitors a nice, slow pace of life. It’s a place to wander about, noodle through the quaint stores, feed burgers to your voracious Maltese on the patio at Squeaky B’s and engage in as many or as few outdoor activities as suit your fancy.

Squeaky B's

Mr. Malt gets his share of burger at Squeaky B’s.

Mostly, Grand Lake serves as the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park  which I will henceforth abbreviate as “RMNP” because my senior fingers get tired when typing the whole name.


Monsieur Moose was very accommodating of tourists and their cell phone cameras.

What struck us on this particular visit to RMNP were not the magnificent vistas, the wildlife, the endless mountain views or the sheer, almost overwhelming beauty of the place although we fully appreciated each of these attributes.

No, what struck us most was how old we had gotten.

On previous visits we (or at least I) would launch early from bed, hoist packs and head into the wilderness to hike and camp in the distant reaches of the park. We were in constant motion, heads-on-a-swivel and game for whatever nature tossed at us.

View down valley

A hazy view down valley. The smoke from fires in California was very obvious throughout our park visit.

Not anymore. We talked about how we might go about exploring some off-track parts of the park but we soon realized that part of our lives was gone, a victim to passing years (although we blamed the Malt, of course.)

Nowadays, for us, national parks are  scenic drive-through experiences with hotels instead of tents, restaurants instead of freeze-dried rations, cell phones instead of the trusty .30-06 and dog parks instead of…well, something.

Dirt road fall river

Passing through 11,000 feet on the old dirt road to the alpine visitor center. Teensy bit of snow in upper left.

Fortunately, our new passive approach to visiting RMNP worked very well. The roads and vehicle trails are easily accessible, incredibly scenic and offer a vast diversity of sights throughout a wide range of elevations. So much can be seen from a car. We spotted moose. We saw remnants of glaciers. We enjoyed a stop at the alpine visitor center at 11,796 feet (3,595 m) above sea level.

Alpine vix center

Busy, busy alpine visitor center. Very popular for its restrooms as well as the usual visitor center attractions. If you pee here it flows east to the Mississippi River. The more you know…

It’s not like the old days tramping in wonderful solitude or that incredible, ineffable fragrance of forest or the thrill of discovery of remote sites. Nope. We have become what we formerly mocked – car tourists. (Insert a long, drawn-out sigh from me and a whoop-yeeee hah! from the AJF.)

Max seemed fascinated by the terrain and was not indisposed by the altitude. I guess he has secretly been keeping up with his cardio exercises. He was very popular at the visitor center especially with folk from foreign countries. All appeared to think his stroller was either funny or very practical and he received an excessive amount of pets and scratches.

View a Viz Ctr 2.jpg

View from the Alpine Visitor Center. In the distance is a very nice brew pub. Trust me. Squint harder.

We spent a couple days in RMNP, leaving each evening to a snug motel and soft bed which, along with indoor plumbing, made for a happy wife/happy life combination.

I longed for the old days when I would venture into the backcountry for extended periods of time, often by myself but sometimes with the AJF who has never been the world’s best outdoors person. (“Ewww…..there’s something in my sleeping bag, get it out!”)

Max in creek

Kicking and screaming as only a Maltese can, Max got dunked in the creek to wash off the mung acquired over the past few days.

We exited the park on the east side through a town named Estes Park which is an Araphoe Indian term for “more darn tourists, rvs, sunburned skin, souvenir tee shirts and ice cream stands than is humanly possible.” It was insanely crowded on the town’s streets and the sidewalks were chock-a-block with visitors from all over the world. Max was worshiped like the dog god he believes he is. We bought souvenirs.

From Rocky Mountain National Park we wandered south to Boulder, a very trendy university town not far from Denver. We had heard that Boulder is a lively place especially along its “Pearl Street Mall,” a showcase of restaurants and shopping opportunities.

We fought through traffic that would stun even a tough Los Angeles driver and circled again and again to nab a parking space only to find out that the Mall, and actually most of Boulder, was not really dog-friendly.

Pearl Mal

Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall: we really wanted to wander here with Max but he was doggo non grata for no reason that made sense.

We felt deceived.

See, there is no place we’ve ever visited that had as many dogs running around as Colorado. Everybody has one, most often a retriever of some sort but all breeds are represented. So, of course, the state must be super dog-friendly, no? NO.

Colorado has very strange rules for allowing dogs in eating establishments and in popular public spaces. On several occasions we looked online for dog-friendly restaurants only to arrive and find out their interpretation of dog-friendly was that you could tie your dog outside a fence that separated a restaurant from the sidewalk. It was bizarre because another place just down the street would allow one to bring the dog on to the patio.

Bottom line: Max gives Colorado a “C” when it comes to being a dog-friendly state.


Vail – where the rich and famous come to play. As for us, we came to use the restrooms which, for the record, were very nice. If you pee here it flows west to the Pacific Ocean. FYI.

After our unfortunate visit to Boulder and a much more fun time in Denver (posted earlier) we crossed back through the magnificent Rocky Mountains, passing through the pricey but very nice town of Vail en route to the desert town of Grand Junction.

Vail dog park

This indicates that doggos are permitted to relieve themselves on this sacred part of Vail real estate.

Grand Junction has a thriving agricultural industry, mostly fruit, because it accesses the Colorado River for irrigation. We bought lots of tasty gifts for family: cherry jam, peach salsa, raspberry sauces, etc.


Hay Minions are indigenous to the Grand Junction area!

The terrain around Grand Junction is diametrically opposed to that of the mountains but is impressive in its own right. Nearby is the Colorado National Monument, a land area of red rock, sheer-walled canyons cut deep into the Colorado Plateau, with pinion and juniper forests hosting a wide range of wildlife, including red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, ravens, jays, desert bighorn sheep, and coyotes.

VN Mem

We visited the Vietnam War Memorial in nearby Fruita, CO.

This is the land of dead dinosaurs. Lots of bones. As you might imagine, much of the focus of tourism is on dinosaur-related topics. Whilst the AJF and I may be properly categorized as dinosaurs in our own right, we are not especially fond of  the Mesozoic Era ( we prefer the 60’s) so we skipped taking the dino bus tour of the area.

Dino bus

Yeah, we’ll take a pass on that tour.

From Grand Junction we departed Colorado into Utah and started the long road home. Even though Colorado was below Max’s expectations in terms of its dog-friendliness, the state remains as one our favorite destinations and already we talk about going back to explore, albeit in a car, both new and familiar destinations. We had a wonderful time.


Just part of the haul.


Max with Zucchini

“Get that stupid zucchini out of my face!”

Meanwhile, the garden kept growing and we were eventually welcomed home with an abundance of fresh summer vegetables from our backyard.

Wait at front door

Well, I’m ready for our next trip.


18 replies

  1. It reminds us of a trip to visit Montana to visit the daughter. She arranged for us to tour Glacier with a recently retired Park Ranger. Kaci and Kyla went on the tour since it was in the personal car of the Ranger. At the end of the tour completely around the park, the Ranger remarked how wonderfully the dogs behaved-because they were perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a fun adventure with Max in the Rockies. Lived in Colorado Springs half a century ago and even skied Breckinridge. Tell Max we miss him here within the K streets (and you all too). Forwarded your story to Lori Tamayori so Sophie can learn there’s life outside of this block!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lois, you and the AJF must have gotten the same script, those are her exact words! Sometimes I am told to pull over a little closer to the side of the road so she can get a better view of a waterfall or whatever. I ask, “You wanna park, get out, walk over and maybe take a photo?” “Nope, just get a little closer to the edge.”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You were in RMNP at the height of tourist season. Soon enough Trail Ridge Road (the highest continuous paved road in the US) will be closed for the season with 4-ft high drifts of snow. I’m sure the neither the AJF or the Malt would not approve of the weather. Snow fell has already fallen on Pikes Peak over the past weekend. And to please all our California friends, we make sure the rest stops favor an eastern flow. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • We talked about how magnificent it must be to take a snowmobile up to the Continental Divide when the park is closed for winter. I think 90% of guys had the same thought when first encountering the Divide and learning how fluids go from that point: “…so like, dude…this means if I take a leak here….” And 90% of their partners are exasperated, shake their heads and think how life would have been more civilized had they stayed with their previous boyfriend.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Another great trip.
    However it is not because you are ‘old’ that you fail to desire walking, tents, and roughing it, it is because you have come to your senses I say!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for taking us along for a virtual trip. The scenery is beautiful and I particularly love the mountains which are something we don’t get here. Is Max having trouble with his paws and hence in the pram? Did he have arthritis? I remember you mentioning the stroller before but it’s slipped my mind.
    I think Max should start a dog tourism campaign. He has just the face for it.
    Best wishes,


  6. Well, you have succeeded in making me feel sad about the aging process. Fortunately I am already tired until 80 years old so my days of venturing into the back woods are long gone. But being strictly car tourists must be a concession one makes to reality. Oh, to jump and Skip and Frolic and roll sideways down a hill!


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