Autumn in Colorado: Rocky Mountain National Park

The Rocky Mountains of Colorado and more specifically Rocky Mountain National Park feature some of the most awe inspiring mountain scenery on the continent. Fall is a great time to photograph the Rocky Mountains as the Aspen Trees turn from Green to Gold and finally a brilliant red. Photographing the mountainous landscape of Rocky Mountain National park with turning Aspen Trees is a photographers paradise. The colors add amazing depth and contrast to your photographs and the whole region is awash in natural beauty.

In this remote corner of Colorado, rivers twist and plunge through granite canyons, waterfalls roar through forests of pine and spruce while mountain peaks soar to elevations above 14,000 feet. Rocky Mountain National Park is also home to wildlife such a Bighorn Sheep, Moose, Bears, Elk, Marmot and Bald Eagles.

Wildlife tend to be more active during the Autumn months as they begin their preparations for the long snowy winters that abound in the Rocky Mountains. We specifically time this Tour / Workshop to coincide with the Autumn Leaf change of Aspen Trees in the high Rocky Mountains. Not only is the landscape photography superb but so is the temperature and the summer crowds have all but disappeared.

You will be hiking, photographing and learning from a photography instructor who spent seven years exploring the mountains of Colorado and that has a wealth of knowledge about the flora, fauna, weather patterns and trails of the Rocky Mountains. You’ll have expert instruction out on the trail and be in good hands out in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Each day we make it a point to hike early and get to our photo “sweet spots” before the magic hour begins. Often we’ll hike in the dark to end at a beautiful mountain lake, such as Emerald Lake before sunrise. After our magic-hour session we’ll look for wildlife such as Moose, Elk or Big Horn Sheep before positioning our group for an evening session of photography.

You’ll leave this workshop with a plethora of mountain images to add to your portfolio. Rocky Mountain National Park is a photogenic wonderland – so you’ll end up with waterfalls, galore, wildlife shots, big mountain panoramas and maybe some interesting night sky shots with Long’s Peak in the foreground.

Join Backcountry Journeys this Fall for a great time, come create some images and experience the Rockies!

Day 1

Arrive in Estes Park, Colorado by 6pm for an orientation and welcome dinner.

Day 2

We will enter the Park before dawn on the first day to witness and shoot the light of the sun as it begins to illuminate Moraine Park. Moraine Park is a jaw-dropping sight to behold as well as to capture from behind a lense. Massive granite peaks soar above lush alpine meadows creating a sublime mountain scene, and an amazing one to photograph. After some mountain photography instruction and image review we’ll head back to Estes Park for a late breakfast and a relaxing break before our next adventure back up in the high country.

Our second adventure of the day is a quest for wildlife shots on the drive up Trail Ridge Road (the highest paved road in North America, and undoubtedly one of the most scenic). We’ll stop to photograph along the way at view points across from the magnificent Gore Range. A short hike is planned near the Alpine Ridge Visitor’s Center in the late afternoon to stretch our legs and seek out for more unique mountain shots.

After our hike we’ll relax, have a snack and then begin photographing the Pano Mountains as the sun begins to set in the western sky. There are many locations along Trail Ridge Road from which to capture the shots we’re looking for, but we have two in mind that provide truly fantastic vantage points for these photographs.

Once we’re done with the day’s photography we’ll return to our lodge in Estes Park for a wonderful dinner and good night’s sleep.

Day 3
We’ll start hiking before dawn this morning to our photography destination at Bear Lake. Bear Lake is a popular hike with tourists but we’ll show up well before they are out of bed! This lake has amazing reflections, and often smooth water, at first light so we’ll get there early to compose some truly spectacular photographs. After we finish with Bear Lake we’ll hike another mile or so up to one of three other nearby lakes: Emerald Lake, Nymph Lake or Dream Lake depending on the lighting conditions. All of these lakes often act as stunning alpine mirrors reflecting the dramatic mountains surrounding them on glassy water. After exploring and shooting the lakes and mountains we’ll backtrack and then hike up to Alberta Falls, which is an incredible high mountain waterfall with a fantastic backdrop of high summits. We’ll spend some time shooting the falls and learning how to control the midday light with neutral density filters to create stunning slow shutter speed waterfall effects.

After our hike it’s off for lunch and a siesta before we head out in search of elk & moose! We’ll explore until we find the right meadow and, depending on the season, possibly watch the elk rut in action (bulls clashing antlers over the right to mate with the cows). Our evening shoot will be along Trail Ridge Road, at another one of our favorite spots for high country photography. Finally, tonight we’ll stay after sundown and work on capturing Longs Peak with the Milky Way!

Day 4

Guess what? It’s another early rise as we begin our photography session before dawn at Sprague Lake – arguably one of the prettiest lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. After that we’ll drive up Trail Ridge Road again to explore the high mountains! We’ll setup for some great shots at one of our favorite vantage points along Trail Ridge for our mid-morning session. After composing our masterpieces we’ll head down to the lush, quiet western side of Rocky Mountain National Park to hike into Cascade Falls. This is a beautiful and vibrant 6.8 mile roundtrip hike that takes us through dotted pine woodlands and alpine meadows ending at a wonderfully photogenic waterfall. We’ll spend some time capturing the waterfall and also be on the lookout for wildlife as this region of the Park is a haven for both elk and moose.

After the hike we’ll check in to our lodge in the quaint, western town of Grand Lake. We’ll have an early dinner then head out to photograph the sun setting over the Rockies!

Day 5

Today we’ll hike the Cache La Poudre River Valley first thing. This is an excellent hike with ample photography opportunities along the bottom a picturesque mountain river valley. We’ll photograph breaktaking meadows and wildflowers along this six mile route. This will be a fantastic opportunity to photograph wildlife away from the roads as well.

This evening we’ll set up for one final magic hour photo shoot in the western mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park. After that it’s off to bed for a good night’s sleep and to prepare for our final day of adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Day 6

On our last day we’ll spend the morning photographing the Colorado River headwaters in an idyllic meadow setting, with the high peaks of the Continental Divide framing the backdrop. We’ll enjoy some excellent photo opportunities and a refreshing hike along the river before shuttling back across Trail Ridge Road toward Estes Park. We’ll make occasional stops along Trail Ridge Road to photograph views we haven’t taken advantage of yet, and to enjoy a final picnic lunch up high, over 12,000 feet. This memorable trip will conclude in Estes Park, where we’ll say our goodbyes and start dreaming of the next photography adventure!

Please Note: Please note that the exact sequence of the itineraries on all photography trips will be based on weather and lighting conditions. The goal on these trips is to make sure we are at the right place at the right time for the perfect light on our subjects. Also, itineraries can change for a variety of other circumstances including floods, forest fires, national park closures, road closures and more.

Highlights

  • Rocky Mountain National Park in Peak Fall Color Season
  • Photograph dramatic & colorful Aspen Trees as they prepare for winter
  • Timed to coincide with the Elk Rut
  • Jagged Peaks & Alpine Lakes adorn this mountain paradise
  • Stunning Hikes
  • Small Groups
  • Cozy lodges
  • Chance to photograph Elk, Moose, Big Horn Sheep and other wildlife
  • All-Inclusive Trip, including top-notch meals
  • Learn from & shoot alongside a seasoned pro

Autumn in Colorado: Rocky Mountain National Park

6 Days

Trip Price: $2995 double occupancy

+$550 single occupancy

Deposit: $1000

Fitness Level: 2-3 (Moderate – Hiker) “Some hiking on dirt trails at high altitude”

Meals: Dinner day one through breakfast day six

Lodging: 5 Nights Lodging in Estes Park & Grand Lake, Colorado

Start/End: Estes Park, Colorado

Open Daily: 6am-6pm MST


*trip difficulty ratings

2018 Departures

Dates Difficulty Availability
September 23rd to 28th, 2018 2-3 (Hiker) Open

2019 Departures

Dates Difficulty Availability
September 22nd to 27th, 2019 2-3 (Hiker) Open

2020 Departures

Dates Difficulty Availability
September 20th to 25th, 2020 2-3 (Hiker) Open

“Photographing the changing Aspen Trees and hiking in the high mountains with Russ and our group was pretty much the highlight of my year! Rocky Mountain National Park this time of year is so outstandingly beautiful it makes you question what you are doing with your life! We covered a large portion of the park and were able to get some great images of mountains reflected in lakes, lots of Moose as well! Thanks Russ!! Where are we going next??”

Erin JBrooklyn, NY

Physical Requirements
All participants must be in good physical condition and have the ability to hike with a daypack.

Group Size
We keep groups small to maximize your one on one time with the guide / instructor.

Accommodation
We will be staying in cozy lodges in Estes Park and Grand Lake, Colorado.

Meals

Most meals are included during the trip dates and we typically eat at park lodges in the evening as well as a hand picked local restaurants. We often do snacks on the trail and then return for a late breakfast during photography trips as we are often out early to capture the morning light.

Weather

Expect warm pleasant days and chilly nights. The weather can be unpredictable in the Rocky Mountains. One can encounter snow, hail, thunderstorms as well as beautiful sunny days. Remember some of the best photographs are made before, during and immediately after a storm cycle. There is no such thing as bad weather just poor layering and gear choices – please plan accordingly! For more info on what to bring please email or call us.

Price Includes
Most Meals, ground transportation, accommodation during the trip dates, professional photography instruction, medically certified wilderness guide.

Price Does Not Include
Airfare, transportation to/from Estes Park, alcoholic beverages, accommodations before or after the trip dates, guide & staff gratuities

Travel Details
Departure city is Estes Park, Colorado.

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