Hiking Granite Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park
When my husband and I recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, we decided to take a trip sans kids. This would be our first trip alone after having our second child. We’ve been on a few relaxing beach vacations in the past so we decided to do something more adventurous. Both of us love to hike and be outdoors so we decided to go to Colorado. We stayed in Winter Park, which is an easy hour drive from the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park.
One appealing thing about going to Rocky Mountain without the kids was being able to take on a longer and more challenging hike. At the time I was training for a half marathon. I was convinced that I could handle a long hike and determine how much water and food we would need.
I’ve been to Rocky Mountain National Park multiple times and every time I appreciate how helpful and friendly the visitor center staff are. We told the ranger we wanted to see moose and a waterfall. We also told her we were up for a long hike. Our backpack was stocked with water bottles and snacks. She recommended the Granite Falls hike.
If you go on this hike, be sure to take a trail map with you. The hike to the falls involves many trails and there are some junction points. Don’t worry, I have little sense of direction and we didn’t get lost. The ranger will give you excellent directions to accompany the map.
The Granite Falls hike starts at the Green Mountain Trailhead and is roughly 10.5 miles round trip. This hike is absolutely amazing. We saw a vast variety of majestic scenery. The trail starts with a gentle uphill walk through a conifer forest. You will start to see small meadows. Be on the lookout for deer, elk and moose. After you’ve hiked a little over 1.5 miles, you will see the Big Meadows. You won’t miss it. Once you see the Big Meadows, you will know why the others are called small. We took a small deter to walk some of the trails though the Big Meadow. The area is just beautiful with great mountain views. We made sure to keep out voices low in hopes of seeing a moose, but no luck.
After the meadow areas, at about 3.5 miles into your hike, you will come along the Tonahutu Creek. It was at this point that we started to think we were getting close, just keep following the creek and the falls should be close. We were enjoying the scenery and each other’s company, and weren’t really paying attention to the distance. This was the first time in years that we had been alone without the kids for more than a few hours. We could talk about any and everything! We continued on through the evergreen forest. At about the 4 mile mark, we hit an area of the forest that was burned during the Big Meadows fire.
Finally, after 5 miles we reached the falls. You can easily sit right next to the falls to take a break. We enjoyed the view while eating every scrap of food we brought. Our granola bars and fruit weren’t very satisfying and we drank almost all of our water. We made sure to keep some of the water for the hike back.
We picked up the pace on our way back. We were getting really hungry and looking forward to eating dinner in the nearby town of Grand Lake. Our hopes of seeing a moose were diminished as we walked along the Big Meadow on our way back. We decided there was no point in being quiet as we talked since there was no wildlife in sight. As we came around the next bend there was a moose right on the trail. We were completely startled (perhaps I uttered a few questionable words) to find one right in front of us on the trail. Over in the meadow we saw another moose not too far away. I couldn’t believe that we were this close to them. We weren’t sure exactly what to do at that point. We took a lot of pictures and a video, but we needed to keep moving on the trail. I wanted to go around the moose and cut through the wooded area. My husband on the other hand thought we should walk just slightly off the trail, between the two moose. Probably not the smartest thing we’ve ever done, but the moose had little interested in us as we passed. We made it back without further incident.
This hike was one of the highlights of our trip without kids. We took on a challenge together and had an amazing outdoor experience. We still laugh about how I thought a 10-mile hike in high altitude would be no problem since I was training to run a half marathon. Now, we always over pack snacks and water when hiking. And we have a great story to tell about coming face to face with moose on the way back from Granite Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park.