big horn sheep rocky mountain national park

Sitting in the sun, being big horn sheep.

When you're driving along Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park, there are many pullouts where you can stop and admire the scenery. But when you see cars slowing to a stop and people leaning out the windows where there is no pullout, chances are good there's a big animal grazing on the roadside. That was the case here. A small group of big horn sheep were lazing in the sun about 20 yards off a curve. Luckily, there was a pullout a couple hundred yards down the road where we were able to park and hike back to check out the locals. They look bored here, no. And wouldn't you be if your day consisted of munching grass and tolerating hundreds of tourists with cameras?

bull elk harem rocky mountain_

A bull elk and his harem, in the mating season. Rocky Mountain National Park.

Just before sunset during the autumn, all over Rocky Mountain National Park, the dominant bull elk begin rounding up their females. The mountains echo with the trumpeting elk calls. As you drive around the park, as we did last night, you'll see dozens of small herds of elk, around 20 or so per herd. Each has a dominant male, and a few other younger males who hang around the periphery, waiting their turn. Maybe next year, as they say in baseball.

We were able to get pretty close to this small herd when we turned off Hwy. 34 onto Beaver Meadows Road. We were one of the first cars to come upon this herd, so we got some shots before the other 100 or so cars showed up. The rangers are pretty astute about keeping the tourists away from the elk. As one said, “Always be sure you can get a truck between yourself and the bull, just in case he decides you're getting too close to his girls.”

You can see a list here of all the United States National Parks, with links to our stories about the ones we've visited.

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