Need Feedback on Colorado Elk/Moose Viewing Trip
I have yet to spend much time working our elk population; it's on my to-do list. I've heard that the best area for elk is in & around RMNP, as already posted.
As to the drive from Denver south, I do a lot of photography in the corridor between Denver and Colorado Springs. Some of my favorite spots include:
(near Denver and south):
- Roxborough State Park - your friends in Denver can probably give you directions. Lots of fabulous rock formations, almost guaranteed deer sightings early and late day, and the Fountain Valley Trail is not too strenuous (well maintained 2.6 mile 'balloon' route, the elevation gain is more gradual if you hike counterclockwise). I have seen bald eagles at the reservoir near the entry station once or twice. parks.state.co.us/parks/roxborough. State parks pass required - I think the daily passes are now up to $8 (I have an annual so I don't pay the day rate).
- Waterton Canyon - again, your friends can give you directions. The canyon is a simple out-and-back roadway (paved for the first 2 +/- miles, dirt afterwards) that parallels the South Platte River, slowly climbing in elevation from the parking lot to Strontia Dam, about 6.5 miles in. Plenty of photo ops along the river and of the canyon walls, but the half mile is not that photogenic since it's where the canyon is gradually opening into the plains. The canyon hosts a herd of bighorn sheep. My luck over the years has been mixed - I typically run into the herd about 1 in 3 visits, usually about 1.5 miles in from the parking lot. I do better with the local mule deer herd, about every other visit, and closer to the parking lot where it's more open for the deer. http://www.denverwater.org/recreation/watertoncanyon/ Free.
- Highway 105 from Sedalia to Palmer Lake is a scenic drive (well maintained paved 2-lane) that is far less hectic than I-25 (speed limits from 40 to 55 mph). I like the corridor for raptor photography, although there are also large farms with horses and cattle, rolling hills, mountain backdrops, and the occasional mule deer. Red-tailed hawks have been common in my experience, and there are several other raptor species that I have shots of as well. Often the birds will perch on the phone poles and fence posts right along the road. A passenger to help with bird spotting can be helpful. I see something just about every trip, but not always. Free.
- Greenland Ranch - my definition includes three different but adjacent Douglas County Open Space parks: Spruce Meadows, Greenland, and Eagle Mountain. They are all accessible from the Greenland Ranch exit off of I-25. There are three trailhead parking lots I use regularly - two along Noe Road within a mile of I-25 and the third along Spruce Mountain Road about 1/2 mile south of Noe Road. Noe Road is a well-maintained dirt / gravel road suitable for most cars and Spruce Mountain Road is paved. This area provides rolling green hills (or brown, depending on summer rains) with cattle grazing, rock outcrops, a comprehensive trail system, and views of Pike's Peak if the weather cooperates. Trails range from easy to a moderately-hilly 8-mile loop to a few strenuous climbing trails at Eagle Mountain. The early summer flowers can be great, but your trip is fall so that's not a draw. You can browse the whole Douglas County open space website, but here's one link to a trail in this area: http://www.douglas.co.us/dcoutdoors/trails/open-space-trails/spruce-meadows-trail/ Free admission.
- The US Air Force Academy (west of I-25) is not so much for photography as it is a tourist spot, but if you drive by on a weekday, there's a pull-off on southbound I-25 that overlooks their airstrip. You can see training flights, and depending on the flight paths perhaps get some shots of planes with Pike's Peak in the background. If the Academy is offering tours (they do close the Academy to tours at certain times in the school year), they are free.
(in Colorado Springs):
- Garden of the Gods is probably the landscape photography capital of Colorado Springs, and it's pretty easy to reach - just take Garden of the Gods Road west from I-25 for a few miles, turn left at 30th Street (well signed), and the Visitor's Center is a few miles down on the left. The park is on the right, across from the Visitor's Center (again, well signed). The park is filled with rock formations that you can walk up to, stand back from, climb (with a permit) and otherwise photograph. There is an extensive trail network ranging from paved loops less than a mile long to single track dirt trails that cut through the entire park for miles. I always try to stop at the Trading Post (not the same as the Visitor's Center) which has food & drink, typical tourist merchandise, and an art gallery all in a historic setting. http://www.gardenofgods.com/home/index.cfm?flash=1 Free admission.
Let me know if you have any further questions.
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