Summer in Colorado – Escaping the Texas Heat

If you’ve been following my work, you probably know my business keeps me busy photographing great landscapes and even some skylines across our great state. But each summer for the last 20+ years, I’ve spent a few months in Colorado with a home base in Winter Park. Last year, because my Texas photography business was going so well, and since I had a plethora of Colorado images, I decided to branch out to Colorado. With my kids in school, it is harder for me to trek to the mountains in the non-summer months, but I’ve been trying. But for now, summers are my time to roam, explore, and shoot. This past June and July have been no exception. So in this blog I wanted to share some of the highlights from outside of Texas.
First, I spent about a week total shooting a place that reminded me very much of west Texas and one of my favorite places, Big Bend National Park. Colorado National Monument is just west of Grand Junction. It is a hidden gem and not very visited by tourists, but the canyons are mesmerizing, especially in the morning and evening light. Rim Rock Road runs along the rim of several canyons, offering access to amazing hiking trails and beautiful vistas.

Colorado National Monument's Monument Canyon at sunrise.
Monument Canyon stretches out as a grand landscape of the western slope. Colorado National Monument is a gem just west of Grand Junction – and not as well known as it should be. Rim Rock Road runs 22 miles through these canyons through this portion of the Colorado Plateau, providing amazing views of several cliffs and rock rock monoliths. This panorama was taken just before sunrise on a peaceful summer morning.
This Colorado panorama is available in custom and larger sizes.

Further west, with Black Ridge Road connecting the two, McInnis Canyons, and especially Rattlesnake Canyon and Arches, are just a few miles away. The catch is, to access the arches requires a heavy-duty 4WD, high clearance vehicle. Fortunately, I have a friend and a Grand Junction native offer his services, so we drove approximately 8 miles in about an hour over absolutely terrible roads to shoot at the Rattlesnake Arches for a sunset and sunrise. The light was spectacular and provided both images and memories that will last a long time.
Summer evening in Rattlesnake Canyon
From iconic Rattlesnake Arch in Rattlesnake Canyon, the evening sky lights up at the end of a July day. This beautiful area is found in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. While this is open to the public, access is difficult, requiring either a rugged 4WD truck or a 15 mile round trip hike. But the views at sunrise and sunset of this canyon landscape are unparalleled and quite distinct in Colorado.

Each summer, I spend some time hunting Colorado Wildflowers. Despite the drought conditions in much of Colorado, some colorful blooms were still out there. Probably my favorite place this year was on a hike to Lost Man Lake near Independence Pass. I had to drop about 10 feet down into a ravine, then cross a very cold stream, but a cluster of Columbine caught my attention and provided a beautiful foreground for a fast-flowing cascade near Aspen, Colorado.
Colorado wildflowers near Independence Pass
Beautiful Columbine, Colorado’s state wildflower, fill in the rocky crags of a small stream flowing down from Independence Pass. This area, while not in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, is a short drive from Aspen on the Lost Man Lake Trail. The July morning was amazing and the flowers were prolific.

Another location with good wildflowers was a hike along the Upper Piney Lake Trail. About five miles up the trail, the last three providing some class three scrambles, a friend of mine and I finally made it into a large cirque. Here, golden sunflower and purple aster flowed down from the steep slopes.
Wildflowers in Summit County
Aspen Sunflowers and Purple Asters line a small stream flowing down from the peaks of Summit County. These wildflowers were found about five miles up the Upper Piney Lake Trail outside of Vail in mid July.

Closer to home, I took advantage of the full moon to photograph a Fraser Valley icon, Byers peak.
Moonset over Byers Peak in Fraser, Colorado
Taken with a 400mm lens, this long range view shows the full moon setting over Byers Peak near Fraser, Colorado, on a very cold morning. With the temperature at 30 degrees here in Grand County, my fingers were nearly frozen as I waited for the moon to start its descent behind this icon of the Fraser Valley.

Each summer, a friend of mine and I climb a few mountains. This summer, we hiked up a repeat – Grays and Torreys Peak. We’ve climbed 31 of Colorado’s 54 14,000’ peaks, but summited nothing new this year. Still, here is an image from the top of Grays
Torreys Peak - one of Colorado's 14ers
A cairn marks the path down from Grays Peak (14,270’) to the saddle and back up to Torreys Peak (14,267’). The skies were beautiful and the trail down and back up quite rocky. Still, the views from these 14ers are amazing, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to see the world from up here.

The wildflowers along the trail were pretty amazing, as well.
Wildflowers along the way to Grays and Torreys Peak
With Grays Peak (14,270’) in the distance, the wildflowers in Stevens Gulch and along the Grays Peak Trail add an explosion of color to a mild summer afternoon. The hike up and back is nearly 8 miles, and the scenery along the way can be breathtaking (and not because of the altitude!). This trail follows the Continental Divide Trail, as well, and leads the way to two of Colorado’s 14,000’ peaks – Grays Peak and Torreys Peak

One of my favorite places in all of Colorado to spend time is the Maroon Bells. A lot of other folks feel the same way, as it is the most photographed place in the state. The two peaks, North Maroon and Maroon Peak, both rise over 14,000 feet high. With Maroon Lake in the foreground, the photographic options are seemingly limitless. As a bonus, each June the Milky Way rises over the peaks for a few days between 3:30am-4:00am. The whole scene is beautiful, and the only folks out at that time are making their way along the lake and heading for an ascent of one of the Maroon Bells peaks.
Milky Way rising over the Maroon Bells
On a beautiful very early morning at Maroon Lake, the Milky Way rolls across the sky. In the month of June between 3am-4am, the Milky Way lines up over the iconic Maroon Bells, both over 14,000 feet high. In the foreground, the waters were relatively calm and clear.

One of the most spectacular sunsets I witnessed this summer came from Rocky Mountain National Park. I had driven over to Grand Lake one evening and into the west side of the park. Up the road a ways is an old barn – locally known as the Little Buckaroo Barn. Despite the whimsical name, this barn is part of a homestead from the early 1900s and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The sunset on this particular night was amazing.
Betty Dick Barn in RMNP
As part of an old homestead dating back to the early 1900s, this barn, locally known as the Little Buckaroo Barn, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It sits in the Kawuneeche Valley, beneath the Never Summer Mountain Range in Rocky Mountain National Park. This image was taken on an amazing summer evening as the setting sun lit up the sky in a final explosion of color before night settled in.

I still have a week or so until I have to take my girls back to Texas and get them ready for school, but it won’t be long until I can spend more time up here in the fall.
Until then, I hope you enjoyed this escape from the Texas heat!

In the meantime, Vaya con Dios, my friends,

Rob
Images from Texas

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