Author: Michael Hodges

Fish Stocking Day!


One of the best features of the property here at Castle Mountain Lodge is our more than 1000 feet of Fall River that rushes by your cabin. Guests love to take a walk along our river trail, sit and relax on the banks, or throw a line in and catch their dinner! We want to make sure this experience is memorable for every guest so we stock the river for you a few times each summer with healthy trout from local fisheries.

The trout tend to stay within a couple hundred yards from where they are released as long as the river isn’t at its peak. So we wait until the bulk of the snowmelt is over and the level of the water drops a bit before stocking it up. The first stocking of the year is typically mid July and we just got our fish this week!

We have poles and tackle in the lobby to check out (for free). If you do need worms, which work very well, you can get those at a few spots in town. Just ask!

Hope to see you along our banks and best of luck!

estes park fishing

Elk Calving Season!

Elk calving season
Elk calving season
A cow and her calf minutes after giving birth near Castle Mountain Lodge.

It’s a perfect spring day in Rocky Mountain National Park. You woke up in your cabin to a crisp morning with singing birds and the warm sun kissing the snow-capped peaks along the divide. Lower elevations are coming alive with greening grasses and early season flowers blooming. The spring melt has begun, and the rivers and streams are beginning to rise. Wildlife of all kinds have moved into the valleys to take advantage of the fresh foliage and are readily visible throughout the area. After a couple cups of coffee and some breakfast, you’re out the door ready to hit the trail.

This is a magical time of year that coincides with elk calving season. Some of our favorite places to stretch our legs in the lower elevations of Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park also happen to be the elk’s favorite spots to give birth. We’ve been blessed to experience it many times. Seeing an elk in the process of giving birth or attentively caring for their hours or days old calf. It’s truly a precious sight. But sometimes we forget that these are wild animals ready to defend their offspring against any threat. They aren’t the docile looking photo-ops they often seem to be.

Calves are routinely hidden very close to popular trails, or even near your cabin, or in a park downtown, with their mother grazing or resting nearby. And we have no idea! These mothering cows can and will become instantly aggressive toward you to protect their young. They are very large and lightning fast and every year someone gets in between a cow and her calf. It rarely ends well.

So what can you do to enjoy these beautiful places and still give the elk the space they require? It’s not too hard, actually. A good rule of thumb is to simply stay 100 yards or more away from any female elk this time of year, May – June. This is a good rule of thumb any time, but especially during calving season. Make your presence known. Talk while you hike. If you see an elk down the trail that doesn’t see you, make some noise. If it runs away, great. If it stands its ground or moves toward you, simply walk back down the trail you came from.

Yes, this can definitely cause you to change your plans for the day on the fly, but, trust me, this minor inconvenience is better than having an angry and defensive 600 pound elk coming after you.

Now there is more you can do and other precautions you can take, so just use this as a starting point. Following are some links that can give you some more professional advice as you prepare for your trip to the high country!

This isn’t to strike fear into you and spring is arguably the best time to hit the trails in Rocky. It’s simply to help you stay safe and enjoy this this area to its fullest!

Happy hiking!

Estes Park Elk Safety

Info on Elk from RMNP

Trail Gazette Article on Elk Calving Safety


National Park Photo of Elk Calf in Moraine Park (NPS/Baker)

2024 Timed Entry Reservations Open Wednesday May 1!

This is just a friendly reminder that the Timed Entry for Rocky Mountain National Park opens on May 1… this coming Wednesday.

First, let us just say that this can be confusing for folks, so if you do have any questions, don’t hesitate to email or call us to help walk you through their process. With that said, it isn’t that hard once you get the idea.

Second, You only need to buy a Timed Entry Reservation on May 1st if you are visiting the National Park from May 24th to June 30th of this year. The Reservations for the remaining months open up on the 1st day of the month prior. (June 1, for the month of July, for example).

Finally, here are the links that will help explain in more detail:

Rocky Mountain National Park Timed Entry Info Page site where you actually buy your desired Entry Reservation

Again, if you need help, feel free to reach out.

McGregor Mountain Lodge: 970-586-3457
Castle Mountain Lodge: 970-586-3664

There are contact numbers for the National Park on the RMNP page linked above that could be of great help as well.

We’re looking forward to a wonderful summer and autumn up here in the high country, so don’t let a little red tape discourage you from getting out and hitting the trails!

Flattop Mountain
Hiking across the summit of Flattop Mountain on the way to Hallett Peak.

Fly Fishing in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Parl

Estes Park Fly Fishing

Fly Fishing in Estes Park and RMNP

Estes Park Fly Fishing
Fly Fishing at Castle Mountain Lodge

With world class fly fishing right out your front door, you may want to pick up a rod and try your hand at catching your dinner! You can fish in our stretch of Fall River here on the property, or head into Rocky Mountain National Park, and surrounding areas, for endless fishing opportunities. From roadside river casting to hiking to those secret honey holes deep in the back country, there are options for all skill levels and desired experience.

If you’re new to the sport of fly fishing, we recommend taking a class or enjoying a guided experience with Kirk’s Fly Shop here in downtown Estes Park. The good folks there are the go-to outfit in Northern Colorado and can provide everything you need to get you on the river… from a license, to a guide, to all the gear, and recommendations of every sort.

Kirk’s is also the spot we defer to when we need to know where the fish are biting and what they’re currently seeing as their preferred delicacy. Give them a call at (970) 577-0790 or visit their website (Kirk’s Fly Shop) for more info, or if you have any questions.

The bottom line is that Castle Mountain Lodge, Estes Park, & Rocky Mountain National Park offer truly spectacular fly fishing and it’s a highlight of our local mountain living!

Kirks Flyshop

Classic Hikes In Rocky Mountain National Park (Summer Edition)

Dream Lake

Classic RMNP Summer Hikes

For good reason, the summer months in Rocky Mountain National Park are the most popular months to visit. The weather in the high country this time of year is just about perfect. Cool mornings, warm afternoons, and those summer storms that roll through after lunch provide ideal weather for getting out and exploring the trails. With the hundreds of miles of hiking trails at your disposal, where do you begin?!

A few things to consider when choosing where to go. What do you want to see? Waterfall? Lake? Summit? Wildlife? Different hikes provide different scenery and experiences. Choosing what you want to see will narrow it down. Now figure out how long you want to hike? Are you wanting to keep it short and sweet, or are you ready for an all day trek into the back country? Finally, are you wanting something a little less popular or are you ok being around other hikers to see the quintessential and classic RMNP landscape?

Here we’re going to cover a few of the classics that have contributed to sparking the wonder and curiosity in all who have wondered into these mountains for hundreds of years.

Dream Lake
Dream Lake on a summer day

Dream Lake

We’re not sure one destination can represent Rocky Mountain National Park more than Dream Lake. In the stunningly beautiful Tyndall Gorge, Dream Lake sits below the dramatic east face of Hallett Peak and the Flattop Spires on the south side of Flattop Mountain. It’s relatively close to the trail head at Bear Lake, only 1.1 miles away, and isn’t a terribly steep hike either. For these reasons, it’s one of the more popular destinations in RMNP, so don’t expect much solitude. It’s great for kids and you can see a few lakes along this trail (Bear Lake & Nymph Lake) with a plethora of other options beyond Dream if you want to extend your adventure. For more on this hike, click here: All Trails Link

Ouzel Falls
Ouzel Falls in Wild Basin

Ouzel Falls

The name may not sound familiar, but surely, you’ve seen a picture of this stunning waterfall that sits in the middle elevations of Wild Basin on the southeast side of Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s image is used in many advertisements for outdoor gear and lifestyle publications, as well as countless Instagram stories and TikTok… toks? A little harder to get to, this unique waterfall is about 2.5 miles from the Wild Basin Trailhead but only gains elevation moderately. It’s a captivating hike along the Thunder Lake Trail beside North Saint Vrain Creek. You pass Copeland Falls and Calypso Cascades along the way as well. A worthy destination that will provide moments of solitude, unlike the busy Bear Lake corridor. Want to hike Ouzel? Learn more here: All Trails Link

Flattop Mountain
Hiking across the summit of Flattop Mountain on the way to Hallett Peak.

Flattop Mountain

The most popular large summit hike not named Longs Peak in Rocky, Flattop Mountain is as classic as classic gets. Topping out at about 12,450 feet, this hike takes you to the continental divide on a broad, flat summit. 4.5 miles to the top while gaining more than 2,800 feet, this hike is to be respected, though it’s well worth the effort. Be sure to start early and be down below tree line before the afternoon storms form to your west. And if you have any more in your legs, hop over to Hallett Peak, about a half mile and 300 vertical feet away. More info on this hike here: All Trails Link

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Opportunities are endless in Rocky and there are far too many incredible destinations to list in one blog post, but this should get you going. Be smart, use common sense, know your limits, and enjoy every step!

Black Bears in Estes Park

bears in estes park

Bears! Rocky Mountain National Park is home for anywhere between 20-30 black bears, with Grizzlies no longer existing in Colorado. And while they are sparse, there are a few things you can do to keep yourself and the bears safe on your next visit to Castle Mountain Lodge and the Rocky Mountains.

Black bears generally keep to themselves but if you happen to see one, do not approach. Stand where you are, make yourself look tall, and make a lot of noise. They should run away almost immediately as they prefer not to interact with people or make a big fuss of things.

Bears have also figured out how to use door handles on vehicles and other doors without knobs, so be sure to clear out your car of any smelly foods or items and lock your doors at night. As soon as the bear realizes it can’t open the door, it will leave you and your stuff alone.

While bears may seem intimidating, they are, in fact, incredibly timid. If you are not bothering them then they won’t bother you. Stay safe and respectful of the wildlife while you visit and ensure a harmonious visit for everyone by doing the research on local wildlife necessary before you travel.

You can read up more on Black Bears and what you can do to keep yourself and them safe here on the National Park Service’s webpage.

And you can read up more on the wildlife we see at the lodges here on our website.

A Day Along the Continental Divide

It was a chilly morning when I got out of my car at Bear Lake. I managed to bypass the timed entry system by simply getting up at 3:45 and heading directly into the park before the 5am timed entry requirement and, other than the early alarm, it was pretty easy. The parking lot was virtually empty as I headed counter clockwise around Bear Lake and hit the Flattop Mountain Trail.

Todays agenda was a classic one. Hallett Peak would be the first stop, then I’d head over to Otis Peak, descend via Andrews Glacier. On the way back I wanted to stop by Lake Haiyaha to check out the stunning blue in the water caused by the rock flour released from the sizable rock slide high in Chaos Canyon above earlier in the summer.

I took it easy and just let the headlamp lead the way until sunrise right at the Emerald Lake overlook. I spent some time enjoying the alpenglow on the high peaks and the soft clouds above before making my way higher above tree line. Some pikas greeted me and made for some fun viewing and a good excuse to stop hiking for a few minutes to catch my breath. I took a few pictures and some video, then began making my way up the trail when a fox exploded in a run right at my feet! It had been sleeping right on the trail and I stepped about two feet from it, giving both of us a good scare!

I hung out with this beautiful female fox for about 20 minutes watching it meticulously hunt pikas in the rocks on the tundra. It didn’t really care that I was there and was a true joy to get to spend some time with this gorgeous animal. After a bit I figured I had better continue on and let the vixen continue her hunt without me. I’m sure she fared better when I moved along.

Without incident I was soon topping out on the summit of Hallett Peak (12,713 feet). This is one of the best summits in the entire national park for a few reasons. One, it’s one of those aesthetic summits that feels like you’re standing on top of a real mountain! The summit cone gets you up above all of the surrounding terrain and the views are stunning in every direction. Two, it’s relatively easy to get to. A well established trail takes you up to the “summit” of Flattop Mountain, and an easy to follow social trail takes you from there right to Hallett’s summit, about .6 mile away. Finally, it’s just cool to stand up on the summit that dominates the views in the Bear Lake corridor and Tyndall Gorge.

I spent a few minutes soaking in the views before heading south along the continental divide toward Otis Peak. This is a beautiful stretch along steep tundra slopes that drops you toward the head of Chaos Canyon, the pass between Hallett and Otis Peaks. I peeked down into Chaos Canyon, looking at the rock slide area, then started my way up the several hundred feet to the summit of Otis (12,486 feet).

I spent a few minutes on Otis taking note of the many surrounding summits, looking west to Grand Lake, and day dreaming about future adventures, then started my way down the long tundra slopes to Andrew’s Glacier.

Stopping just above the glacier, I donned my micro spikes before stepping out onto the ice and snow. Luckily the sun had warmed it enough to make it so it wasn’t solid ice but was soft enough for the spikes to have something to bite into. I made my way down stopping by the crevasses to take a gander. I’ve passed these many times before but never tool the time to check them out. And wow. They were much deeper than I thought. I could comfortable say they were 40+ feet deep, and probably more as I could see down quite a bit before it was pitch black. Being that close made me a little nervous to I snapped a couple of pics and moved on to safer terrain.

Andrews Glacier from Otis Peak.

I slid and skated down to Andrew’s Tarn, took off the spikes and worked myself down the steep trail toward the trail leading back to The Loch and the trail head. At this point I started running into the masses of people. Prior to getting back on the main trail I had just seen four people since I started. It was slower going weaving through the traffic on the trail, but before long I was below The Loch and heading over toward Haiyaha on the unimproved trail.

I was really looking forward to this as I really wanted to see the color of the water in and coming out of Haiyaha. I previously mentioned the rock slide in upper Chaos Canyon that happened earlier this year. Basically, a big chunk of Hallett Peak slid off into the gorge below. When this happened it released a lot of rock flour. This is silt resulting from the grinding of rock by the glaciers above. It can turn water a beautiful blue color. Being that it’s pretty fresh, the waters around Haiyaha are a milky blue and it’s stunning. I spent a few minutes admiring the water then made my way to the outlet stream below the lake. The stream had the same color, though a bit more translucent. Very cool to see and seemed like something you’d see in Lord of the Rings famed Middle Earth. If you’re able to make it up, you should absolutely go check this out!

At this point I was a bit short on time, so made quick work of the hike out to the Bear Lake parking lot and called it a day. The weather was perfect. Like absolutely perfect. The scenery was even better, and I was enjoying that wonderful kind of fatigue that only a day in the high mountains can afford. The total mileage was only a kiss over 12 with about 4,200 feet of elevation gain, and took me a little over 5 hours. I stopped at the Country Market here in Estes Park on my way home and got one of their truly incredible deli sandwiches to refuel before heading home.

Another great day in the hills!

New Frisbee Golf Course

Frisbee golf is the latest international sports craze. Here at the lodges, we want to provide our guests with the best and most diverse experience possible, which is why we’re now putting in our very own Frisbee golf course on the mountain behind Castle Mountain Lodge. This project is projected to be completed by mid-late September, led by our very own Outdoor Project Manager and Frisbee Golf Enthusiast, Nathan Wood.

While we want everyone to have the best time possible on our course, we also want everyone to have the safest time possible and continue that established comfort we offer to all of our guests. In order to do so, we’ve established some extra rules of play which you can read up on below:

More information on the official rules of Frisbee Golf can be found here on the official PDGA rules page:

This 18 hole course stretches for 1 ½ – 2 miles along our Old Man Mountain trail back behind Castle Mountain Lodge. It hosts beautiful views all around, though it is not for the faint of heart. Being on the side of a mountain means there are steep slopes and rocky terrain throughout. The entire course has an established path throughout to help with the ascent and descent, but it is good to keep in mind that it is not a golf course. Hiking boots or rough wear shoes are suggested.

Guests staying at Castle Mountain Lodge are free to use the course between the hours of 8:00am and 9:00pm, or dark, whichever comes first! Sorry, but our frisbee golf course is only available for use by paying guests of Castle Mountain Lodge at this time. For more instructions and information, please visit or call our front desk between the hours of 8:00am and 9:00pm (970) 586-3664. We hope to see you out there!

Staff Picks

A water wheel sits behind a bridge under an archway of trees in Downtown Estes Park

Here at Castle Mountain Lodge, we are all about providing you with the best experience possible, so we’ve created a list of staff picks for favorite activities, restaurants, and shops you can find all around Estes Park! While this is no where near a comprehensive list, these 3 places are what first come to mind when we think about: “What makes Downtown Estes Park great?”

The first place that comes to mind for most of our staff here is Inkwell and Brew – an adorable coffee shop located in the heart of Downtown Estes Park. Stop in for a quick drink and bite or to browse their extensive journal and pen collection for sale. This is a local’s favorite you won’t want to miss.

A stand alone coffee shop with a peaked roof and wood paneling down the sides

The second place that comes to mind for a fun time while visiting is the Cascade Creek mini golf course! Our Outdoor Project Manager, Nathan Wood, is an avid mini golfer who took on the grueling task of trying out all the mini golf courses Estes Park has to offer. He says that: “Hands down, Cascade Creek is the best in town.” You can find it right at the Highway 34 entrance into town.

A small building sits in front of a man made waterfall, marking the entrance to a popular mini golf course

Our third and final place for this staff picks blog post is Trendz at the Park. Trendz is host to some of the cutest little trinkets and decorative items Estes Park has to offer. Whether it be bees or books or goofy one liners, Trendz is full of them and a must visit on your next stop in Downtown Estes Park.

A corner store stands out against a mountainous background in downtown Estes Park

During your next stay here with us at Castle Mountain Lodge, don’t forget to try out some of these staff favorites, and let us know some of your own! Maybe you’ll see them listed on our next ‘Staff Picks’ blog post!

Continue to follow along for more staff picks in the future!

Estes Park and RMNP Deer

moose, baby moose

Mule Deer, Elk, and Moose are three of the most popular types of wildlife you’ll see here in Estes Park. All are a part of the ‘deer’ family, with Moose being the largest. 

Mule deer are named for their large ears which are similar to those of a mule. There are currently several hundred mule deer living in Rocky Mountain National Park! Roughly 70% of their nutrients are gotten from the shrubs and greenery found in the open meadows of the park.

Attentive doe stares into the camera surrounded by the underbrush of the forest.

North American Elk, or wapiti, are one of the main attractions here in Estes Park. They can grow anywhere from 6.5-8.5 ft. long, 4-5 ft. tall, and 400-1100 lbs, much larger than their mule deer cousins. The current population of Estes Park sits around 3,200 during the summer and 600-800 during the winter. Most elk around the park can live anywhere from 10-13 years.

A male elk looks off into the distance with branches encircling his antlers.
Nathan Wood Photography

Moose, typically standing at 6 ft. hoof to shoulder and can be as tall as 10 ft. when their head is lifted. There are currently around 2,500 moose in the state of Colorado. Surprisingly enough, moose are actually incredible swimmers, diving to the bottom of larger bodies of water to feed on the lush grasses that populate the bottom. This helps to explain how one of their predators happens to be Orcas. No need to worry about seeing any of those in the park though.

A mother and her baby moose stand facing each other, staring into the camera between the trunks of pine trees.
Nathan Wood Photography

As with all wild animals, be sure not to approach any of these magnificent creatures should you see them on the trail or off on the side of the road. They are unpredictable and most frequently seen during the rutting or birthing seasons and can be incredibly defensive and aggressive during those times. Be safe and enjoy your time getting to see and learn more about all the local wildlife Estes Park has to offer.