A few weeks back I went online and found a site I bookmarked last year – Every Kid in a Park. If you have a child in fourth grade (or the homeschool equivalent) you can visit the site and have your child complete a fun activity and get a 4th Grade Annual National Parks Pass for free. This pass will grant access to National Parks across the country for your family (as long as your 4th grader is present).
I have a 4th grader this year, and we live about 45 minutes from the gates to Rocky Mountain National Park, so we are trying to make good use (and many memories) of this opportunity. We decided to make Alberta Falls our first RMNP adventure.
The hike is a short one. It is just a little more than half a mile from the trailhead to the falls, but like many hikes at Rocky Mountain National Park getting there amid the bustling park traffic can be a challenge. This was out first out-of-the-car excursion to RMNP. We have been before, but only to drive up Trail Ridge Road. We had no idea how congested it could be.
We were greeted by a road sign letting us know parking at the trailheads was full, but that the Park and Ride was open. We had no idea there even *was* a park and ride, but we turned in and rolled around the packed lot in the Subie until we found a spot.
Essentially, the parking at the trailheads near Bear Lake fills up very quickly in the morning, so there is a large lot halfway up with shuttles that run all through the park. When that lot fills (which apparently happens often) there are also shuttles from the park visitors center closer to town.
We had aimed for an early-afternoon start for our hike, which turned out to be a good choice. According to the shuttle driver and fellow passengers, the trailhead parking was full by 8am and the park and ride lot was full by 10. Some of our fellow hikers had attempted to come mid-morning but couldn’t park and were returning to try again. Apparently, this is fairly normal for the park, so if you have the option it is best to avoid visiting on weekends.
We took the shuttle to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, though you could start the hike to Alberta Falls at Bear Lake as well, or even make a day of it starting from further spots.
For as busy as the roads and parking were, the trail was relatively quiet. After we got home, I looked the hike up on AllTrails and read that Alberta Falls is one of the most popular hikes in the park. There was steady traffic on the wide, smooth trail, but not so many hikers that it felt crowded. If you are looking for solitude, you might try a different path, or hike just past the falls, where most of the crowd turned back.