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Moose at Cub Lake

Today we ventured into Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time of the summer. That seems a little odd since summer ends in a few days but we completely avoided the park all summer long on purpose because of the new timed entry system. In a couple of weeks we should be able to get into the park without making a reservation, but this weekend we wanted to go up there and I was able to get a reservation despite them being sold out within minutes. I was originally trying to get the 9am time slot, but when I tried to add that pass to my cart literally seconds after they were available, they were gone. Instead, I was able to get a 11am reservation successfully added to my cart. That gave us a little more time in the morning to get ready and it was okay since the weather was forecasted to be clear and in the mid 60's all afternoon. The only drawback to getting to the trailhead so late was the location of the sun which doesn't provide the best lighting for taking photos, but it was either that or hiking outside of Rocky Mountain National Park.

After waiting in line to get into the park for about 20 minutes, we made it to our destination, Cub Lake Trailhead in the middle of Moraine Park. We got extremely lucky that there was a parking spot literally right in front of the trailhead. There seemed to be a few other parking spots along the way, so it wouldn't have been too terrible to park down the road, particularly since when you make a loop out of this hike you end up hiking a mile along the road which means it doesn't matter where you truly start the hike. The hike started off exciting with a herd of elk; one bull, and maybe a dozen cows were just a few hundred feet from the trailhead. We knew something was up since there were so many photographers on the trail. We just thought it was a particularly busy trail, but luckily for us, the trail wasn't too busy after we got past the herd of elk. This was the first time that I have ever regretted not bringing my telephoto lens with me on a hike. Usually, hikes are about landscapes, not wildlife, and my telephoto lens is heavy and bulky. Oh well, it's only a herd of elk, it's not like it's anything special like a moose (yet...).

The wildlife got a little less exciting on the way to the lake, however still more exciting than most hikes. We followed a wild turkey for about a hundred feet as he ran from us by using the trail, probably not realizing that we too were following the trail. About a quarter-mile from the trail we passed a group of hikers who were extremely excited to tell us that there was a moose at Cub Lake. I tried to not be too excited, especially since we weren't at the lake just yet. When we passed another group of people a little closer to the lake and were told again that there was a moose, that's when we knew that there was a great chance we'd see it too. Just like everyone promised, when we got to the lake there was a massive bull moose just on the other side of the lake eating some lunch. While the moose sat and ate his lunch, we sat and ate ours while watching for him to do something, and I again was disappointed that I did not have the right lens with me.

We sat at the lake for almost an hour, mostly waiting for cloud coverage to try and get some better lighting on the moose. Luckily I had at least my 50mm prime lens with me, which was the most "zoomed-in" lens I had with me (which is a little more zoomed in than the naked eye). There were massive clouds to the West and the wind was pushing them to the East, however, they kept splitting and going both North-East and South-East, but never directly East to cover us the sun. There were multiple times we were completely surrounded by clouds, but nothing directly above us covering up the harsh sun. So after an hour of waiting, we decided to carry on, and then immediately after we started hiking the sun was covered up for about 30 seconds with a random cloud that we didn't see coming. I guess I can't complain too much, I did get to see a moose, afterall.

The rest of the hike did not disappoint. We got to hike through a section of burned area that was recently burned last year during the Cameron's Peak fire, as well as being on top of a highly exposed ridge that gave us spectacular views to the North. Unfortunately the lighting was never that great because of the location of the sun, but that didn't make the views any less spectacular, it only made the photos less spectacular (which is your problem, whoever is reading this, not mine). The hike ended up taking us almost 3 and a half hours, including our hour lunch break, which is pretty great time for a 6.3 mile hike that had 1,000 feet in elevation gain.

Trailhead Location
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6.32 mi 3.4 hrs 8,726 ft 1,001 ft
View Graph
Dying Grass
Lens Test
Lunch Spot
In the Water
All of Cub Lake