If the southern end of the Peak To Peak Byway wasn’t dramatic enough for you, just wait for the final few miles below Estes Park. This part of the road is especially enjoyable, with several areas to access Rocky Mountain National Park (including Lily Lake, which we’ll visit in just a moment). There are also quite a few big mountains like this one, rising up on either side of the road.
At this roadside turnout, you can pay homage to the Father of Rocky Mountain National Park, Enos Mills. Notice the tiny building on the left side of the photo? That’s Mills’ old homestead.
[tmt_info =””]Enos Mills moved to the area from Kansas in 1884, when he was only 14 years old. He first climbed Longs Peak the following year. He spent a good portion of his life passionately promoting the area, and his work eventually led to the establishment of Rocky Mountain National Park in 1915 — seven years before his death.[/tmt_info]
Looking west, you see the view Enos would have enjoyed from his homestead (minus the paved highway, of course). Somewhere in the sunlight and clouds is 14,259 foot (4,346 meter) Longs Peak, which Enos climbed 300 times as a guide, and 40 more times solo.
[tmt_info =””]Longs Peak was chosen to represent Colorado on its state quarter, which was released in 2006. Although Colorado has 54 mountains that reach 14,000 feet, Longs Peak is the only “fourteener” inside Rocky Mountain National Park.[/tmt_info]
Just a bit further down the road, I found a better view of Longs Peak. It’s the second peak from the left — and a notch on the left side of the peak makes it more recognizable.
Just a few more miles up the road from the Enos Mills Homestead, you can access the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park at Lily Lake. An easy trail circles the lake in 9/10 of a mile, and if you’re up to a slightly more challenging trek, you can hike up the Lily Ridge Trail. It will add about a half mile to the lake loop, and take you to the top of this hill, for views of Mount Meeker and Longs Peak.
With so little time remaining in the day, I chose to enjoy the view from the section of the lakeside trail that’s near the parking area. This is another one of those places to which I should have returned in the morning, for better light.