After finishing breakfast, we set off into Rocky Mountain National Park. Stella and I have been talking about this hike for the past year. We thought about it last fall, but knowing the final destination would be lacking its natural source of the winter runoff, we opted to wait until the spring conditions were optimal.
We parked at the Green Mountain Trailhead and set out. I would rate this hike as a moderate out and back trek. It is about 11 miles with an elevation gain of roughly 2000 feet. The most difficult portion of the hike is the first two miles where you quickly gain about 600ft of elevation on a well maintained trail.
After the steady incline, we connected to the Tonahutu Trail and the gateway to Granite Falls. The Tonahutu Trail is one of the longer trails inside Rocky Mountain National Park, just over 13 miles in length starting at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center to the South and terminating at Flattop Mountain to the East with several spurs along the way. The Green Mountain Trail intersects at the southern end of Big Meadows.
We continued towards the North end of the meadow, constantly peeking across the treeless openings for a random moose or herd of elk grazing in the vast expanse. At this point, we kept right on the Tonahutu Trail as the Onahu Creek Trail spurs to the North. Continuing Northeast, we stumbled upon remnants of the Big Meadows Fire, started by a lightning strike on June 10th, 2013. Somewhat of an eery sight, all that remains are the blackened trunks of the beetle kill pines that once stood mightily at the North end of the meadow. New vegetation has taken a foothold but there are little signs of new pine rising from the ashes.
We continued our trek further east, slowly coming closer to our destination. You can hear the thundering roar of the falls ahead, and after one last climb, we had reached Granite Falls. Scuttling down the path, we settled in to view the falls from a giant rock below. It is near impossible to describe the deafening roar as the water cascades over the rocky outcrop falling about 20 feet into a chute as it continues its path down the Tonahutu Creek into Grand Lake. It is well worth the hike to the falls, and you would short change yourself if you stopped at Big Meadows and turned around, which many people did.