Every fall from mid September to mid October the elk rutting season begins and it’s quite the spectacle. People from all over the country and the world descend upon Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park to watch and photograph the rut (mating) of elk. The males put on quite the display with their haunting bugling song which in some cases, can be heard miles away. It is one of my favorite times to head up to the park and partake in the voyeuristic event as hundreds line up to take photos and record the bellowing sounds.
My favorite time (and when you can avoid the crowds) is getting up to the park right before sunrise. This means of course getting up at 4:30am and driving from Denver to get there right when the pinks from the sunrise are starting to hit the mountains and your coffee is still hopefully warm! The crisp morning air brings a special touch to what is about to be displayed in front of you as the darkness makes way for the morning light. You hear the males..bellowing, bugling and puffing their chests. Their harems of females are gathered in small groups and the sounds of cameras going off like paparazzi. It is a brilliant, powerful display of nature that leaves us humans watching amazed, breathless and in awe. This is my second such trip to catch the rut and I am still blown away at the performance.
I usually just like to stick around for a bit and head out when the throngs of people start pouring in. I’ll head over to my favorite fall hike, hit the trail and contemplate what I just witnessed. Lake Bierstadt is an easy/moderate hike in RMNP and it leads to a beautiful, small, peaceful lake where one can sit for hours staring at the mountains or watching the ducks dive. And every so often you can hear the lone bellow of an elk. It is beautiful.