• Michael O'Keeffe

Two Days, Two Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park: Part II - Chiquita + the Rainbow

The day after hiking to Black Lake (see here), I returned to Rocky Mountain National Park for another evening hike this time to the top of Ypsilon Mountain, a 13er in the Mummy Range. The hike was smooth to the summit although I quickly realized upon arriving that I wasn't on Ypsilon, but I was on Mount Chiquita another 13er right next to Ypsilon. No matter the views were pretty amazing especially to the west towards the Never Summer Mountains and Rawahs. Some rain showers were forming off the western ranges, but I didn't hear any thunder or see any lightning so I thought little of it. After about 20 minutes on the summit, two quick lightning bolts flashed from one of the rain showers to the west. Followed by another quick bolt to the northwest. A deep low rumble of thunder and that was that I needed to get back at least to the treeline. Unfortunately that was 2,000 feet below me and about 2 miles back. The clouds grew angrier and the lightning more frequent as I hustled down the steep rocky slope. I finally arrived back at my car as the first rain began to fall.

I hopped onto the Trail Ridge Road to head home as the heavy wind driven rain gave way to sun. I turned a corner and to my surprise a massive rainbow was spanning over the road. Miraculously there was an overlook right there so I pulled off and jumped out into the rain to start shooting. Over the next 15 minutes the sky came alive with bright lumpy mammatus clouds and rainbows popping in and out as the setting sun's angle shifted. The view down into Forest Canyon was pretty impressive making for a stunningly dramatic scene. Finally the show was over and I continued the drive back home to Loveland.


Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Looking towards Trail Ridge from early in the hike.
Marmot in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
One of many marmots on the trail.
Cache la Poudre River in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Looking down towards the remote headwaters of the Cache la Poudre River
Mount Chiquita in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Nearing the summit of Chiquita with big views.
Mount Chiquita in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Looking west towards the Never Summers and Rawahs.
Mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
The remote northern reaches of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Looking across the remote northern reaches of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Mount Chiquita in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Exploring the classic alpine zone up on Mount Chiquita.
Mount Chiquita in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
The sun broke through for a few minutes before I saw lightning.
Mummy Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Looking north towards distant Mummy Mountain.
Mummy Range in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Rugged terrain in the Mummy Range.
Never Summer Mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Sun rays light up a thunderstorm in the Never Summer Mountains.
Never Summer Mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Stunning lighting over the Never Summers.
Thunderstorm in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
A heavy downpour rolls over the high peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Longs Peak in the shadow of an approaching thunderstorm.
Thunderstorm in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
An ominous sky from an approaching storm as I descend to the treeline. Also, can you spot the marmot?
Rainbow on the Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
The vibrant full rainbow over the Trail Ridge Road on the drive home.
Rainbow over Forest Canyon in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Rainbow over Forest Canyon.
Double rainbow in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Close up of the vibrant rainbow (and double rainbow) over Forest Canyon.
Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Dramatic light over the vast alpine ridgelines of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Impressive rainbow above the alpine tundra.
Rainbow on Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Stormy skies on the Trail Ridge Road.
Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Looking to the west at clearing skies over the Never Summers. Notice all the specks are actually rain falling.
Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
One of the most stunning scenes I've ever witnessed in nature.
Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Rainbow in front of puffy mammatus clouds.
Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Mammatus clouds.
Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
The departing storm leaves a dramatic sky behind.
Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Mammatus clouds over Trail Ridge Road.
Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Mammatus over Forest Canyon.
Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Every few minutes the sky changed dramatically. Surreal!
Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Evening light after the storm.
Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
A spectacular sky!
Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Longs Peak, a 14er, glows at last light beneath departing storms.
Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
A close-up of Longs Peak.
Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Longs Peak
Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
A mountain goat grazes in a rugged zone on Trail Ridge.
Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
A mountain goat grazes under colorful skies.

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