Rocky Mountain National Park: How to Miss Elk in 3 Easy Steps

As my relatives and I planned my trip to the US southwest, our e-mails contained the excitement of seeing elk in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. The plan was to wake up early, head to the park and spend the entire day mountain and elk watching.

The entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park

Yet apparently plans were made to be broken.

Thanks to that, I bring you today a unique kind of guide – how to miss the elk in 3 easy steps!


1. Take your time.

You’re on vacation, sleeping in is fun. What’s also fun is a long breakfast, filled with interesting and hilarious conversations. Laughter is good for your health – embrace it! Then maybe have some lunch. Eat foods you have never eaten before. Talk some more. Look endlessly at red-colored trees. Red is the color of passion, you know.


On the way to Rocky Mountain National Park


2. Rejoice in your present moment.

If you have never seen a store like Whole Foods before, you will want to take pictures. If you see buildings decorated by brands you only heard about before, you will want to take pictures. If parking lots look like national parks, you will want to take pictures. If new foods taste so incredibly good, you will want to order seconds. Yesterday, when you went to other gorgeous parks instead of Rocky Mountain National Park because it got late, is history. What will happen a little later today, when you finally do reach Rocky Mountain National Park, is a mystery. All you have is the gift of the moment. That’s why they call it the present.


3. Run out of luck.

Sometimes you do everything right. You wake up early, continue the breakfast conversation in the car, ask the rangers where it’s best to see the elk – and, most importantly, have a couple of Colorado-savvy relatives with you – and you still don’t see the elk. Sometimes the elk will show up right before you do, and will start heading away as you come close. Don’t take it personally.

Think of all the times luck lit your way. Think of how you got rain in a particularly hot area (Iguazu, Argentina). Think of how, despite great chances otherwise, you kept getting clear skies in regions no one bothers to look at the temperature because it changes all the time (Patagonia, Argentina). Think of how, when you thought that in your perfectly amazing trip, life was giving you lemons – you stumbled upon a beautiful garden (Boston, Massachusetts).

And think of how you get to travel. What an amazing privilege this is.


If you do get to see elk, you can still miss great photo opportunities if you just stay in the car.

This person is not supposed to stand there with the elk

This could happen in a variety of scenarios. One example is if you happen to see the elk as it is getting dark. It’s challenging to take photos in the dark of something other than the dark. Yet even if you see the elk in daylight, you might decide to stay in your car if the park forbids walking in a certain area. You might choose this option even if you’ll feel like breaking the rules when you see all these other people standing so very close to this wildlife in real life, and taking way better photos than you can from afar, even with a X30 zoom.

I see elk!


Hey.... Where are you going? Come back....


On the other hand, you’ll get to focus on the greater landscape:

See the elk here? Sure you do, they're the cute dots between the trees! 🙂


Do you have any other tips for missing wildlife in the wild?



    • True. Though I guess we can now add Step 4 to the post: Look for the wildlife 😉

    • I see elk all the time even in the suburbs of Denver, but almost never when I’m trying to show them to guests. Bighorn sheep are the same way.
      John recently posted..A Santorini SunsetMy Profile

      • Hahaha 🙂 Thinking happy thoughts for your next guest, maybe next time it’ll work! I can’t imagine living so close to wild animals, have been wondering what’s that like.

  1. Reminds me of that time I went all the way to the Maine/Canada border. Signs EVERYWHERE warned me to slow down and watch out for moose.

    Spent almost a week there, went up and down main roads, back-roads, and never once saw a stinkin’ moose.

    This despite assurances you could find one in your home’s bathroom if you were careless enough to leave its door open overnight.

    Sometimes you find the acorn, sometimes you don’t.

    -Rich Polanco
    UnwireMe recently posted..Why I Don’t Go On VacationsMy Profile

    • Wait… but did you actually leave the door unlocked? Maybe it was waiting for you all along….

      And you’re right, sometimes you find them and sometimes you don’t. At least the roads you drove through in Canada were beautiful as far as I remember from your posts 🙂 Same for us at Rocky Mountain National Park 🙂 The glass is more often than not half full in these cases, I think.


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