BOBBY MAGILL

Journalist • Photographer

Bobby Magill is a senior science writer for Climate Central in New York and a journalist who has covered fracking and the environment in Colorado and New Mexico since 2001. 

The North Boundary: Rocky Mountain National Park's Quiet Corner

The North Boundary Trail doesn't have much to do with Rocky Mountain National Park's north boundary. The trail very roughly follows the northeast boundary of the park north of Estes Park and west of Glen Haven. The most important thing to know about the North Boundary area is that it's isolated, wild and very infrequently traveled compared to most of the rest of the Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the busiest national parks in the country.

And, it's quiet. No screaming kids or throngs of tourists or mountain climbers here.

Today, Jacob and a friend of ours took a short hike to West Creek Falls, one of the park's lesser-known waterfalls. The cascade is extraordinary because it's far off the beaten path — on a spur of the North Boundary Trail in the remote and incredibly wild West Creek Research Natural Area. According to Lisa Foster's Complete Hiking Guide to the park, the RNA is left about as wild as possible, serving as a baseline from which to measure human impacts in other parts of the park. (View my entire photo album for the hike here.)

The trail begins at the pastoral McGraw Ranch, a National Park Service research station north of Lumpy Ridge. For about two miles, the trail briefly leaves the park and enters the Comanche Peak Wilderness in Roosevelt National Forest, where it becomes very clear that the trail, while well-built, doesn't see a lot of hikers. Once you ascend a pass and drop down into the West Creek drainage, the trail becomes fainter especially along the 0.7-mile spur to West Creek Falls. The North Boundary Trail splits off to the right and over another ridge before re-entering the park. The West Creek Falls spur trail enters the park from the national forest about 0.2 miles below the falls.

The hike is about five miles roundtrip, and we only encountered two other people the entire time. And, like us, they were locals from Fort Collins, only about an hour away. No tourists in these parts.