As with all road trips, we planned, prepped, and packed a ton of road trip food for a summer vacation in Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park. Packing food like we do allows us to eat deliciously from anywhere we are at meal time, and one of our favorite dinner spots in Rocky Mountain National Park was Sheep Lakes
At 8,524 feet elevation, Sheep Lakes is a large meadow with two small lakes in Horseshoe Park, a flat U-shaped valley located just west of the Fall River Entrance.
Sheep Lakes sits at the base of the mountains between the Fall River Visitor Center and the turn off for Fall River Road and the Alluvial Fan. It is a gorgeous, grassy meadow with two beautiful ponds that is frequented by bighorn sheep.
In the hope of seeing bighorn sheep, we visited Sheep Lakes three times during our visit to Rocky Mountain National Park.
The bighorn sheep descend from the Mummy Range to Sheep Lakes in late spring and early summer (May to June) during midday to graze and eat the soil. The soil contains minerals not found in their high mountain habitat that are essential in restoring nutrient levels depleted by a low quality winter diet.
“Bighorn Sheep Crossing” signs near the road warn visitors to stay in the parking area so the sheep can reach to the lakes undisturbed. While the bighorn sheep don’t visit Sheep Lakes everyday — there can be many days between visits — it is still the best place to get a glimpse of the rare animals.
Bighorn sheep visits usually happen between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm when groups of 1-60 move down the mountain from the ridge on the north side of the valley, cross the road, and travel to the lakes. They typically stay at the lakes for a couple hours then move back up into the high country.
We never saw bighorn sheep at Sheep Lakes, but we did see a coyote, a mama fox and two baby foxes, several mule deer, and in the grasses nearby, many elk. We did however get a chance to see bighorn sheep at Rock Cut Overlook at the top of Trail Ridge Road between the Alpine Visitor Center and Forest Canyon Overlook.
Know Before You Go
- Sheep Lakes at Rocky Mountain National Park is located 1.8 miles west of the Fall River Entrance Station in Horseshoe Park on US Highway 34 in Estes Park, Colorado 80517, Larimer County.
- The Sheep Lakes Information Station is open daily in the spring and early summer from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. It is closed in the fall and winter. A list of recent sheep sightings can be found on the building.
- Sheep Lakes is famous for its wildlife viewing, specifically the bighorn sheep who come down to the lake and large open meadow regularly.
- Bighorn sheep is the Colorado state animal.