OK, I admit it, I'm not the fittest hiker to set my sneakered foot upon a trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. Nevertheless, I've found a wide variety of trails that are well worth getting out of the car and walking for a short time to see some the spectacular beauty that this mountain park has to offer. It won't kill you, no matter how much fudge you ate in Estes Park!
The most bang for the buck (i.e., scenery vs. difficulty) is the trail around Sprague Lake, off Bear Lake Road. The trail is completely level and well maintained, about a mile around the lake. The lake is home to many ducks and other birds; you can even see the trout in the clear water streams that feed into the lake! As you get further around, look behind you at the magnificent vista of Hallett Peak - the reflection of the peak on the water gives some of the best photo opportunities in the park. The golden aspen color in the fall makes the scene even more beautiful.
Another trail that take more effort, but is not impossible for the fitness-challenged, is a hike to The Loch, with a nice rest stop at Alberta Falls. The trail starts at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead and is very popular with hikers. It is a moderate uphill climb for some of the trip, but the reward at the end of the 2.7 mile trails is a spectacular view of a mountain lake and snowcapped peaks around it.
The Bear Lake area has a variety of trails of varying length and difficulty. Some of the popular destinations are Bear Lake (0.5 mile), Nymph Lake (0.5 miles), Dream Lake (1.1 miles) and Emerald Lake (1.8 miles). Our family hiked to Dream Lake in June and it was still covered in snow, which made it even more incredible to see.
If you're coming from the "flatlands" to visit the Park, be sure to take it easy upon arrival to allow yourself time to acclimate to the altitude. Drink lots of water and rest if you get a headache. Take one of these easy hikes at first, but, by all means, get out of the car and really enjoy the beauty of one the best national parks in the world!
I am not a beer drinker, but my husband is. I am not often enthusiastic about visiting breweries, but my husband is. This is why I was dragged to Estes Park Brewery, only to surprisingly have a great time!
The brewery offers free tasting of their beers if you are over 21. I believe we tasted about 7 or 8 beers all together. They included Long's Peak Raspberry Wheat, Stinger Wild Honey Wheat, Estes Park Gold, Trail Ridge Red, Estes Park Porter, Samson Stout, and their IPA. The bartender told us that their Hefeweizen was available in the beer garden bar. We gave him $1 each for a tip and went up to the beer garden for our favorites. I really enjoyed the Raspberry Wheat and my husband wanted to try to Hefeweizen. We had a couple small glasses of each.
The brewery also offers tours of their facilities during the daytime and the inside of the brewery is visable from the stairs up to the beer garden.
There is a full-menu restaurant and a full-bar in the beer garden area. Also, in warmer months, you can sit outside on a large patio that has a spectacular view of the mountains.
From Estes Park, its just a short drive to The Rocky Mountains. In fact the town sits at the entrance to the Park. I cant remember what the entrance fee was but if you save your receipt it is good all week long. We actually went through the Rocky Mountains on Trail Ridge Road to get to the other side and go to Steamboat Springs. The drive was nice. the landscape was beautiful and if youre lucky you might get to see elk, deer, or other wildlife.
Check out my Rocky Mountains travelogues for more pictures on this beautiful place.
The Estes Park Aerial Tramway takes visitors to the summit of Prospect Mountain, overlooking the town and offering the best views of the Rockies. At the top is a small gift shop. From here, one can hike to the summit, but there are too many trees to see very much.
It's a favorite place for people to feed tidbits to the small chipmunks and ground squirrels. This is one place where it's OK; they're at least semi-tame. It's not like the National Parks. Of course, I was too cheap to buy any food for them, but still managed to get some good photos.
Go to ZootScoot Scooter Rental, and rent an italian retro style scooter then head for Rocky Mountain National Park. Absolutely the best way to cruise around the park. The scooters are very quiet, and get 100mpg. The cost of gas is included in the rental. Oh! No clutch! Good Times.
No visit to Estes Park is complete without a visit to the Stanley. The hotel is now over 100 years old! It's most famous for inspiring Steven King's novel "The Shining." The hotel does not allow visitors to freely wander the hallways if you're staying, but the lobby, gift shop and bar are open to everyone. If you'd like to see more, but aren't staying, you can take a ghost tour ($15) of the hotel. The hotel is a step back in time and the view from the grounds is incredible.
Estes Park has a very picturesque River Walk. Not quite equal to the one in San Antonio, but it's perfect for a pleasant little stroll before or after dinner. And in the evening, you may get to see a few elk. Just keep your distance.
Famous from Stephin Kings novel "the shining" This beautiful hotel has great views and they have regular tours here on the history of the hotel,estes park, and Ghostly Encounters at the Stanley. We never took the tour, but the hotel is an impressive architecture feature of the town.
Homestead Meadows are the remains of a dozen cabins from the late 19th, early 20th century. To reach the first of the homesteads requires a 3 mile hike. Just before the first homestead the trail splits, about half the homesteads are on the right trail, half on the left trail. The round trip hike is between 6 and 17 miles, depending on how many homesteads you visit.
I was happy I booked a hot river rock massage at Riverspointe Spa. It was conveniently downtown, near where I had lunch. Great service, atmosphere, best massage I've ever had (by far.)
Lots of happy couples getting couple's massages too :)
If you want to learn about Estes Park, then be sure to visit this small, modest museum. It's not very big, but it has a lot of information about the town. Learn about Joel Estes, who founded the town. Explore the world of the first inhabitants, the Ute and Arapaho tribes. See a Stanley Steamer, the car invented by F.O. Stanley, who also built the famous Stanley Hotel. See how the town developed. It's well worth an hour's visit.
Located on a rise, north of town is the historic Stanley Hotel. Opened in 1909 by F.O. Stanley, the owner of the Stanley Steamers, the hotel served as the residence for many early visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park. Guest were picked up from the train station is Boulder in a Stanley Steamer.
Stephen Kings movie 'the Shining' was filmed here.
For pictures of the inside, see my Stanley Hotel travelogue.
Take the driving trail through the Rocky Mountains to the Alpine Visitor Center. There are plenty of pull-offs to enjoy the different views. The views are absolutely breath taking! Depending on how many times you stop for views and photos, the round trip can take anywhere from 3-5 hours. Although the roads are paved, there are little to no guard rails, so drive safely. Dress in layers too, since the temparatures drop significantly up in the mountains. It cost us $20 for the park entrance fee (good for 7 days) and it was worth every penny.
Horseback Riding at the edge of the Rocky Mountains. Gorgeous scenary. and one of the few places i found that allowed you to double up an adult with a small child. Would go a warmer time of year next time though.
The museum is a nice place to find out alittle more about this cozy little town. You can get information on the different Indian tribes that are originally from this area (the Ute, Shoshone, and the Comanche). You can also see some artifacts from the 1800's and learn about life in Estes Park in those days.