So ya wanna visit Rocky Mountain National Park? The name Estes Park is synonymous with Rocky Mountain National Park. This quaint town is considered the eastern gateway to the Park and is the most popular, well-known entry point. Estes Park is a small mountain town catering to the needs of the many tourists from around the world embarking on a Colorado adventure.
There is an abundance of lodging (including campgrounds), restaurants, shopping, and sights to see. The most famous lodging is the Stanley Hotel. Al and I stayed at the Stanley when we celebrated our five-year wedding anniversary with a trip to Colorado. Very romantic, I might add. Oh, and yes, the hotel was built by and named after the famous Stanley Steamer inventor.
The Stanley Hotel is known for its architecture, beautiful setting, and famous visitors. Most notable; Stephen King’s “The Shining” novel, turned movie, was filmed at this amazing place. The hotel is also known for being haunted and has been featured on several shows about the super natural, most recently on the Travel Channel. Although this historic hotel is haunted, not to fear, the ghosts are considered to be happy ghosts. No murders or unpleasantries took place here.
Rocky Mountain National Park is a spectacular wilderness that has been protected for millions to see and enjoy. This being said, commercial activity inside park boundaries is extremely limited. So on any outing or activity, be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks. Please remember to drink lots and lots of water to avoid even the mildest symptoms of altitude sickness.
Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in the United States. It is also one of America’s top ten byways. This road traverses through the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park from Estes Park to Grand Lake. My favorite day and one I would recommend; head out of Estes Park about 8 in the morning. Dress in layers because it’ll be cool/cold in the morning. Drive Trail Ridge Road and stop at EVERY scenic pull-out for a photo-op…….destination Grand Lake. In Grand Lake enjoy lunch, a picnic, ice cream, coffee – whatever floats your boat. If you stand at the water’s edge of the lake, you can feel the coolness of the water. Kind of like opening a refrigerator door. Be sure and take a stroll up and down Main Street. Grand Lake is one of my favorite mountain towns, a town we would frequent every winter during our Christmas vacations at Snow Mountain Ranch. Although it is much more of a summer destination than winter one.
After your Grand Lake tour, return to Estes Park. Once again taking in all the sights. I’m not sure why, and perhaps it’s just me, but the views from this direction take on a new personality. So you won’t feel like you’re doing a repeat, not that this awe-inspiring scenery doesn’t need repeating. Plan on taking the day to do this trip, and don’t be surprised if an afternoon storm rolls in.
Estes Park is a great jumping off point for a Colorado vacation, whether you stay in a hotel or a campground. I personally wouldn’t recommend Trail Ridge Road for large RV’s, even though we see plenty. The road is narrow and parking is difficult during busy summer months. The majority of campgrounds within the park are geared toward tents and small trailers. Most are not suitable for large RV’s and offer no hookups. If I were tenting it, I would definitely stay at one of several campgrounds within Rocky Mountain National Park. What an amazing backyard to enjoy. I would also recommend checking out YMCA of the Rockies for lodging options in Estes Park.
No trip to Colorado would be complete without a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park. I’m ready to go back today……