Estes Park, Colorado

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.

in , USA
in , USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Trail Ridge Road – Rocky Mountain National Park

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.

Al and Bear / Grand Lake, Colorado

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……

Ouzel Lake and Mahana Peak, Rocky Mountain Nat...
Ouzel Lake and Mahana Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA (misidentified as Bear Lake at source site — compare to photos at (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rocky Mountain National Park

There’s a variety of ways to experience Rocky Mountain National Park.  You can enjoy an abundance of scenic drives, short strolls along a gentle trail, daylong hikes, strenuous vertical mountain climbs, wildlife viewing, horseback riding, and biking.  I would caution you to be humbly honest with yourself and your physical abilities before starting out….yes, speaking from personal experience.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

All of Rocky Mountain National Park sits 7500+ feet high in elevation.  Altitude sickness is a common occurrence, even among the young and fit.  My first visit to this gorgeous park was in the late 1980’s.  Al and I were celebrating our five-year wedding anniversary with a trip to Colorado.  My parent’s eagerly watched our son, their first grandchild, allowing Al and me a much-needed break from parenting.  We were young, in good health and fit, but “flatlanders” from Illinois.

Rocky Mountain National Park – Sept.

We stayed at the famous Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.  We explored the quaint town of Estes Park, a great jumping off point.  Day two, we embarked on several scenic drives through Rocky Mountain National Park, stopping at the many scenic overlooks and took in the sights.  We had not attempted any hiking at that point, as we wanted to acclimate to the altitude.  It was the morning of day three that I started feeling a bit under the weather.  I was experiencing symptoms of fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath; textbook altitude sickness, or bite your tongue, pregnancy.  Thank goodness it was altitude sickness……not without experiencing a few moments of terror  stress.  With son having just turned one, I was not ready to venture down the road of pregnancy again, just yet anyway.

The folks at the Stanley Hotel, recommended lots and lots of water with the occasional aspirin to overcome the sickness.  That worked, but I never did gain enough energy to hike.  Exploring by car and taking short strolls to witness the majestic towering peaks and deep valleys did not lessen our enjoyment.

I was overwhelmed and awed by the mountains, forests of pine trees, grassy hillsides, and rushing streams of water.  This was the perfect, most romantic place to celebrate our anniversary…..that is, once the dizziness and nausea subsided 🙂

Twenty years later, we revisit Rocky Mountain National Park. A little heavier, grayer, but more acclimated to the altitude. See age has nothing to do with it.