Thursday, September 11, 2014

Trip Story: Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park

I'm nearing the end of the trip stories from our Colorado vacation. Today's story is from Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, which was our second to last stop of on the trip.

We drove from Colorado Springs to Estes Park by way of Loveland, where we had a very nice lunch and a nice, if a bit muggy, time at a playground. We arrived in Estes Park with time to get settled into our cabin, stroll into town for ice cream, and have a quick soak in our motel's mountain view hot tub before heading to the Estes Park Brewery for dinner. It was a nice enough dinner, although both kids insisted they wanted strawberry smoothies and then neither one of them would drink them because they weren't like the smoothies I make at home... but I digress.

We saw two interesting things on the way back from dinner. One was the "family fun park," which both kids insisted we HAD to visit the next day. The other was these cool little birds that were buzzing the river as we walked by, looking for all the world like they were just on the bird equivalent of a joy ride.

I couldn't capture the birds on film, but here is the river:

There were houses with decks that essentially hang over this river.

The next day, we headed into Rocky Mountain National Park. After securing junior ranger activity booklets for the kids, we drove to Sprague Lake for our first hike. It is a very pretty lake, with an easy hike that the kids enjoyed- in no small part due to the fact that they were busy looking for the plants in their ranger activity books, so that they could check off that they had seen them.

Sprague Lake

After our little hike, we drove to Hidden Valley for our picnic lunch. Then we set out on the requisite drive along the Trail Ridge Road. Our plan was to get to the Alpine Visitor Center early in the afternoon, before any thunderstorms moved in. We stopped at several viewpoints and trailheads along the way. My favorite was the Tundra Communities stop, where I got to see the tundra covered with wildflowers. It was sprinkling when we arrived, so the kids and Mr. Snarky stayed in the car (although they walked about a bit when the sprinkles passed). It was not thundering or lightening or looking like it might do either of those things, so I took a short walk to enjoy the flowers and the view.

Not long after we left the Tundra Communities parking lot, we saw some elk. The kids (and Mr. Snarky) were delighted. OK, so was I.

We got to the Alpine Visitor's Center in time for afternoon snack. We picked out some souvenirs (it is by far the biggest gift shop in the park), and then drove on for a bit. We stopped for pictures at the Continental Divide (you sort of have to, right?) and then made one final stop at Lake Irene. We had another nice, short hike there.

Lake Irene
The rain started almost as soon as we got in the car to drive back to Estes Park- so we didn't stop anywhere on our way out, except at the Fall River Visitor Center. We squeaked in right before they closed and collected the Junior Ranger badges that the kids "earned" by working on their booklets.

We had a short rest at the motel, and then headed to the Family Fun Center, for, well, family fun.

The race cars were a huge hit.

Petunia waits her turn in the car with Daddy.

We also played a round of mini golf, before having dinner at a nearby Italian place and then going back to our motel for another short soak in the hot tub. It stays light late in Colorado in July!

The next morning, Mr. Snarky got up early and went to check out Bear Lake, which we'd heard was beautiful. The kids and I slept in a bit longer, and then packed up our things. He liked the lake, but I think I preferred the sleep.

We did attempt to have one last family hike at Wild Basin- but couldn't get parking close enough to the trailhead to make that practicable with two kids. So instead we had morning snack with a view:

And then drove on to Boulder.


  1. The elk are making me all nostalgic and homesick. Deer just aren't the same. Elk make hilarious noises...

  2. Alexicographer1:48 PM

    Wonderful pics! We were in those same places this summer, I wonder if our travels overlapped at all (we were only in EP/RMNP, of the places you written about, and only for a few days, so likely not).


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