That’s because there are many,
the views are spectacular and the towns which anchor them are
|Blue skies in Estes Park
The road trips themselves, the four towns for dining, exploring
and sleeping well, and the top of the Park on Trail Ridge Road
could redefine the “all roads” metaphor.
These are key stops:
No matter which one you choose,
accessing the others is possible, and desirable. I found each to
be distinctly different from the other so you could plan one
long road trip or several through the years.
Rocky Mountain is a national park without lodging so
sleeping nearby is the way to go.
Here’s what worked for me:
|Touch the glacial ice in Rocky
Mountain National Park from the top of Trail Ridge Road.
|Misty Mountain Lodge in Estes Park /td>
Misty Mountain Lodge in Estes Park is a cozy set
of well-appointed cabins just a few miles from a Park entrance;
stick with the wilderness theme because the proprietors fix
S’mores every night in a front-yard campfire
The same starry skies over the Park offer light shows
from Misty Mountain, crisp and brilliant from either of the
outdoor hot tubs.
|Stanley Hotel in Estes Park
Or choose the elegant Stanley
Hotel in Estes Park, which sits high on a hill
over the bustling downtown with 140 rooms, handsome
architecture, and an original Stanley Steamer in the lobby.
I think some people choose
Estes Park as their headquarters because of the
lively shopping, abundance of fine eateries and strolling
opportunities along the meandering downtown river.
|Grand Lake Lodge opened in 1920
Grand Lake is equally enticing in a completely
different way; it’s on the other side of the Park---which
celebrates its centennial all year, culminating Sept. 4, 2015.
Move in to the u>Grand Lake Lodge to commune with
the spirit of visitors when it opened in 1920; three sides of
the property border Rocky Mountain National Park and views from
the porches, the grand dining room and throughout the property
give a sweeping sense of history.
Names you know like John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt
cared about this place and names you’ll grow to appreciate as I
did like Enos A. Mills and Roe Emery who made it possible to do
what we can do there today.
Mills was a naturalist credited as the driving force to
protect these Park lands; walk right up to his modest cabin
along Highway 7.
Emery launched the circle tour
from railroad stops to Estes Park, up steep switchbacks and over
the top of the mountains to Grand Lake and then across the
Continental Divide at the Berthold Pass, elevation 10,759.
|Muse about the mysteries of the
Continental Divide driving between
Estes Park and
Grand Lake through Rocky Mountain National Park
We can do that too in our own
vehicles. Thrilled that I did, and highly recommend either
Another Grand Lake lodging
option is the Western Riviera with every room facing the
lake, easy walk to spectacular experiences:
|Boat houses on Grand Lake
feature logs with the bark still in place
Narrated boat tour
all around the lake
Walking tour with
two loops, each just under a mile, an illustrated history
booklet. Solid tip—allow sometime inside the Kauffman House to
learn local lore from the docents and to view the extensive
collections of lifestyles here in the late 19th and
early 20th centuries.
highest-elevation Yacht Club and home to the Lipton Cup regatta
races every August
downtown with old west architecture and a delightful city center
Park is all about being outdoors. Ski slopes that
double as mountain bike trails abound but that doesn’t mean
visitors like me who do neither have to only watch the
|Flowers bloom when snow’s not
falling in Winter Park
Smell the flowers means something here because
wildflowers fill meadows and blossoms of many hues fill planters
all over the town.
Curious partnership in Winter Park that ought to be
sincerely so in other places I go, but never have I felt the
camaraderie so strongly between a resort and a town.
Lodge in the magical environment of Winter Park Resort or
stay downtown and walk just a few blocks to the city park to
mingle with the community.
Rarely a day from late June to early August when free
concerts aren’t happening, and that means families with their
babies and their dogs, lovers, friends of all ages and solo
strangers like me gather on the wide lawn, picnic, sip a
beverage, genuinely act happy to be where they are, together.
The air’s a bit thin at elevation 9,500 in Winter Park; I
paused a few times with a pounding heart in my walks but the
abundance of flowers gave me good reason to be still.
Forty percent less dense, this air, than other places
because of the reduced atmospheric pressure. I respected the
science by drinking gallons of water.
|Year-round ski lift in Winter
When I rode the lift at the Resort, it was filled with
bicycles and expert riders for the Freeride Festival. If you
ever wanted to trail the Tour de France, try this.
Follow the Enduro superstar
bikers and head to Winter Park Resort to watch them in action.
RRiding the ski lift with them certainly felt like I was
in a year-round resort with an international flair even as I
looked at trees and grass on the slopes.
|Alpine slide in Winter Park
Colorado’s longest alpine slide
is at Winter Park Resort, plus mini golf, disc golf, a human
maze and GyroXtreme. Sometimes people go inside to eat but
nature seems the preference with abundant patio seating.
South from Grand Lake is the
direction to find Winter Park./span>
is the northern point in this
foursome, straight up Highway 25 from Denver or south from
Day trips to Rocky Mountain National Park quite possible.
I stayed in a Quality Inn & Suites because it was a block
from the MAX rapid transit. New in the summer of 2014 and
efficient, plenty of on-off stops to access music, art, food –
|Outdoor piano in Fort Collins
Fort Collins might be a synonym for strolling. Vehicle
free blocks in the city opened up access to artist cooperatives,
patios and courtyards for imbibing and for listening to music,
bookstores and stationery centers, shops with stylish casual
clothes and latest technology in outdoor gear and fabrics.
Didn’t matter I had no bike; Fort Collins shares them
free for a day, or $10 on the spur of the moment.
Ever been to a city with a full time Bike Coordinator job?
I had not until this holiday.&
|The Gardens on Spring Creek in
Lots of cities have elegant botanical gardens; Fort
Collins has an interactive, user-friendly come-back-often
gathering place called the Gardens on Spring Creek.
Sustainable edible gardening, kids’ interactive spaces,
cooking classes, community plots, indigenous plants and rock
gardens among the many spaces. span style="mso-tab-count: 1">&
they call this: Art + Horticulture.
Allocate a big bunch of time or you’ll be sorry you have to
Good idea to find the map of 42 natural areas as soon as
you arrive in Fort Collins. That’s the way to choose which of
the free hikes you prefer, and where to meet naturalists and
rangers.span style="mso-tab-count: 1">
HHorsetooth Reservoir ought to be one of them—stunning as
a drive and even better on a standup paddleboard. Your teacher
and guide can be Lindsey or Brad Modessit at Mountain Whitewater
Descents; they sailed 6,000 miles in the Caribbean with their
two little children.
Four towns, one national park, sweeping views along every
roadway – claim this Colorado portion of America as top of your