We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Continuation of Trip Report-Estes Park/Rocky Mt. Natl Pk.

Which Estes Park hotels are on sale?
mm/dd/yyyy mm/dd/yyyy
See hotels
Pitman, New Jersey
Destination Expert
for Rapid City, South Dakota
posts: 4,352
reviews: 35
Continuation of Trip Report-Estes Park/Rocky Mt. Natl Pk.

This trip report is being continued from the South Dakota Forum. We recently spent 13 days in South Dakota and Colorado. I hope this is helpful to those planning a trip to Estes Park/Rocky Mt. National Park.

July 30

We had a long drive ahead of us from Keystone to Estes Park, Co, so we got a much earlier start this time. We left around 8 a.m. and arrived in Estes around 2:30. I thought we made excellent time since we made 2 gas stops. The drive seemed much better when getting an early start. I think we were all tired from flying on the 1st day. If I were to do things over, I think I might have not planned to head all the way to Keystone from Denver after a 4 hour flight. Perhaps it would have been better to have stopped half way or just waited a day to make the drive.

We checked into the Haber Motel in Estes Park, which we chose primarily due to reviews on this site. What a find! We were impressed with the cleanliness and decent sized room with 2 queen beds and fireplace. There was also ample storage and extra counter outside the bathroom for makeup application while someone got ready in the bathroom. The bathroom had a jetted tub for those who might want to use it. The sheet and towel quality were truly amazing, and I can understand why the owner doesn’t want the fine towels used for makeup removal and car cleaning. A review of the motel will follow, but we were extremely pleased.

After check in, we headed to the Stanley Hotel for their standard 90 minute tour. My uncle and his friend came up from their home in Black Hawk, CO and met us for the tour. The tour included history of FE and FO Stanley and some “ghost tales.” Interestingly, when I zoomed in on one of my basement photos with my camera, it looks like a shadowy figure of an older bearded man. I’m trying to figure out if there could be a logical explanation, but it’s kind of fun thinking it could be a ghost. Lol! We all enjoyed the tour and seeing several areas of the hotel. Of course, Stephen King was mentioned, as some of the other stars who have filmed movies at the hotel. Dumb and Dumber was filmed there, and according to our guide, Jim Carrey abruptly left his room and will not talk of what happened in it. We can only assume he had a ghostly encounter.

Following the tour, we ate at Ed’s Cantina and Grill near our hotel. We had about a 30 minute wait, but it was fun visiting with my uncle and his friend and catching up. We food was quite good and just the perfect portion size.

July 31

We decided to visit the Bear Lake area today. The road construction was still going on, but we were told it will be finishing within the week. We know the staff will be thrilled to have it finished. You could tell they were tired of it all. We decided to park in the main lot and take the shuttle to the trail areas, not knowing if they might be already full.

Our first stop was Bear Lake, a short, easy walk with great reward. The mountain views were amazing. We then headed to Alberta Falls, which I feel were the most spectacular falls we saw on our trip. As a tip, I recommend doing the trail from the Bear Lake stop and seeing the falls. On the way back, head to the Glacier Gorge Stop, which saves time. If you want to head back to Bear Lake, just take the shuttle back. We did this and then did a short hike to Nymph Lake. The altitude got me a little bit here, as most of it was uphill. Going back was better. The lake was quite pretty with lots of lily pads. We returned to our vehicle, ate lunch, and went to the Alluvial Fan, which was also amazing. This area was formed by floods back in 1982. Finally we headed to Lilly Lake, which was a very easy flat trail around the shore. We were rewarded with some beautiful mountain reflections.

Tonight, we ate at Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ, which was extremely good and had a diverse menu. After dinner, we enjoyed the shops in Estes Park.

August 1

We traveled Trail Ridge Road today and had an outstanding day in the national park. We came upon a group of big horn sheep and yellow bellied marmots before hiking the Alpine Communities Trail. Despite the elevation, the trail was pretty easy, but you do get winded easily. I was glad I had 2 layers to wear, as it was quite chilly. We continued up the road to find an elk herd, and I got great pictures of the elk with a mountain backdrop. We stopped at the Trail Ridge Road Visitor’s Center and were pleased to find very reasonably priced items, including coffee mugs for $3.00. After some coffee, we continued to Grand Lake, where we stopped at the Grand Lake Hotel and then did a short hike to Adams Falls. They were pretty, but I admit not as impressive as Alberta Falls. We spent some time in the town of Grand Lake, which reminded me a bit of Custer, SD with a boardwalk lined with shops and a western feel. The prices at the shops were actually more reasonable than Estes Park. Also, the town was much quieter than Estes, which is quite busy in summer….busier than I had envisioned. We headed back to Estes Park and saw a moose on the way back, along with more elk, marmots and big horned sheep.

Tonight, we ate at Poppy’s Pizza and Grill. It was quite good and had fast service, along with a nice salad bar. We did some final shop browsing in Estes.

We found Rocky Mountain National Park extremely beautiful. Our time there was just right for our needs/interests.

The final leg of the trip report will be in the Colorado Springs forum, our final stop.

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 16,673
reviews: 279
1. Re: Continuation of Trip Report-Estes Park/Rocky Mt. Natl Pk.

We love the RMNP. Have been there for several years in September during fall leaf color change. Sounds like you loved the park as well. Thanks for sharing your trip report with us.

Austin, Texas
posts: 321
reviews: 1
2. Re: Continuation of Trip Report-Estes Park/Rocky Mt. Natl Pk.

Love Estes Park. Went snowshoeing in RMNP once but need to do a lot more exploring.

Also Gem Lake Trail just behind the Stanly Hotel is gorgeous hike. Found that place by accident when looking to film bird's eye views of the Stanley and I'm glad I did.

Windsor, Colorado
Destination Expert
for Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park
posts: 5,749
reviews: 93
3. Re: Continuation of Trip Report-Estes Park/Rocky Mt. Natl Pk.

Winston, because it is regarded as an all season trail, the Gem Lake trail shows up as a suggested hike in every single newspaper RMNP puts out all during the year. It is one of the trails frequently discussed here on the TA RMNP forum. I am glad you found it, even if by accident. :)

While the Lily Lake trail is nice, the Lily Ridge Trail is only a 1.1 mile loop and has really pretty views for a little more effort - even benches at the top to enjoy the views.

slrtravelplanner, thanks for the report. I am glad you got to enjoy some of the highlights of RMNP. As your report shows, contrary to what some people think, you do not have to be an avid hiker to appreciate RMNP. It does enhance a trip if you get out of the car and take a few pleasant walks.

Austin, Texas
posts: 321
reviews: 1
4. Re: Continuation of Trip Report-Estes Park/Rocky Mt. Natl Pk.

fv I was actually going to post a question asking if Gem Lake Trail was accessible during the winter so I'm glad you mentioned it was an all season trail. Do you need snowshoes to hike the trail during the winter? We are going back to Estes in February and would like to hike the trail again and this time actually complete the entire trail :) I'm sure glad I found the trail for yet another added feature when visiting lovely Estes Park.

Edited: 3:40 am, August 12, 2013
Windsor, Colorado
Destination Expert
for Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park
posts: 5,749
reviews: 93
5. Re: Continuation of Trip Report-Estes Park/Rocky Mt. Natl Pk.

Winston, post your question separately. We should not hijack this trip report any more than we already have.

Edited: 10:51 am, August 12, 2013
Cork, Ireland
posts: 2,291
reviews: 147
6. Re: Continuation of Trip Report-Estes Park/Rocky Mt. Natl Pk.

Lovely trip report slrtravelplanner, we have a similar amount of time in Estes Park as you had (a bit less as we won't arrive until late evening) and I was worried it would be too short. You really packed a lot in, in fact my two day itinerary is very similar to what you did, so happy to know it can be done and still have time to eat/shop/take a breath!

Pitman, New Jersey
Destination Expert
for Rapid City, South Dakota
posts: 4,352
reviews: 35
7. Re: Continuation of Trip Report-Estes Park/Rocky Mt. Natl Pk.

Ncmc, you can pack quite a bit in with the park, particularly since we are definitely not avid hikers. We really enjoyed the short trails we took.

FV, I didn't know about Lily Ridge Trail. I will have to check that one out for the future. And you are right; although we don't do long hikes, it sure does help to have some out of car time. It's really a must when in any national park. Winston, we didn't find Gem Lake Trail, but once again, something for another trip.

Thanks for the feedback all! I don't mind the hijacking; in fact, it only helps me learn more.

SE Missouri
posts: 38
reviews: 12
8. Re: Continuation of Trip Report-Estes Park/Rocky Mt. Natl Pk.

Thanks for the report,sounds like you had a wonderful trip! My husband & I are planning a 5 day trip for Sept,although I've researched it for months I'm a bit overwhelmed w/everything there is to do & see! I so apperciate this site & everyone who post!!

Rockford, Illinois
posts: 274
reviews: 137
9. Re: Continuation of Trip Report-Estes Park/Rocky Mt. Natl Pk.

Very helpful trip report! We are seriously considering RMNP for our trip next summer, so I enjoyed your trip report and wrote a few notes in my notebook of places to check out!

Windsor, Colorado
Destination Expert
for Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park
posts: 5,749
reviews: 93
10. Re: Continuation of Trip Report-Estes Park/Rocky Mt. Natl Pk.

RoadTripfromIL, Rocky Mountain National Park has its own forum here on TA. The Estes Park forum is part of that forum. The RMNP forum is loaded with all kinds of helpful information from favorite hikes with children to lodging suggestions, other trip reports, a timeline for driving and exploring Trail Ridge Road (see the Top Questions section) and more. Since I see from other posts that you have a child who will about 8 years old, this previous topic will be helpful to you in planning a RMNP trip. Add rafting on the Poudre River near Fort Collins to the list of things to do. Kids at least age 7 and weighing 50 pounds can take some of the rafting trips.

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g60945-i436-k61395…

Get answers to your questions about Estes Park