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.
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.
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.
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.