We drove the 1000 miles from San Antonio to Estes Park over 2 days and 18 hours later with our ten-year-old granddaughter; her first trip to RMNP. I have been coming to the Park since high school and then I introduced my husband to the Park, our children, and now our granddaughter. We focused on things we thought she would enjoy and ended up experiencing RMNP through a child's wonder.
Day 1: Arrived in Estes Park at 3:30 Mountain time and unloaded our vehicle at our cabin in Estes Park. Headed to the Visitor's Center to learn of weekly events. Learned that Beaver Meadows Visitor Center was open until 9 pm, so headed over to get GD's Jr. Ranger paperwork. Stumbled into an informative 45 min. Ranger-led program on the Tundra. GD volunteered to dress up like one of the species that survive, the Ptarmigan. The ranger put on a parka over her clothes, feathers on her legs, and goggles on her eyes to demonstrate the Ptarmigan's transformation for winter. The Marmot and the Pika were the other two species discussed using skills of hybernation and storing food to survive in bitter cold. Beaver Meadows Visitor's Cntr. has nightly 7:30 PM Ranger-led informative and entertaining programs.
Day 2:Did the Alluvial Fan hike. GD had great fun climbing rocks and taking pictures of the falls. Next drove to Beaver Boardwalk. Since there have been no beavers here for over 30 years, there was no evidence of beaver dams to this untrained eye. We next went to the Junior Ranger Headquarters located at Hidden Valley along Trail Ridge Road. GD worked on her paperwork with some Ranger assistance. Shopped in the afternoon, found an Estes Park cap for GD and Trail Tags ($1.50 ea) for trails we plan to hike, at Brownfield's, across from the library. I will sew them on the cap each evening after our hike. Husband and GD drove back into the Park at dusk and spotted three large elk at Sheeps Lake. On the way back to Estes Park on Fall River Rd., they saw a bear cub. walking along the side of the road. Fortunately, they took a picture to prove that it was a bear cub, indeed. GD very excited!
Day 3: Hiked Lily Lake on a cold, windy and stormy day. GD completed her Jr. Ranger paperwork, went to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Cntr and had a Ranger review her work and ask her questions. She passed with flying colors and received her Jr. Ranger badge. Very proud of her knowledge. Due to the weather we spent the afternoon in the cabin working on a scrapbook of RMNP. I had purchased a blank scrapbook and supplies at home.
Then,I found Rocky Mt. Scrapbooking papers at Rocky Mountain Memories & Paper Arts, 140 Moraine, 4 doors east of the historic Park Theater. It is a great Scrapbooking shop.
GD had a new digital camera and had been taking pictures. Safeway has a digital photo developing kiosk where we selected pictures for the scrapbook. This has to be the best deal in town - 20 pictures for $1.00, or 5 cents a picture. The service was speedy. We would go to Safeway at the end of each hike/outing and get pictures developed for the scrapbook for less $ than postcards! Tip - Scrapbooking tape is easy to use and less messy than Elmer's.
Weather improved and husband played golf at 4PM at Lake Estes Golf, 9 holes, walking only. $15 fee, plus $4 for push cart. GD pushed his golf club cart, another great Estes Park deal!
Day 4: In the morning we all did three separate things: husband played golf, I went to the (Thurs 8 AM-12:30 PM) weekly Farmer's Mkt at Stanley Fairgrounds for produce, artisinal cheeses, organic meats, and GD attended "Photography: Just for Kids," one of several children's seminars offered by the Rocky Mt. Nature Association. www.rmna.orgllrmna.cfm. They limit classes to 12 children, so I had pre-registered several weeks earlier by calling 970-586-3262. GD loved it and got some great pictures. The class helped to improve her photography for the rest of the trip. Cost $15.
In the afternoon, we hiked the Hidden Valley Trail. At 4 PM we got in a short line to drive the Bear Lake Rd. We waited 5 min. and were on our way. We headed to Sprague Lake and there were only 3-4 cars in the parking lot. Once we crossed the bridge to start the trail around the lake, we saw a Mother moose with her male yearling at water's edge across the lake. I sat on a bench to watch them feed while husband and GD hiked the trail. As they neared the moose, the mother came out of the water to protect her young. All hikers retreated and waited until the mother rejoined her yearling at a safe distance in the water. I started walking towards the bridge to meet husband and GD as they ended their hike, when a herd of elk burst through a clearing about 10 feet from me, heading for the lake. They sounded like a freight train as they stampeded into the lake. I quickly backed up another 10 feet and got behind a tree as they thundered past. There were about a dozen elk in all, followed by a big bull elk with a tremendous rack. Talk about up close and personal with nature! This grandmother has never experienced such a close call - it was frightening and thrilling as well. The herd of elk went right through the middle of the lake. The moose intently watched the elk and waited until they were on the other side of the lake before returning to feeding. GD has experienced more wildlife on this her first trip, than my husband and I in all of our previous trips. Day 4 was the highlight of our trip.
Day 5: We got up early and left Estes Park by 7:30 AM to drive Trail Ridge Road. We drove with only one stop - to stretch our legs and walk to pretty Lake Irene. I had make reservations for GD through the Kawauneechee Visitor's Cntr (970-627-3471) for her to participate in "A Walk Backwards" at the Holzwarth Historic Site. (Reservations can only be make 1 wk in advance and are free.) Children choose pioneer clothing to put over their own clothes and get in the spirit of what life was like in pioneer days. They washed clothes over a wash board, gutted trout, sawed wood, sewed a pioneer doll & baked biscuits. GD had a grand time! Parents/guardians are expected to escort their children and it is about 1/2 mile walk from the parking lot to the Holzwarth property. A golf cart will supply a shuttle for those who are handicapped. Just ask the Ranger.
We drove to Grand Lake for lunch and hiked Adams Falls luckily before it rained. Then we drove back to Estes Park over Trail Ridge Rd, stopping at sites previously mentioned on this forum.
Day 6: Husband and GD had reservations for a two-hr. trail ride from the Cowpoke Corner Corral. The horses were sure-footed over a very narrow and high trail in the mountains. 2166 State Hwy 66, Estes Park, CO 80517; 970-586-5890. $50 each. GD was given an old horse shoe to remember riding Mr. Wilson! Highly recommend.
Day 7: We got up early and drove to Wild Basin in the Park. We were fortunate to get a parking spot at the Copeland Falls TH. Copeland Falls were beautiful and the walk through the forest cool and refreshing.
All in all, we had a fabulous seven days in RMNP. Before, we have always used Bear Lake TH's as starting off points. Due to the current construction, we avoided those with the exception of Sprague Lake, and enjoyed some new adventures.
We enjoyed the deck at our cabin watching tree swallows feeding their chicks in a bird box attached to a tree right in front of the deck. Rufous hummingbirds competitively swooshed around a feeder trying to get to the nectar. One afternoon four mule deer grazed and rested in our front yard. GD excitedly captured as much as she could on her camera.
Thanks to the knowledgeable destination experts and posters for help in making the most of our trip. I used the liscense # game tip and had purchased a lamenated US map with plastic stars for GD to identify states. She found all but 9 states, plus two provinces from Canada and one state in Mexico. It helped to provide excitement during a LONG drive! She wants to return bringing along her parents and brother next year!