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Dec 21-24 Denver/Estes Park

The Woodlands, Texas
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Dec 21-24 Denver/Estes Park

My girlfriend and I are flying from Houston into Denver on Friday morning and her Brother is doing the same from Dallas. I wanted to stay near Denver and maybe do a day trip then have dinner and hang out in Denver. We'll stay at the Hyatt/Convention Center most likely due to reward points that night.

Saturday/Sunday nights we plan on staying in Estes Park to ski, tube, etc. We are not experts and just want to have nice views, see wildlife, and play in the snow...surely we will have snow by then.

We leave Monday.

Questions:

1. I wanted to take a tour Friday. Snomobiles, Wildlife, etc. That night I was thinking about a Helicopter Tour from around Denver?

2. Best place for a two room lodge/hotel with a hot tub in Estes Park? Names/numbers/prices appreciated!

3. Is a minivan going to be able to make the drive? I'd like to take the scenic roads but I hear they're all closed. I have some nice camera equipment and would like to explore to see if I can get some good shots of the wildlife we don't have around here.

Windsor, Colorado
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for Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park
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1. Re: Dec 21-24 Denver/Estes Park

www.estesparkcvb.com has good summaries of lodging options and links to websites. Some 2 room options with hot tub to check out--

Woodlands on Fall River, Estes Park Condos, Streamside on Fall River, Fall River Cabins, Riverwood, Evergreen

To check reviews here on TA, either enter the name in the search box in the upper right or click on the green hotels link top left. Most of the above are cabins and condos and will be under specialty lodging.

Walking distance to town, check out Silver Moon Inn.

With your interests in wildlife and photography, consider booking a guided tour of Rocky Mountain National Park with Yellow Wood Guiding. www.ywguiding.com

There is now snow in RMNP. The Hidden Valley sledding area opened today. Hopefully, the temporary closures for the Fern Lake fire in parts of the park will be reopened soon. www.nps.gov/romo

Roads in RMNP are plowed and sanded but there are times when rangers suggest 4WD. Roads in Estes Park are very well maintained. As for getting to RMNP from Denver, you can check road conditions at www.cotrip.org and even see live cameras in some locations by clicking on the camera icon on the map.

This is a link for a day trip from Denver to RMNP and it gives you scenic route options, tips for wildlife viewing and some of the highlights of RMNP in winter.

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g143048-i3489-k498…

The Woodlands, Texas
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2. Re: Dec 21-24 Denver/Estes Park

I read that review and it's very helpful. I appreciate the specific mentions for me. At times there is almost too much information and I'd rather have someone just plain tell me what to do...I'm used to that with my other half! I could plan some awesome vacations in Texas but we're out of our element in the snow.

Many of the places have plenty of positive reviews and I've talked to family members that have visited before as well as some nearby residents. Nothing really stands out. I love the viewer photos because to me that's the "real" picture of how it is.

Anyone else, feel free to chime in! Thanks in advance

Windsor, Colorado
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for Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park
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3. Re: Dec 21-24 Denver/Estes Park

Two more lodging options to consider

Mary's Lake Condos--ignore old reviews. Rocky Mountain Resorts as property managers have a very good reputation and they took over here.

Rams Horn Village

Are you looking for something in a specific price range? That might help others make suggestions. I focused on places offering 2 bedrooms, not just 2 rooms. If 2 rooms (someone sleeps on a sofa sleeper/futon) will do, that may open up other options.

The Woodlands, Texas
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4. Re: Dec 21-24 Denver/Estes Park

We need two bedrooms as we don't want to stiff her brother with a sofabed but we can share a bathroom. I personally want a private hot tub. I saw the Estes Park Condos at #16 looked nice but the reviews said the prices wasn't appropriate. I'm ok with a couple hundred a night and we're only looking for two nights. I'm also looking for a Helicopter ride, snowmobile rental, skiing, and food.

Windsor, Colorado
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5. Re: Dec 21-24 Denver/Estes Park

Many people think the rates for Estes Park are high in the peak summer season. Most believe the winter rates are a bargain. There is a BIG difference. Winter rates can be 50% of summer rates.

To make sure you know, there is no skiing other than cross country in RMNP. There is snowshoeing. Snowmobiling is not an option either. The nearest downhill skiing is about an hour and 15 minutes away at Eldora, between Denver and Estes.

Have you considered staying on the western side of RMNP in Grand Lake? www.grandlakechamber.com

This would give you excellent chances for wildlife viewing and the western side of RMNP gets much more snow. Grand Lake is also close to Winter Park and Granby Ranch ski resorts and is known as the snowmobiling capital of Colorado.

People have had great success on www.vrbo.com finding vacation rentals for both Grand Lake and Estes.

I will send a pm to alli who can probably help you with helicopter rides, snowmobiling, skiing, etc. close to Denver.

Colorado
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6. Re: Dec 21-24 Denver/Estes Park

<<<helicopter rides, snowmobiling, skiing, etc. close to Denver.>>>

Yikes! How close is close? I think Winter Park would be good for you as it is not far from Grand Lake. There is skiing and a great tubing hill. I much prefer the original tubing hill not the "new" one.

There are any number of condos on VRBO or http://www.playwinterpark.com could help I am sure.

I have never heard of a helicopter tour of Denver there are some if you Google them but no first hand information

The Woodlands, Texas
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7. Re: Dec 21-24 Denver/Estes Park

I'm looking at Estes park simply because it was suggested by family in Greeley. They did say we would travel to Eldora to ski... an hour drive is nothing for us really.

I didn't want to go too far West if I didn't have to. Trail ridge rd is closed and isn't 70 horrible?

Winter Park is kinda far. Grand Lake father. Eldora is close and should give us Texans what we want for snow play and touring the park.

I didn't realize Snowmobiles were so far west.

Helicopters...no one with experience?

Windsor, Colorado
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8. Re: Dec 21-24 Denver/Estes Park

From DIA, there is little difference time wise in the routes most people take to Estes Park or Grand Lake. Winter Park is even closer and it is only about 45 minutes from Winter Park to Grand Lake and the western side of RMNP.

http://mapq.st/SPjweF or http://mapq.st/TOb2TP

Some people do find the drive over Berthoud Pass a bit intimidating in the winter. The worst of ski traffic on I-70 is for people returning to Denver after a weekend or 3 day holiday. You could probably limit your exposure to traffic congestion by going to Grand Lake on Friday and Saturday night and returning to Denver for Sunday night. I imagine many people are off on the 24th and will not be returning to Denver Sunday evening. If you left Grand Lake or Winter Park by lunch time on Sunday, you should miss the worst of the traffic. Plus you would be closer to DIA for your Monday flight by staying in Denver Sunday night.

I love Estes Park and RMNP--own a vacation condo there and visit at least 20 times a year since it is only an hour from my house. For tubing, skiing, snowmobiling, wildlife photography all in one area - Grand Lake, Winter Park, Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby Ranch, Fraser-tubing hill and the western side of RMNP are a better fit.

Michigan
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9. Re: Dec 21-24 Denver/Estes Park

There is very little skiing in Estes Park. There is no downhill that I know of.

There is great snowshoeing, and I recommend going to the Mountain Shop in Estes Park. (They are located across from Sombrero Horse Stables which also offers winter horseback riding).

The mountain shop offers snowshoe rentals, and they also offer guides if you like. If you opt out of a guide, they'll give you a couple maps, and you'll also have a chance to talk to some locals about what to bring, where to go, etc. Bear Lake is always a good snowshoe, but the road is closed to bear lake, so you'll have to take a back trail to get up there, and you're talking quite a hefty snowshoe up to the lake. Depends on how fit you are.

If you want downhill, I suggest Winter Park. They have great downhill. Even in Grand Lake, I don't know of any downhill. If you do decide to go to grand lake, they have the north inlet pass which is going to be a partial hike partial snowshoe, and you'll see some small falls if you go in far enough.

There is snowmobiling in Grand Lake. There is snowmobiling in Winter Park. There is no snowmobiling in Estes that I know of. Because Trail Ridge is not an option, you'll have to go the long way through Denver, and yes, that can be a drive.

I suggest a winter horseback ride. That can be fun, and after you're done, go into town and have hot coffee or chocolate, etc.

There ARE chartered helicopter tours that you can take of Estes Park. They are private charters, and probably pretty pricey for Christmas.

denverhelicoptercharter.com/denver-helicopte…

denverhelicoptercharters.com/denver_helicopt…

I would recommend hiking in the park to get some great pictures. I'm not sure how far the park is open right now... You may be able to drive into the park through the fall river entrance and catch some wildlife up through the alluvial fan area, or sheep lake area. It's pretty regardless, so if you like photos, bring a camera. You may want to think about hiking up near the YMCA area in Estes as they have great trail access to the RMNP.

This year Estes has ice skating.

The mountain shop MAY have winter climbing available??? This I'm unsure about. I've not ever inquired about winter climbing.

Windsor, Colorado
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10. Re: Dec 21-24 Denver/Estes Park

Correction to reply #9--Bear Lake Road is NOT closed. I just drove it on the 14th. Bear Lake Road is open, plowed and sanded all winter long. There are only minimal construction delays now on Bear Lake Road. We had none on Friday. As for the rest of RMNP, Trail Ridge Road is plowed to Many Parks Curve on the east side and Colorado River Trailhead on the west side. All other main roads in RMNP are plowed and sanded all winter. There can be temporary road closures in inclement weather. Some minor side roads do close and become great places to hike, snowshoe or cross country ski.

The western side of RMNP (Grand Lake side) has received lots of snow and I doubt there is any hiking, only snowshoeing at this point. Take at look at the live webcam for the Kawuneeche Valley on the west side of RMNP.

www.nps.gov/romo/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm

Estes Park and the eastern side of RMNP are getting snow today. Local news predictions for Estes Park are 10 inches for tonight into tomorrow. Predictions for Bear Lake are in the 18 inch range which would add to the 11 inches already there.