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Estes Park - route from DIA - plus tips!

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Estes Park - route from DIA - plus tips!

Heading to Estes Park June 1-6 - looking for suggested route from DIA. (Spent a few days in Estes 2 yrs ago - but approached over TR road after spending time in G lake)

Also - any tips for this time frame - kids are 13 & 15. Love to hike and explore - last time made it to bear lake and the other lakes in that immediate area, and spent a morning hiking a diff area - cascade falls maybe..? Staying again in loft downtown - loved location. Also did the cable up the mountain and Stanley hotel and a couple other things.

We wil probably repeat some things that we enjoyed - but looking for other tips, recommendations - since it will be our base - looking forward to staying in one place. The rangers were very helpful we found - letting us know where to get early for hiking before parking lots full or roads closed to only shuttles - thanks in advance!

Windsor, Colorado
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for Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park
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1. Re: Estes Park - route from DIA - plus tips!

Route from DIA to Boulder, Boulder Canyon to Nederland, join the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway to Estes Park.


This avoids the E-470 toll road. If you take E-470 even once, your rental car company will probably assess a daily surcharge in addition to the toll. This route also avoids road construction on highway 36 between Lyons and Estes Park. It is also the more scenic route. Look for Boulder Falls in the canyon. Pearl Street Mall (pedestrian only) in Boulder has lots of interesting shops, restaurants and usually street performers and makes a nice stop after a plane trip.

RMNP has had lots of snow so far. Over a foot is predicted for this weekend. With a June 1-6 trip, you will most likely still find snow and ice on some higher elevation trails so you will need to check with RMNP rangers about trail conditions.

With the very good snowpack this year and the timing of your trip, I would plan a whitewater rafting trip on the Cache la Poudre River. You will travel down very dramatic Big Thompson Canyon (look for bighorn sheep in the canyon) to Fort Collins. The Cache la Poudre Scenic Byway starts about 15 minutes from Fort Collins. Several companies raft the Poudre. In early June with good snowpack, this will be a thrilling and challenging trip.





Bear Lake Road construction is finished so there are no roads closed or with restricted use in RMNP this summer except the dirt Old Fall River Road. It is closed due to flood damage.

Two great sites for hiking trail info in RMNP - remember my warning about snow and ice.



Note on the second site the top 10 hikes and the top 10 easy hikes.

As you know, there are hikes for all abilities in RMNP. Without knowing how many miles and what difficulty you want, it is hard to suggest specific hikes. Teens in my family like the Gem Lake trail at Lumpy Ridge - not for the lake but they love climbing all the rock formations along the trail and there are great views.


Just down the road from the Lumpy Ridge TH is MacGregor Ranch which is a nice non-hiking stop. Visit the museum.


The easiest mountain summit is Deer Mountain.


Both Deer Mountain and Gem Lake should be clear of snow and ice by early June due to wind and sun exposure. Early June is a better time to see wildlife in RMNP than summer so do drive and explore along Trail Ridge Road. Assuming it is clear of snow, the Big Meadows trail is great for wildlife sightings.


One of my favorite hikes is Lake Haiyaha from the Bear Lake Trailhead.


Snow tends to drift along this trail so it does not clear as early as some other trails. You would need to ask the rangers. You can also check trail condition reports at this link closer to time for your trip.


Horseback riding has also been a fun experience for teens in my family. There are several stables that serve RMNP from Estes Park.




One of the teens - a girl actually - is just fascinated with fly fishing. I am not sure if it is the fly fishing itself or getting to stand in mountain lakes and rivers. Kirk's, Scotts, Estes Angler, Sasquatch and others can take care of you.

Edited: 2:12 pm, April 12, 2014
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2. Re: Estes Park - route from DIA - plus tips!

Wow this is terrific / thank you so much for taking the time to provide such a detailed response. Good to hear that bear lake construction is done. We will check out all tips and links - you make it so easy! We are really looking forward to our time back in Colorado. Last time we were there in mid-July so this will be a nice change of pace - and will definitely be consulting w the rangers etc re; trail conditions.

Nederland, Colorado
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3. Re: Estes Park - route from DIA - plus tips!

Just wanted to mention that there is also construction on US 36 between Denver and Boulder. If you are arriving on the weekend it may not be as big of an issue as it is during the week. If you want to enjoy more scenery and have no desire to go through Boulder, I would catch the Peak to Peak Hwy further south. Drive up scenic Golden Gate Canyon and pick it up there.

From Denver take I-70 west to Hwy 58, Hwy 58 west 5 miles to Hwy 93, Hwy 93 north 1.5 miles to Golden Gate Canyon Rd which becomes Hwy 46 to Hwy 119.

4. Re: Estes Park - route from DIA - plus tips!

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