Living in Colorado and close to the Rockies, I sometimes forget how easy it is to experience and appreciate the natural beauty right in my backyard. Fortunately, Bob recently acquired one of the (few) benefits of turning 62 — a lifetime senior pass to all of our natural parks and federal recreation lands. The price? A whopping $10!!!!
With pass in hand, we headed to Estes Park, gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Estes Park is famous for two things – elk that roam the town with complete freedom and acceptance, and the historically grand Stanley Hotel. (The latter was built in 1909 and is the setting for Steven King’s masterpiece, The Shining.)
There are two entrances into the park from town. Beginners should follow CO 36 to the main entrance so that they don’t miss many of the main attractions, including Sprague Lake and Bear Lake. The views from both are incredible: Bob took the photo at the top of the page from the Bear Lake parking lot, and the shot just below was looking west across Sprague Lake:
If you’re just looking for a beautiful walk, follow the signs on Bear Lake Road to Sprague Lake. The trail around the lake is flat and easy to walk, and about a mile or less around. As you can see, the westward view is amazing! Bear Lake gets you closer to the mountains, and is a favorite spot for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
On your way out of the park, you might want to stop (or stay) at the YMCA of the Rockies. Built in 1908, this large and beautiful complex provides spectacular views, such as this panaroma from the original lodge up on the hill. That’s Longs Peak on the far left (14,259′) and Flattop (12,324′) on the far right:
If you don’t have a lifetime pass, the park entry price is $20, including parking. Have fun!
Favorite Eats: Bark, pine cones, snow (just kidding)
Favorite Restaurant: Twin Owls Steakhouse ($$)
Look For: Elk, big horn sheep
Watch Out For: All park signage, warnings, and updates. Drive carefully: Roads are steep, windy, one lane. Keep an eye out for bears, mountain lions, and coyotes.
Travel Tips: Bring water and sunscreen — you’re at 9,000 ft. Dress warmly even in summer, as it’s (much) colder at high altitudes.
Noah’s Travel Trips:
- Go to the gift shop at the Visitor Center at the top of Trail Ridge Road. There’s lots of cool stuff.
- You can play in the snow even in the Summer!
Warning: Not all roads are open all year. Check the Rocky Mountain National Park website for information.
Masthead photo: Flattop Mountain, Rocky Mountain National Park (Bob)