A summer vacation would not be complete without a trip through Rocky Mountain National Park, and this trip is an ode to the luscious wilderness in the central Rockies. Head up Trail Ridge Road and spend a day in Estes Park, where you can tour the spooky Stanley Hotel and mosey around the little downtown. Stay in the YMCA of the Rockies for an experience that’ll remind you of summer camp or find a camping spot at the Moraine Park Campground.
Roundtrip: 200 miles
Must-Have Souvenir: A fragment of smoky quartz from the Rockies
On the Road:
- You probably know the Stanley Hotel was the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining, but there’s so much more to the landmark’s ghostly past. Call 970.577.4110 and get reservations for their ghost tours.
- Try the fried chicken at the Peak to Peak American Grill in Estes Park.
- Heading back through Winter Park? The city has a stellar bike park that’s fast expanding: trestlebikepark.com
In Grand Lake:
- Rent a paddle boat at the Headwater Marina.
- Grab breakfast at the Fat Cat Café for a homemade buffet of biscuits and gravy and corn-beef hash.
- Downtown Grand Lake is quaint: there are galleries, shops and hitching posts. There is a certain Old West charm that Front Range cities just don’t have, so soak it in.
The next day, continue west on Hwy. 34 until you get to Grand Lake. You can camp in the nearby Timber Creek Campground or head into town and check into a lakefront cabin at the Western Riviera Lakeside Lodging.
You’ll want to take some time to do the Rocky Mountain National Park North Inlet Trail, which takes hikers up 9 miles with substantial views of the Continental Divide as well as elk and moose viewing.
Grand Lake is a recreators paradise, so pick wisely: fishing, boating, hiking, cycling and horseback riding. Whatever you choose, grab a hearty dinner at the Sagebrush BBQ & Grill. We suggest you take the long way home for a gorgeous drive in and out of Rocky Mountain National Park, through Fraser and Winter Park and down through I-70, but for the sake of avoiding traffic, you can just head back to Estes Park, head south on Hwy. 7 and then onto the Peak to Peak Highway.
Road Trips – And Countless Adventures on the Open Road
Grand County also has hot air balloon tours where one can really see the Rockies in an hour!!
Get above it all in a hot air balloon in Grand County, mountain flying is the best and gentlest, making it great for all ages! Grand Adventure Balloon Tours provides views of peaks in 5-7 counties & Rocky Mountain National Park. Pick pinecones from treetops, touch the waters, and spot wildlife from above it all!