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aufgehts Estes Park - A travel report by Jill
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Estes Park,  United States - flag United States -  Colorado
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aufgehts's travel reports

Rocky Mountain National Park

  13 votes
As an American, I've grown up always hearing about the beautiful Rocky Mountains but had never been fortunate enough to live or travel close enough to them. In September, we took a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park and the mountains did not disappoint.

Fly fisher at Dream Lake
Fly fisher at Dream Lake
Rocky Mountain National Park is located right outside the charming town of Estes Park in Colorado. Established in 1915, it is Colorado's largest national parkland and straddles the Continental Divide, the backbone of North America that splits the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean watersheds. It has 113 named peaks that top 10,000 ft (3048m), 72 topping 12,000ft (3658m), 19 over 13,000ft (3962m) and Longs Peak, the highest in the park at 14,259ft (4267m). The park also boasts one of the only alpine tundra areas in the contiguous United States and consists of 1/3 of the park. The summer growing season here is very short, only 6-8 weeks but there is still a surprising amount of flora and fauna here. Below the tree line, there is even more wildlife: elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, black bears, and mountain lions.

Favourite spots:
Nymph Lake
Nymph Lake
With over 150 lakes and 300 miles of hiking trails, it was hard to know where to start. But when you're talking about high elevations, the first thing to do was to get acclimatized. So on our first full day we did the hikes that everyone else does. First stop was Nymph Lake, a beautiful waterlily covered lake with the mountains as a background. After a short climb, we came to Dream and Emerald Lakes before having to turn around because of an approaching thunderstorm. The trail was fairly easy, not too steep, paved in most places, and could be done in about 1 1/2 hours round trip, depending on how much time you wanted for taking pictures and ooo-ing and aaah-ing over the views. The Glacier Gorge Trailhead is another nice hike, with rushing river streams, grand vistas, and Alberta Falls. Here is where most of the tourists stop. But we continued another hour up and came upon Echo Lake and were the only people up there to enjoy the tremendous views.

What's really great:
Marmot baby
Marmot baby
But the best hike of all was up to Chasm Lake which sits at the foot of the towering Longs Peak. Hiking in the tree line was nice and quiet, even saw a huge moutain jack rabbit. But above the tree line was the first time I felt the altitude and was gasping for breath every few minutes. At this point we were above 11,000ft and still climbing. We came upon a hiker that had actually seen a moose earlier in the morning! When we got closer to lake, we saw our first marmots. A mother came over to greet her baby, they touched noses, the baby went off into the rocks and the mother sat down on the trail and started grooming herself! Several of us hikers stopped to watch her and were snapping pictures furiously. Finally, after climbing over a huge cairn we came upon the lake and were awed at the size of Longs Peak. Everything seemed huge here and us so insignificant. Did I mention it was freezing and windy up here? But as we watched the sun play on the peak, we hardly noticed the cold.

Vista on Trail Ridge Road
Vista on Trail Ridge Road
Another great adventure was Trail Ridge Road. It is the highest paved road in North America and climbs to 12,187ft (3658m). The 48 mile highway follows an even older trail traveled by Native Americans as long as 12,000 years ago. But the best thing was taking the Old Fall River Road up to Trail Ridge Road. The Old Fall River Road is a steep, gravel, one-way road that climbes 3200 ft (975m) and is only open in summer to cars and moutain bikers. I'm not a great fan of drop-offs and had to hide my eyes a couple of times but the road is safe and the views spectacular!

The River Cabin
The River Cabin
There is no shortage of accomodations in Estes Park. We stayed at Romantic Riversong B&B for 2 nights then a wonderful cabin for 3 nights.
The B&B was located at the end of a dirt road and right on the river with tree swings and benches along the bank. The owners were very helpful with directions and sights and breakfasts were worth waiting for. Our cabin for the last 3 nights had a river theme (fly fishing is huge here) and had a 2 storey river rock fireplace and a river rock jaccuzzi tub. The place was adorable and extremely comfortable. We didn't want to leave!

Gold Mantled Ground Squirrel
Gold Mantled Ground Squirrel
There were a couple of good places to eat. The first was The Rock and it had a couple dozen local beers to choose from. But the burgers were wonderful...I had a bacon burger with lots of bleu cheese and my husband got a buffalo burger. Both came with sweet potato fries and it was so good, we went back two nights later. Also, there was Poppy's Pizza which had decent pizza but it was the beer menu that impressed us. It was the size of a regular menu with pages of beers from around the world and ranged in price from $4-$45!

Other recommendations:
The Stanly Hotel
The Stanly Hotel
The town of Estes Park is charming and a fun place to sight see and shop. There are many little art shops, jewellry shops, and outfitter shops top them all. You can easily walk the whole town as it is not much more than a long main street and all the hotels and cabins are located on the outskirts. There is the old Stanley Hotel which dominates a hillside as you drive into town. This is where Stephen King was inspired to write The Shining after he saw one of the hotel's ghosts.

Published on Tuesday October 20th, 2009

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Thu, Oct 29 2009 - 05:47 AM rating by gloriajames

a great trekking well written report with beautiful pics! 5*

Sat, Oct 24 2009 - 12:24 PM rating by jacko1

A well written and informative report, seasoned travellers will know how hard it is to hike and breathe easy above 9.000 ft, you did well! not so sure about your choice of menus but each to his/her own, many informative details well researched, Well Done!.

Sat, Oct 24 2009 - 07:24 AM rating by christianj.

Hey Jill, congrats for visiting the Rocky Mountains and writing a report about this; both for the first time!! If your trip was nearly as good as your report is, it must have been a formidable time. And keep that cabin in mind - just in case that I need advice for that region... :-)

Wed, Oct 21 2009 - 01:05 AM rating by mistybleu

Excellent report, with wonderful pictures.

Tue, Oct 20 2009 - 02:09 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Great report and pictures. It is very inspiring for people who love trekkings. Well done!

Tue, Oct 20 2009 - 12:26 PM rating by eirekay

Jill, this is marvelous! I love the trail information - it's almost impossible to get that from a topo! Now you've given me inspiration to go!

Tue, Oct 20 2009 - 11:48 AM rating by krisek

Jill, great report (your first, isn't?). You are so good with words! Gasping at 11,000 feet huh? :) And the marmots are not scared of people, are they? I met one of them in Yosemite... Many thanks indeed for sharing. Uh, I'm loving the pictures, too by the way.

Tue, Oct 20 2009 - 10:36 AM rating by porto

Excellent report Jill, If I return to the U.S. Colorado is definitely the direction that I will be looking towards.

Tue, Oct 20 2009 - 09:55 AM rating by pesu

Ooo-ing and aaah-ing over your first report, Jill! Interesting informative text and wonderful pictures. Big congrats and thanks! :)

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