By Darian Armer
Assistant Editor RV Daily Report
Moving to Greeley, Colo., from Lawrence, Kan., when I was 10 left me in awe of the Rocky Mountains. But to my dismay, the Eastern plains of Colorado appeared even more flat then the hills I had left in Kansas. That is until our first visit to Estes Park, Colo.
A winding canyon of sheer rock formations takes you from the foothills in Loveland alongside the rolling Poudre river to a breathtaking view of Estes Park as your car climbs the last hill to the valley. Another option to get to Estes Park includes the Glen Haven route, (the left option when you come to the fork in the road in the canyon). This route takes you through the tiny town of Glen Haven, and gives a closer look at the devastation a 2013 flood caused, and the rebuilding that has happened so far.
Once you get to Estes Park there are a plethora of activities for couples and families alike. Depending on the year, activities will change, but no matter what time you visit, unique opportunities to explore the Rocky Mountain region abound.
Downtown Estes Park
Downtown Estes Park offers shopping and dining along the main street, Elkhorn and Moraine Avenues, where families, strollers and dogs stroll up and down taking in souvenir, furniture, jewelry and toy shops, all while sampling the various ice cream, cookies and freshly made salt-water taffy in the shops lining the streets. Take a break from shopping and enjoy one of the local restaurants tucked in among the shops, offering fares from all over. Visitors will often see elk wandering downtown.
All businesses are locally-owned, offering visitors unique treasures, gifts and Estes Park mementos. Downtown activities include jazz concerts, wine tastings, cowboy sing-a-longs and the ability to walk along the river.
To learn more about happenings in Downtown Estes Park, visit http://www.visitestespark.com/things-to-do/downtown/.
If you’re like me, it’s never too early to think about Christmas, and a summer visit to Estes Park can provide some of the best Christmas ornaments. A tradition in our family, each child receives a Christmas ornament with their name and date, as well as a family ornament with each family member name and date. We love to find this ornament at Simply Christmas in Estes Park.
Simply Christmas is a year-round Christmas and collectibles shop that will get you in the spirit no matter what time of year. When you visit Downtown Estes Park, make sure to stop in at Simply Christmas! http://www.simplychristmas.com/.
The site of the classic horror film, “The Shining,” the Stanley Hotel is a grandiose hotel built in 1909, towering as a magnificent landmark over Estes Park in the valley below. Maintaining its old world-charm and many of its original features and buildings, the Stanley offers tours to day-visitors and hotel guests as well.
The hotel offers haunted ghost tours through prominent haunted spaces and basement rooms of the Concert Hall, as well as a tunnel. Not one for haunted sightings? Visit the hotel gift shop to learn about the hotel’s history (minus the ghosts) or visit the hotel’s garden and experience the butterfly encounter. Dining options include the Cascades Restaurant, Whiskey Bar and Table Restaurant.
The Stanley Hotel is located at 333 Wonderview Ave., Estes Park. For more information, visit http://www.stanleyhotel.com/.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Estes Park provides an entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park and plenty of outdoor activities. The Park offers more than 355 miles of hiking trails ranging from lakeside strolls to mountain peak climbs, scenic drives, wildlife watching, fishing, camping, picnics, visitor centers, ranger-led programs and horseback riding.
If you plan to take a scenic drive to the top of the mountain, you will either be on Trail Ridge Road or Old Fall River Road. Both roads take visitors through meadows and aspen groves, along rivers and through forests to an elevation of more than 12,000 feet. My first visit was in the month of July and found me in shorts standing next to a wall of snow towering above me, which I carved my name in. Caution to those with heart issues or shortness of breath, as elevation sickness can strike and exacerbate symptoms.
If you visit in the September-October mating season you will hear elk bugling in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, a unique sound heard from just before dusk to dawn.
Make sure to visit, http://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/things2do.htm, before planning your trip to the park as time of the year and weather dictates activities available.
Places to Stay
Estes Park is super-friendly to RVers offering multiple options for all types of campers. Places to stay include the Estes Park KOA, Manor RV Park, Elk Meadow Lodge/RV Park, Jellystone Park of Estes, Estes Park Campground at East Portal and Estes Park Campground at Mary’s Lake, among others.
For more information on any of these locations, visit http://www.visitestespark.com/lodging/campgrounds-and-rv-parks/.