My wife and I are planning a first-time road trip to RMNP for 3-4 days in mid-June. After that, Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
Maybe you could offer your thoughts on acclimatizing, since we're at or near 0 altitude here. Supposing we're leaving St. Louis on a Sunday, seems we could arrive by Monday afternoon or evening without driving crazy. Would you recommend stopping Monday overnight at an altitude of 5000-5500 ft, such as Denver or Boulder, and then proceeding to RMNP on Tuesday and staying in Estes Park around 7500 ft, or simply to continue to Estes on Monday? We read about hiking at high and sleeping at low altitude, but don't know whether the 5000 level would prepare us better for the higher altitude or not have much effect. We intend to defer the highest elevations, such as Trail Ridge Rd. until Thursday.
Would it be an important consideration to arrive during the daytime, whether for reasons of scenery, or safer driving through unfamiliar mountain roads that may be dark, winding, lacking guardrails or other safety features? (We do have a bit of experience with driving Blue Ridge, Smokies, Going-to-the-Sun Rd., Mt. Rainier, etc. in various conditions such as night and fog.)
The NP website lists 2 routes for driving Denver to RMNP, one through Boulder on Hwy. 36, and one through Loveland on Hwy. 34. It seems that another possiblility would be Hwy 72 to Hwy 7. If the scenery is a consideration in considering these options, what would be your suggestions?
Regarding Trail Ridge Road, would we miss very much by just doing the eastern portion, perhaps going as far as the Alpine Visitor Center, or the Continental Divide, and then returning? How dangerous is the short but steep and elevated Alpine Ridge Trail for most sea-level people?