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Need some trip advice - will be there in mid October

Minneapolis...
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Need some trip advice - will be there in mid October

My husband and I will be arriving the 17th and will be in Estes until the 22nd. I have been doing some research and know that it is possible that the Trail Ridge Road may be closed. I am hoping that isn't the case!! Anyway, this is to celebrate me finishing chemo. I am only 3 months out so I tire easily and can't do long distance hikes. When I was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year I wanted to come to the mountains but had to wait through treatment and wanted to be a little better before we came. I am so excited to have made it this far!

I am looking for some recommendations for shorter hikes or scenic drives for this time of year. Also - any recommendations on sunrise/sunset spots would be great. Will there still be places to see the Elk?

Windsor, Colorado
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1. Re: Need some trip advice - will be there in mid October

Scenic Drive #1

On your way from Denver to Estes, take the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway. coloradodot.info/travel/…peak-to-peak

Scenic Drive #2

From Estes Park, drive down dramatic Big Thompson Canyon (east toward Loveland) on highway 34 to the Dam Store and back through Glen Haven on CR43 Devil's Gulch Road. Be sure and stop at some of the forest service picnic areas along the North Fork of the Big Thompson River. They are very scenic. After you pass Overlook Point, look for the Lumpy Ridge TH on your right and drive to the TH for a closer look at these impressive rocks. Note the balanced rocks above the Gem Lake TH sign. Because of road construction, you will backtrack for a slight detour to highway 34 in Estes Park.

The canyon is even more dramatic closer to Loveland and the Dam Store. Big horn sheep frequent the canyon especially near Drake. On the return trip, Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park is 4 miles up the canyon from the Dam Store on the right across from Round Mountain. This is a lovely city park with nice views of the river from the bridge, paved walkways and picnic areas.

Driving time round trip from Estes to the Dam Store through Glen Haven and back to Estes is about 2 hours. Add some time for stops.

Scenic Drive #3

From Estes Park, take highway 7 toward Allenspark (part of the Peak to Peak but you won't mind seeing this section again from a different direction). Stay on highway 7 and go through very pretty South St. Vrain Canyon to Lyons. Take highway 36 back to Estes Park. You will see the well known "Welcome to Estes Park" overlook on highway 36. South St. Vrain Canyon is so colorful. It is my mother's favorite--the canyon with the purple rocks. Lyons is a cute small town with some shops and restaurants. Driving time only is about 2 hours.

Scenic Drive #4

If you enjoy brewery tours, New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins was just voted #1 by TripAdvisor. You need online reservations. Drive down Big Thompson Canyon to Fort Collins. The Cache La Poudre Scenic Byway starts just 15 minutes from Old Town Fort Collins. coloradodot.info/travel/…cache-la-poudre

You can drive as far up and back on the byway as time and energy allow. I usually tell people to take CR27 and Stove Prairie Road for the return trip out of the canyon back to highway 34 in Loveland. However, this route was in the High Park fire. It is startling. You may want to stay on highway 14 and return by way of Shields Street (Taft Hill on the Loveland side) back to highway 34.

All these scenic drives and we have not even gotten to Rocky Mountain National Park yet.

Windsor, Colorado
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2. Re: Need some trip advice - will be there in mid October

Over to your right in the Top Questions, see the third question about alternate routes for Trail Ridge Road. At the nps link in that post, there is a simple map. You can see many of the scenic routes listed above on that map.

Another scenic day trip is from Estes to Nederland down the Peak to Peak and then highway 119 through Boulder Canyon (stop at Boulder Falls if the short trail is open) to Boulder. People really enjoy the Pearl Street Mall (pedestrian mall) in Boulder and seeing the Flatirons. You will see this route on the nps map, too.

Edited: 08 October 2012, 16:36
Windsor, Colorado
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3. Re: Need some trip advice - will be there in mid October

Hoping it is open all the way, many people take most of a day to drive and explore Trail Ridge Road. It is more than just a drive. There are many short trails and overlooks along the way. Plan on a minimum of 6 hours (more is better) to get from Estes Park to Grand Lake and back along Trail Ridge Road including stops. Stop at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center for RMNP and get the $2 guide to Trail Ridge Road. Since this trip may be tiring for you, I would focus on enjoying the overlooks on the way to Grand Lake and then if you are feeling good, consider some of these short trails on the way back. Grand Lake has shops and restaurants.

Near Grand Lake (get directions in town or at the RMNP Kawuneeche VC) Adams Falls .3 miles one way to waterfall, Coyote Valley Trail-an easy and level 1 mile loop along the Colorado River with good chances to see moose and elk, Holzwarth Historic Site-another easy walk (1 mile round trip) with very good chances to see moose and elk, Lake Irene-short (about .5 miles round trip) pretty walk around the lake or to the overlook, Tundra Communities Trail (1 mile round trip) amazing views and signs explaining life on the tundra, Ute Trail-walk just to the bend in the trail for the views, Hidden Valley Nature Trail (.5 mile loop) beautiful forests and a brook with interpretative signs. Eleven miles of TRR is above treeline at about 11,500 feet so be prepared for wind and cold. The Alpine Visitor Center and Trail Ridge Store will be closed. Have water and snacks in the car.

I will give you other short walks, things to do and scenic drives later. You will not have to look very hard for elk. They will be there!

Edited: 08 October 2012, 16:58
Illinois
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4. Re: Need some trip advice - will be there in mid October

If you want to try a simple hike in RMNP, perhaps drive up to Bear Lake and do the flat hike around that lake, which is right off the parking lot. It's easy but beautiful. Same with Lily Lake.

Minneapolis...
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5. Re: Need some trip advice - will be there in mid October

Thank you so much!!! Sounds like we can stay busy. :) We already have reservations for New Belgium for Thursday, glad to hear it is worth the trip.

I won't be driving, my husband will be. I can do short walks of 1-2 miles at a time. I used to be able to hike all day long. Working my way back to it. Can't wait to see all the things you are describing!!

Windsor, Colorado
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6. Re: Need some trip advice - will be there in mid October

From RMNP ranger on September 10--"Lily Lake Dam Work: Starting today, construction work begins on the rehabilitation of the downstream side of Lily Lake Dam. This work is schedule for approximately 90 days.

The west parking lot for the Lily Lake area is fenced off for construction activities. The parking lot on the east side of Highway 7 remains open. Construction will occur from approximately 7am-6pm, Monday through Friday and possibly on some Saturdays.

The trail around the Lake remains open access except for the area along the dam and downstream of the dam. ks"

I can tell you when we were in RMNP late September, the Lily Lake area was a MESS!! Yes, normally, this would be a trail you would enjoy. It is a .7 mile loop.

About the Bear Lake trail (.6 mile loop), you need to know about the construction on Bear Lake Road as well. Here is the October 3 press release from RMNP.

"Beginning Wednesday, October 10, private vehicles will again be allowed throughout the day to travel along Bear Lake Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. Since late May, visitors could only access the Bear Lake area prior to 9:00 a.m. or after 4:00 p.m. and through park shuttles during the day. Road construction will continue through the fall and during the winter, weather permitting. Beginning on October 10, park visitors should be prepared for the possibility of two thirty-minute delays in both directions. There are no construction delays between Park & Ride and Bear Lake. Evening closures, from the Big Thompson Bridge to the Park & Ride, are currently in place on Tuesday and Thursday nights only. The road is closed from 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday nights to 5:30 a.m. Wednesday mornings and again at 10:30 p.m. Thursday nights through 5:30 a.m. Friday mornings. After October 15, evening closures will take place on the same nights, but closure times will change from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m."

Both the Bear Lake and Sprague Lake (.5 mile loop) trails would be on my list for you. Check with the rangers at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center about the best times to go. I do not think you want to have an hour construction delay in each direction to get to these trails.

Fort Worth, Texas
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7. Re: Need some trip advice - will be there in mid October

Sprague Lake - another short, easy and beautiful hike!

Windsor, Colorado
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8. Re: Need some trip advice - will be there in mid October

In addition to Bear Lake and Sprague Lake already mentioned, there are other short hikes off Bear Lake Road. Just touch base with the rangers about those construction delays and also about trail conditions if by chance RMNP gets snow.

From the Glacier Gorge TH--Alberta Falls is .8 miles one way

From the Bear Lake TH--Nymph Lake is .5 miles one way and Dream Lake (may be the most popular hike in RMNP) is .6 miles further or 1.1 miles one way.

Off of Bear Lake but NOT in the construction zone:

Cub Lake--the lake is too far but this trail is very nice at the beginning. Go as far as you want. The same is true about walking from the Fern Lake TH. There is also a .6 mile loop nature trail at the Moraine Park VC.

Not to be missed is the Alluvial Fan and waterfall in Endovalley. From the second parking lot, the walk is about .2 miles one way. Go in the Fall River Entrance to the park. It will be the first road to your right.

Copeland Falls is only .3 miles from the Wild Basin TH located off highway 7.

From the Lumpy Ridge TH (mentioned in scenic drive #2), walk part of the Gem Lake Trail. Be sure to turn around periodically as there are areas with great views behind you on the way up the trail.

Drive the Upper Beaver Meadows Road in RMNP for views and wildlife sightings. Mornings and dusk are usually the best times for spotting wildlife.

Windsor, Colorado
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9. Re: Need some trip advice - will be there in mid October

In Estes Park, the Riverwalk from Performance Park and behind the stores and restaurants on Elkhorn Ave. is very nice. You might enjoy a stroll along part of the Lake Estes Trail. Elk hang around the golf course often.

The Stanley Hotel tour is popular. Sample local wine at a tasting at Snowy Peaks or Valley of the Winds. Also check out the Estes Park CVB calendar at http://www.estesparkcvb.com/calendar.cfm for other events like Elk Expeditions by Bus from the Rocky Mountain Nature Association, the Central City Opera, and the haunted wagon ride at Aspen Lodge.

www.estesparkcvb.com is a great site for all kinds of info on Estes Park.

Minneapolis...
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10. Re: Need some trip advice - will be there in mid October

I have been researching this trip for months and got more information here from you than I did in all my research. Thank you so much!! Now I have names to look up. :)

We plan on stopping at the Visitor Center before going to the park and talking with the rangers. We have 4 full days with one afternoon planned to go on the brewery tour, so we will have time to take most of this in. And what I don't see this time I can see next time since we are already planning on coming back next summer! My husband likes to keep busy from sunup to sundown, no rest for us!!! He said if he wanted to sit around he would stay home. LOL