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Vail to Rocky Mountain Park and back in one day

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Vail to Rocky Mountain Park and back in one day

How long is the trip from Vail to Rocky Mountain Park? If I am willing get a very early start, can I see the park and then exit on the east side, drop down to Boulder and then drop down further to rt. 70 and head back to Vail. Is this too ambitious. Where would the lunch and dinner breaks happen?

Please offer ideas and suggestions. What time would the adventure begin? What time would I expect to be back at the condo. I leave Philadelphia for Denver airport on Saturday. Thanks so much for your input.

Nederland, Colorado
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1. Re: Vail to Rocky Mountain Park and back in one day

I wasn't sure about the timing so I put the route into Google Maps. From Vail to Grand Lake is about 2 hours (the west entrance to RMNP.) Driving over Trail Ridge Road to Estes Park will take at least an hour without stops. (I'd plan on building in some time for photo ops and slow vehicles.) From Estes Park to Boulder about another hour. The trip back to Vail will take ~2 hours. So you've got a total of close to 6 hours of driving. I'd plan to have lunch in Estes Park. Unless you are going to spend time in Boulder you can be back in Vail in time for dinner.

Vail, Colorado
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2. Re: Vail to Rocky Mountain Park and back in one day

It's certainly possible (and I've done it a number of times) but it's a full day. I'd budget a complete 12 hour day to fully enjoy it and have time for some relaxation. Lunch in Estes Park is a good option and consider stopping in Idaho Springs or Silverthorne/Dillon/Frisco on the way back for dinner. Lots of driving, and a full day, but worthwhile for an east coaster!

Loveland, Colorado
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3. Re: Vail to Rocky Mountain Park and back in one day

You can absolutely do this and it would be a really fun day! I personally love driving and don't care if I am in the car for 10+ hours in one day, so as long as you don't mind, then I think it would be a fun trip.

I agree with the other poster's times-2 hours to Grand Lake, 1 hour through the park, 1 hour from Estes to Boulder and 2 back to Vail.

That being said, you'll want to give yourself more time in the park. It's rare to make it through in an hour. There are always slow motorhomes/campers/just generally slow drivers that you'll get stuck behind. There are also so many beautiful spots along Trail Ridge, you'll definitely want to pull over and grab a picture or two. So I would recommend giving yourself at least 2 hours.

If you come out the Beaver Meadows side, there will be a restaurant about a mile down the road on your right called The Other Side, that I really like for lunch. If you come out the Fall River side, there is a restaurant at the Visitor's Center called the Trailhead Restaurant that I also like. There are also lots of restaurants in town if you decide to spend some time in Estes Park.

I'd do dinner in Idaho Springs as you head back up I-70. I recommend Beau Joe's Pizza or the Tommy Knocker Brewery, both are really cool restaurants you'll only find in Colorado.

Have fun!!

Dublin, Ireland
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4. Re: Vail to Rocky Mountain Park and back in one day

Have to agree with the others on this one, definitely do a day trip. If you want to really get your money's worth, wake up early (like before sunrise) and get to RMNP at sun-up. I will never forget the scenery on trail-ridge road at sun-up, driving along with no motor homes in front of me, then seeing huge numbers of elk on their morning feed in a field, and a moose as well!

On your way back to Vail from Idaho Springs, you can also do a couple other diversions that I think are worth it -- the Peak to Peak byway would be great to follow when leaving Estes Park: byways.org/explore/byways/2114/stories/56078

Make your way from Black Hawk to Idaho Springs and indulge in some beaujeau's pizza for sure. Then when you are rested up, you can drive to the top of Mt. Evans: http://www.mountevans.com/ and enjoy the views. On the way back to Vail, take the Hwy 6 exit (near Loveland ski area) and enjoy the scenery along Hwy 6, getting back on I70 at Dillon and completing your drive to Vail.

A long day, but one you will absolutely enjoy! Good luck!

Dublin, Ireland
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5. Re: Vail to Rocky Mountain Park and back in one day

Sorry, in my second paragraph I meant to say as you leave Estes Park, not Idaho Springs...

6. Re: Vail to Rocky Mountain Park and back in one day

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