I love coffee. My favorite Saturday mornings include waking up early to enjoy a book and a few cups of joe. I am 100% a coffee snob. I prefer Starbucks coffee and prefer my Keurig pods full of hazelnut or french vanilla flavoring. So, whenever Colin and I travel to a different state, I make it a point to find a nearby Starbucks and grab some of my favorite drinks. It is becoming quite hilarious to see all my “Same drink, different state” Snapchats. I know you might be wondering why I am talking about Starbucks and my expensive addiction to caffeine, but there’s a point to my rambling. If you were to ask me where one of my favorite spots to ever drink coffee is, it was in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Same Drink, Different State
The Greatest Coffee Break
Coffee was very needed during our road trip. It was a lot of driving, early mornings, and exercise. Even though we stayed in an Estes Park Best Western, with the largest continental breakfast we have ever seen, I had to be the snob I am, and get some Starbs before heading off to see the park. Judge all you want; that moment sitting near the mountain side, drinking my hot, skinny grande caramel macchiato, was so darn peaceful.
To say we felt small while standing in the mountains is quite an understatement. We didn’t just see the incredible beauty, we immersed in it. It gave us a reminder that there is so much more to the world than us. It was whimsical to think, that at one time, a mammoth could have been walking through where we were standing. Since it was late November when we arrived, the air was crisp, and the park was empty. Unfortunately, this meant many roads were closed. However, it also meant that we were the only two people standing in the middle of a mountain. It was magical.
Rocky Mountain National Park
While we enjoyed our views, there was a big downfall to our road trip. We were a bit too rushed, which gave us limited time at some parks. This was one of them. Rocky Mountain National Park shot to the top of our “We must go back” list. It was so beautiful, serene and alluring, and we didn’t have enough time to explore the way we wanted. In addition, recent snowfall made the roads slick and the winding paths even more difficult to navigate.
An Evening Arrival
In fact, I was freaking out the entire time Colin was driving. We arrived late in the night after visiting both Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Great Sand Dunes earlier in the day. Due to the darkness and weather, we decided to head back to the hotel early. I felt awful for feeling so scared, however, I later found out some history about the Rockies that made me feel a little better. Many of the ridges are known to be dangerous and even some of the most famous explorers, Stephen Harriman Long, for example, were cautious in regard to which areas to explore during certain parts of the year. If the man whom a mountain ridge is named after is frightened, I think I have every right to be. Granted, this was 200 years ago, but let’s pretend the circumstances are similar and say my freak out was justified 😉.
The Estes Park Entrance - After Hours
The morning after my panicked driving, we were able to drive back through a portion of the park to see the views during the day. Again, on a tight schedule, we didn’t get to see as much as we would have liked. While we didn’t get to do any hikes, we managed to stop at a few overlooks to capture the beauty of the mountains. We were also geeked to see all the animals grazing alongside the road. We saw plenty of mule deer and elk watching us drive along, passing by their home.
Mule Deer Wandering Through The Park
Our limited time in the park left us wanting to see and explore so much more. Out of our entire road trip, this is the park we felt like we didn’t get to see enough. The views were so incredible from the road, we can’t imagine how great it would be to hike through this park and feel even more apart of the magic of the mountains. We enjoyed our drive through Rocky Mountain National Park, me way more during the day, and we can’t wait to visit again.
Driving Through The Rockies
FIRE UP CHIPS!
2021 & 2022
Since moving to Colorado, RMNP has become a favorite day-trip. We have visited 3 times since moving here in July 2021. Our first return was in August, allowing us to drive Old Fall River Road and visit the visitor center located at the highest elevation in all of the National Park Service. Our 2 returns since have been in November, giving us a much more similar feel to our original trip back in 2018.
Our August 2021 trip consisted of driving the beautiful Old Fall River Road that is open seasonally. The one-way road open from July-September runs from Endovalley and ends at the parking lot for the Alpine Visitor Center. Located at 11,796’, it is the highest elevation visitor center in the park system.
Had to get a stamp at the highest VC!
Before taking off on Old Fall River Road, we made our first stop of the day at Alluvial Fan. The short trail takes you across a bridge, right up to the beautiful cascading falls. A 1982 dam breach at Lawn Lake delivered all this water and debris, creating the Alluvial Fan. The surrounding boulders are proof of the destruction that was caused.
Our first visitors in Colorado!
A trip down Old Fall River Road is about the beauty of the journey, as there is not much stopping to be had along the way. We did take a car break at Chapin Creek, however. This 3.9 mile out and back trail to Mount Chapin looks beautiful, although we just hiked-in a short distance, enjoyed the insanely fresh smells of nature and…maybe had a bit of a photoshoot.
Old Fall River Road
Chapin Creek Trail
A beautiful area to stretch the legs
Toby & his tree
We made one last stop before reaching the visitor center. At an unmarked trail at the last curve before the parking lot, we hiked a majority of this steep path. The views were gorgeous as you overlooked the visitor center across the way.
About half-way up the trail!
Very steep, but worth a shot!
Alpine VC out in the distance, dead center.
After our descent, we drove the final stretch into the visitor center parking lot and grabbed some lunch. In addition to the visitor center, there is also the Trail Ridge Store, which has a small cafe. We used this as the perfect stopping point before continuing our journey and loop, by jumping onto Trail Ridge Road and heading east.
11,796' with rain on the way!
We stopped at many of the overlooks and short trails along the way, including Iceberg Pass, Rock Cut, Rainbow Curve and Hidden Valley. We took a quick lap around Hidden Valley and were pleasantly surprised at this little place that was tucked away in the trees. This was our last stop for this trip and one we would love to return to. Actually, this little loop we did as a whole, was a great way to spend the day. It’s an itinerary that we will be certain to indulge in again some summer!
After our July trip, we knew this was a great place to bring visitors when we had them in town. We were so excited to bring the family, that we decided to try out another winter trip. Still a quick day-trip, we did some version of a Bear Lake, Nymph Lake and Dream Lake loop. After the first time doing this in the winter, it was one of the most amazing experiences we have ever had. It immediately jumped to the top of our list of all-time hikes. Arriving at Dream Lake, covered with fresh snow, you certainly felt the emotions of the overwhelming beauty surrounding you.
Steve's first National Park!
This was our first time actually hiking in the snow and we were in love. We couldn’t believe what an amazing experience this park could provide, in any season. We loved it so much, that the following November, we brought a group of friends here to experience the same thing. Unfortunately this time, the wind was unbearable once reaching Dream Lake. Although the hike was still lovely, it was hard to see any views from this ending destination.
Snow hiking ain't so bad!
So nice, we did it twice!
Such a beautiful winter paradise!
Overall, we are so thankful to live so close to such an incredible place. We love being able to share this park with our family and friends, while introducing them into our world of National Parks!