July 23, 2015
Rocky Mountain National Park
Location: Near Estes Park, about 66 miles from Denver
Fees: $20 for week per car, $40 for yearly pass, $80 for all national parks for year (fees changing Oct 1, 2015
Hours: Year Round
The Stanley Hotel
Address: 333 Wonderview Avenue, Estes Park, CO 80517
Contact Info: Toll-Free 1-800-976-1377, 970-577-4000, email@example.com
Denverites are fortunate to live about 1.5 hours away from the glorious Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park. What makes a road trip to this National Park perfect is to enjoy a little luxury at the Stanley Hotel. David and I enjoyed a few days in the area for his birthday!
I was so excited to finally stay at this iconic hotel, famous for inspiring Stephen King to write The Shining and featured in the hit film Dumb and Dumber. The hotel was built by FO Stanley (of Stanley Steamer) after he and his wife moved to Colorado for his health. The construction began in 1907 and the hotel was complete in 1909 with a hydraulic elevator, running water, and phones.
Admittedly, I was slightly disappointed with our room. It’s small size and no air conditioning didn’t bother me too much, but the mold in shower and on the curtain, the lighting on only one side of the room, and no place to place a makeup bag in the bathroom was little to be desired. Fortunately, we were not spending much time in the room, and the lobby, whisky bar with 800 choices, porch, and views certainly made up for the lacking decor in the bedroom.
We didn’t arrive to Estes Park until Monday afternoon which we spent eating lunch, savoring ice cream and strolling around town before we checked into the hotel. After checking out the grounds, we sat on the patio at Cascades Restaurant and enjoyed a nice dinner before we decided to take the ghost tour, as the Stanley is known for its hauntings, in particular room 217.
The tour took us to the pet cemetery to begin and through a variety of the wedding rooms, the music room and the haunted tunnel. We were encouraged to take pictures in black in white in order to see green orbs and other aboritions. David and I aren’t big ghost hunters, so we found the tour to be slightly hokey, though we did enjoy learning some history about FO Stanley and his hotel. Who knew he created the #2 pencil, though he made most his money changing the photography world. It was also kind of fun to go in places closed to the masses.
Tuesday we decided to tackle a 10 mile hike to Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park. We got a late start and at 9:30 am the Glacier Gorge Trailhead Parking was already full. Park and ride was available, though there was a small parking lot about half a mile down the road, so we turned our ten mile hike into eleven miles. I suppose we were probably fortunate we picked a weekday to visit, as I doubt we would have found parking at this location otherwise.
The trail to Sky Pond was absolutely spectacular. We began following the well groomed path through a small aspen grove as it ascended to Alberta Falls. I think many visitors to the park stop here. We kept going along the well marked track to Loch Vale, a large lake where many tried their luck at fishing.
Our ascent to Loch Vale was gradual as we followed the cascading creek beneath the conifers to open, windy ridge. The dark skies dropped just a few rain drops, but spared us for most of the climb up. Soon we reached another waterfall which one group call a staircase that basically required us to boulder up the wet rocks to Lake of Glass. This lake was beautiful and any tired souls wouldn’t be missing much if they stopped here instead of continuing on to Sky Pond, as the water features were similar.
We kept going. We followed a rock path through grassy terrain, stepped across a small patch of snow and enjoyed watching the countless marmots. Some ate with no fear of visitors while others scampered into their holes. With a strong wind circling around the pond, we took cover behind some rocks for lunch, but didn’t stay too long as the skies looked ominous, and we could hear rolling thunder in the distance.
Just about as soon as we descended a light drizzle fell…enough for a raincoat, but not enough to make life rough or anything. Upon reaching a lower elevation, it stopped and we continued the rest of the way down the peaceful path. I actually expected to share the trail with more people, so the few we encountered wasn’t too bad. It is always slightly entertaining to see the hodge podge of hikers in the National Parks.
We worked up an appetite for Twin Owls Steakhouse. The pecan pie was delicious, but I had hoped David’s birthday dinner would have been as good as mine. All of it was reasonable and the service was great, but I wouldn’t say it was out of this world or anything.
Wednesday found us dragging a bit. I think we had gotten enough hiking in over the last few weeks, so we spent a leisurely morning on the porch at the Stanley drinking our coffee. We opted to visit Rocky Mountain National Park again, though this time we just took a drive across Trail Ridge Road to Lake Granby. I’ve driven this road in the past. The views and the elk never disappoint!!
Our final stop before returning to Denver was at the Holzworth Historic Site. We managed to stroll the half mile down the dirt road to find old farming equipment, wash basins, and log cabins. The ranch was established in the early 1900’s and guests used to come to fish. It was lovely and a nice way to cap off a fun birthday jaunt. ETB