We decided we would take a return trip to Estes Park in October of 2020. We had previously visited the area in the fall of 2018, and loved our experience. The town is your typical Colorado mountain town. Quaint, lots of local shops, and restaurants to explore and eat at. The most surprising thing about Estes is the wildlife that is easily spotted throughout town. There are elk aplenty in town. The visitor center is usually a great place to spot some elk. It is located right off the Big Thompson River, across from a golf course, perfect for lounging elk during the rut. You can easily spend a day or two exploring the shops downtown, taking a tour of the historic Stanley Hotel, and viewing the elk around town.
I am hopelessly addicted to a good cup of coffee, and Estes has a few places to choose from. Our favorite by far was Coffee on the Rocks. It offers great coffee, breakfast burritos, and pastries. Coffee on the Rocks sits beside a pond with picnic tables set up around it, making it easy to social distance during the pandemic. Inside you can purchase a cup of food to feed the ducks that inhabit the pond outside. A great activity for kids (or your wife lol) while you enjoy your coffee drink of choice. Coffee on the Rocks is a must stop on a beautiful morning in Estes. Another stand out is Antonios Real New York Pizza. Antonios is perfect meal to grab after a long day of hiking, or shopping downtown. Antonios is right up there with Bleeker street pizza (the best New York style pizza in my opinion). There a couple of barbecue restaurants in Estes, we chose to try Smokin’ Daves BBQ and Brew. Due to the pandemic we ordered it to go and took it back to our hotel room. It definitely scratched my itch for barbecue. Nothing we ordered that night was spectacular, but everything was good, and well packaged for the short trip back to the hotel. would eat there again if we make a return trip. Barbecue is everywhere, even in the high elevations of the Rocky Mountains.
Estes Park is also home Rocky Mountain National Park. one of the largest national parks in the United States. It spans 265,769 acres, and 358 square miles. The mountain views are amazing. Everywhere you look there is another picturesque mountain view. This trip was a bit different from our previous journey to RMNP. The largest wildfire in Colorado history was threatening the park, and Estes. The smoke was visible in the air most days, and a light coat of ash covered the Jeep in the mornings. A Jeep is always our adventure vehicle of choice. When we traveled over trail ridge road to the other side of the park flames were visible in the distance. Trail ridge road is a must in my opinion. Keep your hands on the wheel, pay attention, and it is just a road like all the others. I had planned on taking all Fall River road up to the alpine visitors center this trip, but it was closed due to the wildfires. I guess that means a third trip will be in order.
Hiking in RMNP can be as strenuous or as leisurely as you choose. A quick easy hike around Bear lake, or Sprague lake. Or a longer hikes up to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald lakes. We learned from our first trip that if you want parking at Bear lake you have to get there early, and that is what we did. We arrived at Bear lake parking before the sun was up. This trip we decided we were going to hike up to Dream lake. We stopped briefly at Nymph lake to take a couple of pictures, and enjoy the scenery for a bit and then continued on to Dream. The extra bit of hiking is worth it to get to see the beautiful scenery surrounding Dream lake. We didn’t pack any supplies so that was as far as we were going that day. Take your time on the way back, you don’t have anywhere to be you are vacation. Enjoy the scenery, take some pictures, stop and spend more time at Nymph. Enjoy the quietness of the mountains, and listen for bears.
The wildfires, and some road construction going on in the park seemed to have the wildlife routines a bit off, but we were able to make the most of it. It is pretty easy to spot elk in the park, they are everywhere. It is very common during this time of year (October) to park at Sheep Lake at dusk and watch the elk heard come into the valley. The bugling from the bull elk can be heard from far off. It is quite the spectacle watching the interactions of the bull elk during the rut. Bring a pair of binoculars, a chair, and good coat and you can sit there until sunset experiencing nature at its best. Rocky Mountain National Park is a spectacular place to visit.
The Traveling BBQer
Great picture of the lake and the mountains. Thanks for sharing.
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