09 July 2018
Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) welcomes millions of visitors each year and is one of the most popular national parks in the country. With high-mountain lakes, waterfalls and streams, peaks more than 4,200 metres above sea level, thick evergreen forests and acres teeming with wildlife (elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, moose and more), this park conjures up what most people imagine when they think of the Rockies.
Fly into Denver International Airport (DEN), which offers connecting flights from Australia. Once you’ve collected your baggage, make your way to the car rental area at Denver Airport and pick up your rental car from Alamo Rent-A-Car! Any trip to Colorado wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Denver- the state’s capital- where a thriving metropolitan city meets the great outdoors. Music lovers will want to tick Red Rocks Amphitheatre off their bucket list, while beer lovers will be keen to follow the Denver Beer Trail. Denver is also a great starting point to head out to each of Colorado’s four national parks – the closest being Rocky Mountain National Park, less than two hours away.
The park’s eastern entrance is the town of Estes Park, known as the base camp for RMNP. Take a drive on Trail Ridge Road, RMNP’s “highway to the sky”, the highest paved through-road in North America. Enjoy the exhilarating drive as you cross the Continental Divide. There are loads of breathtaking photo ops as you drive over mountain ridges, past the subalpine forests and windswept tundra into the clouds.
For those looking to stretch their legs, enjoy a family wildflower hike to Gem Lake or Bridal Veil Falls. For more of a challenge, Mills Lake trek will reward you with grand views of the 14,259 foot tall Longs Peak and the Keyboard of the Winds, a whimsical rock formation named for its shape. Pull over at Moraine Park for prime wildlife watching. Here, you’ll spot more than 800 bighorn sheep and 3,000 elk that live in the U-shaped valley.
There are numerous outdoor activities year round in Estes Park including camping, hiking, cycling, fly fishing, rock climbing and water sports. The park has a reputation for unique wilderness activities for both the novice and pro. You’ll find the local experts, the right gear and guided excursions for the ultimate adventure.
Estes Park is the gateway into the national park, but it’s also a destination unto itself. Try one of the craft beers, mead, ciders or high-end spirits and wines at The Barrel, a craft beer garden and beer hall. Wander along Elkhorn and Moraine Avenues, home to more than 200 retailers, restaurants and attractions and don’t be surprised if you see an elk or two casually strolling around.
Riverwalk, located only one block from Elkhorn Avenue, is a great way to spend a few hours. Explore George Hix Riverside Plaza, let the kids run wild at the playground, admire the many sculptures scattered throughout, walk around the lake or simply sit and people watch with a coffee in hand. Visit one of the many distilleries, brewing companies or tasting rooms. If spirits are your preference, then stop by the Breckenridge Tasting Room at Dancing Pines Distillery; or for those beer lovers, check out one of 18 handcrafted microbrews at Big Beaver Brewery; or perhaps a glass of wine made from Colorado-grown grapes at Snowy Peaks Winery.
Or, hop a ride on the Aerial Tramway, which takes guests 1,100 feet up to the summit of Prospect Mountain. A late afternoon visit is recommended and will allow you to experience the breathtaking view with less crowds and calmer weather. Don’t forget your camera!
End your day with dinner at the 105-year old, Stanley Hotel, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Stanley Hotel offers not only a variety of accommodation and dining choices, but three guided tours, on which you can learn about Stephen King’s stay (his visit here inspired ‘The Shining’), the hotels history and you may even have an encounter of the paranormal kind. Select from one of the 1,200 varieties of whiskey and scotch at The Whiskey Bar & Lounge at Cascades Restaurant to complement your dinner- the largest selection in Colorado.
Alternatively, experience a taste of the West at the family friendly Lazy B Chuckwagon & Supper Show, a family owned business with three generations who are helping to revive this summertime tradition. Guests will enjoy a cowboy-style chuckwagon dinner, including tasty treats like beef brisket, pulled pork, baked potato and more. The Lazy B Wranglers will round out your evening by entertaining you with live humour and side-splitting comedy.