WHERE TO STAY:
THE STANLEY HOTEL (333 E Wonderview Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517) – We chose to stay at this hotel solely because it inspired Stephen King to write The Shining (neat fact: there is a channel that plays “The Shining” 24 hours a day). This hotel is absolutely gorgeous with amazing views off the front porch. Tips: this hotel does not have AC, so keep that in mind depending on when you travel. We left the windows open all night and it was very comfortable. Also, make sure you leave yourself time to wander around the hotel and the property. We didn’t do the ghost tour and really wish that we had! Be sure to check out the hotel bar, it is beautiful. However, we found the foot to be really expensive, so we just enjoyed drinks at the bar.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK ($20/vehicle – good for one week): Tip: Go early in the morning to find a good parking spot. We parked at a centrally located parking lot and then took the free shuttle everywhere. Just be aware that sometimes the shuttle will be full and you will sit at a shuttle stop while multiple full shuttles pass you by. On our second day, we decided to chance it and actually found parking at each spot!
SPRAGUE LAKE (0.9 miles roundtrip, easy) – Trailhead is located on Bear Lake Road. This loop around the lake is very flat and easy and the entire loop has great views of the lake. Tip: there is a parking lot right by this trail that also has bathrooms.
ALBERTA FALLS (1.7 miles roundtrip, moderate) – Begin at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, located on Bear Lake Road. We stopped at Alberta Falls, however, you can continue on this trail to MILLS LAKE or THE LOCH.
NYMPH LAKE (BEAR LAKE TRAIL) (1 mile roundtrip, moderate) – the hike begins at Bear Lake Trailhead, located at the end of Bear Lake Road. The parking lot near here was incredibly crowded, but we were lucky enough to find one of the last spots. After Nymph Lake, you can continue on to DREAM LAKE.
DREAM LAKE (BEAR LAKE TRAIL, PAST NYMPH LAKE) (2.2 miles roundtrip, moderate). After Dream Lake, you can continue on to EMERALD LAKE.
EMERALD LAKE (BEAR LAKE TRAIL, PAST NYMPH LAKE AND DREAM LAKE) (3.5 miles roundtrip, moderate). Pictures of this lake don’t do it justice – this is a MUST see! We packed a picnic lunch and ate on the rocks near the lake. Be careful or squirrels will come grab your food! Tip: On your way to Emerald Lake, be sure to stop along the trails and enjoy the views of the forrest.
TRAIL RIDGE ROAD (SCENIC DRIVE) – this 50 mile drive through Rocky Mountain National Park connects Estes Park to Grand Lake. Tip: this road is closed during parts of the winter time so check the schedule before you go. This drive was absolutely gorgeous – there were numerous points where you could pull over and park and either go on a hike or just enjoy the view. We had spent a full day hiking RMNP so at this point we were pretty tired. The road is one lane each direction and there was construction going on during our trip – so keep in mind that this drive could take a VERY long time. The road is windy so take a dramamine if you get car sick easily. Be on the lookout for wildlife along the sides of the road. Tip: If you see a bunch of cars pulled over – pull over! This is how we were able to see so much wild life that we would have missed had other people not been pulled over.