Hey guys! We are hitting you with another Travel Guide. This time around, I am going to take you behind the scenes of our epic 9 day road trip around Colorado. Back in June, my husband and I had the opportunity to hit the pavement and make our way around Colorado. I wanted to take you behind the guidebook and share some tips and tricks on how to get the most out of this kind of adventure. If you are a traveler or planning to travel in the Denver vicinity, this trip is one for the books so don’t miss out.
From the minute we got off the plane, I was captivated by the beauty of the Rockies. It would be my first time traveling in Colorado and to say I was stoked was an understatement. During our trip, we hiked a glacier, tried our luck at whitewater rafting in Clear Creek, climbed the stairs at Red Rocks, saw a Rockies/Yankees game in Denver and amongst many many other things, explored the haunted history of the infamous Stanley Hotel. Below, I have highlighted our itinerary and hope you find yourself feeling that stab of wanderlust!
Day One: DENVER TO IDAHO SPRINGS
We flew into Denver out of DFW and drove to Idaho Springs. About an hour outside of Mile High, we climbed to 10,000 feet and visited my high school buddy, Matty. We could not believe the views from his front porch. After settling in and touring his cabin and teepee in the woods, we made our way to Clear Creek and white water rafted a Class 3. Though the water was 32 degrees, we had the time of our lives. We even ended up randomly being paired with fellow Yinzers. Steeler Nation! To boot, the company provided us with a CD of high quality images of our adventure. After squeezing out of our wetsuits, we headed out for dinner at Mountain Prime. After having gotten in the workout of a lifetime rafting the river, the Blackened Tenderloin Stroganoff was the spot on. 3 beers later, I was pooped. The elevation really does get to ya. I was out like a light the minute we got back to Matty’s.
Day Two: IDAHO SPRINGS & MORRISON
We woke up and headed to St Mary’s Glacier. It was an easy hike to the most picturesque place. There was a family snowboarding the glacier…in JUNE. I was so glad that I brought my camera along to capture the view. Though I heave hoed my way up, it was totally worth it. This 1.5 mile hike only takes about 2 hours round trip. Next activity on the list, get ready for Red Rocks. We were going to the see the Lumineers in Morrison. This venue is an experience everyone should have. I laughed until I cried and the cheesecake was amazing until we had to hike up the hill. Again, this elevation got the best of me. Red Rocks was immensely beautiful and the acoustics that resignated from this group was out of this world! At one point, the Lumineers made their way into the crowd to perform “Skies are Blue” and they were only about 10 rows in front of us! It was an amazing night.
Day Three: LEADVILLE, TURQUOISE LAKE, & BRECKENRIDGE
Wake up and jump in the car. We headed to Leadville, the highest incorporated town in America. We took a 2 hour train ride up the mountain. At 12mph, the ride was so relaxing. The sun shining down on us and the slow ride made for the best afternoon. After the train ride, we made our way to Turquoise Lake to snap a few photos and then headed to Breckenridge. We met with my cousin, Scotty and his family for dinner at Fatty’s Pizzeria. We had a few drinks and headed back to the condo that my cousin had put us up in for the next couple nights.
Day Four: BRECKENRIDGE
We woke up early and headed to the Summit to fly fish. My cousin, Scotty is a legit flyfishing guide. You can book your tour with him here. We only ended up catching 5 fish all day, though he probably caught 2o. We started in a stream to learn the basics and headed to a gully at the top of a mountain for lunch. The views we’re just out of this world. On our way back to town, we stopped at one more place, South Park, so we could have our picture taken as Kenny and Cartman. After fishing, we headed out for dinner. This was our one luxury during our entire trip. We went all out to thank my cousin for such an incredible time in Breck. The Blue River Bistro was out of this world. I had the Ruby Red Trout, a pecan encrusted filet of fish carmelized in an onion vodka buerre blanc and served with gruyere risotto. I dream about this meal sometime. The drinks were perfect and it was so nice to catch up with my cousin over a great meal.
Day Five: GRAND LAKE, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK & ESTES PARK
We woke up and headed to Grand Lake. Our plan, put on lots of sunscreen and then rent some kayaks at Mountain Paddlers. This quaint and more importantly, adorable town is settled near an entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park so we knew it would be a perfect place to stop and soak it all in. We made our way out on the lake but within 20 minutes, it started to thunderstorm. Though Russell’s first time kayaking was a bumpy ride, we both had a blast!
After stopping for ice cream, we entered Rocky Mountain National Park. In a million years, I couldn’t have imagined the sites I saw on that 2 hour trip over Trail Ridge Road. I even managed to snap a few photos of a guy proposing on top of the mountain. That’s up on the Blog next! We were happy to find out that the access to Trail Ridge Road had literally started that week. During the winter, the path is impassable but lucky for us, we made our way through all 4 seasons as we climbed the 14,000 feet. We saw hundreds of elk, moose and deer and the flowers were endless and unimaginable. RMNP will forever have a place in my heart. After touring the park, we headed to our hotel, the Castle Mountain Lodge in Estes Park. We jumped in the shower and headed out for beers at Estes Park Brewery and had dinner at Smokin Dave’s BBQ. There, we had the Not-So-Teeny-Wahine which included ribs, chicken, brisket, pulled pork, 4 sides and cornbread. We got our doggie bags and they rolled us to the car. We ended the night watching the sunset over the rocky mountains.
Day Six: THE STANLEY HOTEL, ESTES PARK & MARY’S LAKE LODGE
The next morning, we headed to the infamous Stanley Hotel. For those of you who don’t know, Stephen King’s novel, The Shining, is rooted in the haunting stories of this historic place. We had the great pleasure of touring the hotel with Scary Mary. We highly recommend booking with her. Book your tour at the Stanley Hotel by heading to this link. She has done her homework and knows all about the Stanley & the hotel’s haunted misgivings. Fun fact: the Stanley family made millions being the fore running photographer in the new century. The tour was fun and creepy and it’s a must for those of you with any interest in Colorado’s history.
After our tour, we booked a 4×4 Jeep Tour into RMNSP with Green Jeep Tours. It was bumpy but oh so beautiful. I even found a place to move to, should we decide. We also passed the most beautiful church on our ride, San Malos Catholic Church. That evening, we headed to the Stanley’s sister hotel, Mary’s Lake Lodge and had dinner in their signature restaurant. I had the Mountain Man Meatloaf, a bacon wrapped wild boar, elk, venison, antelope and bison meatloaf served with mashed potatoes swimming in a wild mushroom bordelaise. Add a few glasses of the hotel’s signature malbec and a Penguin Stanley Cup Championship, we were golden. I ended the night watching Game of Thrones from our clawfoot tub!
Seven: RED FEATHER LAKES
We woke up and traveled to Red Feather Lakes to meet Scooter, my husband’s buddy from PA. He put us up at the the Beaver Meadows Resort Ranch. We stayed in a cabin overlooking the valley and a stream leading into a lake. It was amazing and so quiet. We literally sat around the fire and ate all night. It was awesome. There were horses nearby and as the sun set over the mountains, we made smores and brats over the campfire.
Day Eight: DENVER
We started our trek back into Denver through the Poudre Canyon and met with my good buddy, Dave. That night, we headed to the Rockies/Yankees game. Russ managed to snag us some impossible seats and we managed to watch the sunset over the mountains. What a stadium and what a game, it was a perfect night to catch up with my buddy and have a few beers at the ballpark! After the game, we headed out for a bite to eat at Machete Tequila + Taco. At $4 a pop, these bad boys are worth the walk. I had the Langosta and the Arrachera con Chile Relleno, both = bomb.
Day Nine: HEADED HOME
Up and attem for the Voodoo Doughnuts I had heard so much about. OMGEEEE, these were so delicious. We grabbed the Memphis Mafia doughnut and the Rapper’s Delight Collection of the Dirty Old Bastard, Marshall Mathers and the Maple Blazer Blunt Doughnuts. At a whoping $4.20, our breakfast satisfied without breaking the bank. We had just enough time to head downtown and check out a mall. As a tradition, we snagged a photo album to put all our adventures in. And then, we then jumped on the plane and cried ourselves to sleep. Seriously, best vacation evvva!!
If you have questions about our trip or how we planned, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be so happy to help you put together your next big adventure. Keep wandering!