10 Questions to Ask Before Booking Lodging in Estes Park, Colorado

Rustic mountain cabins, condos with sweeping mountain views, historic lodges, river-walk lofts – there are a wide-variety of options for your stay in Estes Park, Colorado. Beyond price, availability and customer reviews, here are additional questions to consider before booking your family’s Rocky Mountain vacation:

  1. Where is the cabin located in relation to attractions we are most interested in? Anticipate traffic during prime summer months. It’s worth considering if you prefer lodging close to downtown Estes Park, close to a Rocky Mountain National Park entrance, or in a more remote spot away from congestion.
  2. Where are we going to eat our meals? There are a lot of restaurants in town, but you’ll save money and time if you can make some of your own meals. Many vacation rentals come with grills, ovens, refrigerators and all the plates and utensils you need. There is a Safeway grocery store in Estes Park. Get a saver card at customer service to save extra money in-store and at the nearby Safeway gas station.
  3. Is there a good way to bathe our little ones? We bought our condo when our daughter was a baby without thinking about the challenges of bath time without a bath tub. Now she’s learning to use the shower which is great because she’s getting too big for baths in our kitchen sink.
  4. Will we have a way to wash dirty laundry? Not everyone wants to spend vacations doing laundry, but my girls go through several outfits a day. Having laundry in the condo or cabin you rent can be really helpful to cut down on the amount of luggage you transport.
  5. Are cribs available? Many hotels have cribs or pack n’ plays available. Call ahead to reserve them. If they don’t have cribs available, make sure the room is big enough to set up your portable crib.
  6. Could there be noise issues caused by traffic, event venues, etc. that could disrupt sleep? If you are concerned about noise, consider bringing along a small noise machine.
  7. Is there enough room and privacy for everyone? For us this comes up more when extended family or friends are sharing a space. If the condo says it sleeps 5, is one or more of those beds a pull-out couch located in a gathering space, a bunk bed, or in a loft?
  8. Does the facility have enough parking? And, is there a shuttle stop nearby? Estes Park has a free shuttle service that runs during peak times of the year. Different routes stop at various lodging, restaurants, shopping and information centers in town. You can learn more by visiting the Town of Estes Park, Colorado website.
  9. Does the hotel have the amenities we are looking for such as a pool, hot tub, mountain views, fireplace, free wireless connection, air conditioning, etc.? A good site to check out for lodging in Estes Park, Colorado is visitestespark.com. You can search with their map feature and filter by amenities.
  10. Are there any child safety concerns like high balconies, proximity to river/water, smoke-free rooms, steep staircases, open lofts, etc.? If you have any concerns, it’s always good to think ahead so you have a game-plan on how to child-proof the place you are staying the best you can.

    We have special memories from all of the places we’ve stayed in Estes Park, from sharing a bottle of wine on the patio after a long days hike as newly weds to worrying about how best to store milk for our baby as new parents. Here are a few pictures from places we’ve stayed along our way.
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1 Day Itenerary in Rocky Mountain National Park

It’s no secret that I love Rocky Mountain National Park. There is so much to do and see that it’s really hard to narrow down the highlights to a one-day itinerary, but if you just have one day to spend here’s my suggestions:

Start early and get fueled up on good food and good coffee. My favorite sit-down breakfast is Notchtop Bakery & Cafe. You can stare out the windows at the Rockies while you eat. They have a fun kids menu – Cecy likes their pancakes! They are located at 459 E Wonderview Ave in Estes Park, CO and are open from 7am – 3pm. We also love Kind Coffee which opens even earlier (6:30am – 7pm). The coffee shop is located at 470 E Elkhorn Ave which is right on the river walk. I enjoy their oatmeal, breakfast burritos and of course coffee!

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If you are feeling acclimated to the elevation, head up to Bear Lake. Take a nice stroll around the lake and capture a Christmas card worthy family picture with Hallett Peak behind you. From there you can hike to Alberta Falls for some more great family photo ops. Hike on to beautiful Mills Lake or The Loch if you want more of a challenge.

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Lunch time! Call ahead and order a sandwich to-go from Scratch – Deli & Bakery which is located at 911 Moraine Ave.  Their deli is small but the Turkey-Bacon-Avocado sandwich is huge and amazing. It’s great for a picnic on Lake Estes where kids can enjoy the fun playground next to the marina.

Lake Estes Marina offers afternoon activities like renting pontoon boats or pedal carts. They are typically open May through October, but we’ve learned it’s good to call ahead to verify.

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From there you can walk through downtown Estes Park along the river walk and enjoy local shopping and a treat. I’m a huge fan of ice cream and we love Hailey’s located at 102 W Elkhorn Ave.

celebrating Estes Cone with ice cream cone

Early evening is a great time to spot wildlife. Take a drive through Rocky Mountain National Park and make sure to search for elk in the Moraine Valley and near Horseshoe Park/Sheep Lakes.

For dinner go to Poppy’s Pizza & Grill and sit outside by the river. They are located at 342 East Elkhorn Avenue. They have good pizza and an impressive drink selection which includes locally brewed beer.

I hope this sample itinerary is a helpful starting point. Once you spend a day in beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park, I’m sure you’ll be planning your next trip back soon. 

Lily Lake Loop on a Snowy Spring Morning

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Last week we took a last-minute family road trip to Estes Park, Colorado with our two-year-old, Cecy and our two-month-old, Evy. On the second day of our trip we woke up to snow and decided to go to Lily Lake, which is one of our favorite places in Rocky Mountain National Park. We love it so much that we named Evy – Evelyn Lily after the lake and nearby Lily Mountain. Hopefully when she grows up she thinks that’s cool and not completly corny!?

We pulled on the layers and (mostly) enjoyed the big, white, fluffy flakes. Cecy rode in the sled for part of the .8 mile hike.

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And on her Daddy’s shoulders for the rest.

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While little Evy enjoyed cuddling all warm next to me in our Ergo carrier. You can see the snow was really accumulating quickly on my hat! IMG_7583

We were the only (crazy) ones on the trail and it felt pretty magical.

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We spotted a few ducks swimming in the cold.

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Based on the weather forecast we were surprised when we ended our hike that it was still snowing and that it had snowed so much.  The roads were pretty slippery on the drive back to our condo.

Lesson learned!! Next time we’ll check cotrip.org. They have a camera setup right by Lily Lake to show road conditions.

According to the Spring 2017 edition of RMNP newspaper, Spring is the snowiest season in Rocky Mounation National Park. ‘On average, some of the biggest snowstorms of the year happen in March, April, and even May. Be prepared.’

Besides checking road conditions, you can also check trail conditions at go.nps.gov/RockyTrailConditions.

 

 

The Pool: Evy’s First Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

This was a great first hike for our little Evy. She slept the whole way – snuggled in warm against her mamma.

Last week we made a crazy, last-minute decision to take a trip to Colorado with our toddler and newborn. They did  great on the long drive to Estes Park which makes me optimistic about future trips as a family of 4.

We decided to hike to The Pool which is one of our family’s favorite 2-4 mile hikes. The lower elevation was great for me because I haven’t done a whole lot of exercise since Evy was born in January and also great for my husband who had to carry our growing toddler. We started our hike at Fern Lake trail head in the Moraine Valley.

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We walked through a few patches of snow and some areas that were a little wet and muddy from melt, but overall the trail was in good walking condition.

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We spotted this waterfall which seemed to be the culprit for some of the sogginess.

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1.2 miles into our hike we arrived at the always-impressive Arch Rocks.

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Eventually our two-year-old Cecy negotiated with her dad to get out of the carrier. She was carried over jagged rocks that we were afraid she might slip on.

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She walked a good distance too! She got tripped up on a rock, but made a quick recovery.

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We stopped for a snack which made everyone happy.

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1.7 miles into our journey along the Big Thompson River we made it to The Pool.

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If you cross over the bridge, the trail will continue on to Fern Falls and Fern Lake.

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This was a great first hike for our little Evy. She slept the whole way –  snuggled in warm against her mamma.

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We love our girls and can’t wait to take them on more adventures in RMNP!