A Respectful Return to Estes Park, Colorado

Memorial Day 2018

There is good news coming from Colorful Colorado this week. Rocky Mountain National Park is scheduling a phased reopening starting on May 27th. We are thrilled to start planning a trip to visit the national park and stay in our cabin in Estes Park.

One of the reasons we are eager to visit soon is to check on our cabin and make sure it’s in great shape for renters this summer. We have a few minor things to fix. Most of our vacation will be spent at our cabin. I’m looking forward to sipping coffee on our back deck and reading books by the fireplace.

We also want to do our part to support local business owners who have been hit hard by the shut down. We plan to order carry out from some of our favorite restaurants, and I’m eager to try out a few new (to us) restaurants as well. Bird & Jim is on the top of my list. We also know that Estes Park will feel different. Face coverings are required for everyone over 2-years-old in downtown Estes Park through June 10 and the number of shoppers allowed in stores will be limited.

We are eager to return to the mountains

Within National Parks is room – glorious room – room in which to find ourselves, in which to think and hope, to dream and plan, to rest and resolve.

Enos Mills, ‘Father of Rocky Mountain National Park’

Of course the biggest draw is hiking in the mountains. We are closely watching what type of permits/registration we need to gain access to Rocky Mountain National Park. We know that RMNP operations will not be running like normal. Shuttles will be limited on the number of passengers that can ride. Camping is limited. Daily visitors to the park will be capped. Here is an article from Estes Park News with more details.

Along with reading all of the official news and guidelines, we’ve been trying to get a sense for how local full-time residents of Estes Park are feeling about the openings. Like everywhere, there are a lot of mixed opinions on the best ways to safely move forward. Besides our own health and safety, my biggest concern is to be respectful to everyone in town and in the national park.

congatulations to our favorite estes park photographer!

We recently put up our tent in our living room for an in-door camp out. Our daughters loved sleeping in the tent and they even had amazing mountain views thanks to our favorite landscape photographer, Erik Stensland.

Stensland recently won a Benjamin Franklin Award from the Independent Book Publishers Association for his essential hiking guide for Rocky Mountain National Park. We love his guide and his art. You can read more about the prestigious award on his site.

Indoor camping with Images of RMNP views

on my mind:road trip Essentials

A while back, I wrote a post about How to Survive a Long Family Road Trip. As we start travel again this summer, I’m interested to see how our old tips and tricks hold up. I know I’ll be very focused on sanitation during restroom breaks and we will generally avoid going into restaurants, hotels, and visitor centers (at least for now).

Thanks for following along our adventures!


Tanyard Creek and Waterfall in Bella Vista, Arkansas

I hope everyone enjoyed their Mother’s Day weekend! My family took a lovely hike in Bella Vista, Arkansas at the Tanyard Creek Natural Trail. This was a return visit for me and my youngest daughter. We hiked it together last year in early April. I was excited to bring my husband and our oldest daughter along with us. Wow! the waterfall was way more impressive this time around.

Highlights of this hike include a waterfall, creek, shelter bluffs, and a very cool suspension bridge.

Tanyard Creek waterfall
Tanyard Creek waterfall
Windsor Lake Dam in Bella Vista, Arkansas
Tanyard Creek
Shelter bluffs
Suspension bridge

There were signs up reminding hikers to follow the CDC 6-foot-rule and other safety social distancing practices. The trails were pretty busy, but I think people were trying their best to keep a safe distance. We found that the further from the waterfall we hiked, the easier it was to hike on our own. The park restrooms were closed.

If you are curious about the differences between our hike in early April compared to May, check out our previous post.

how is the pandemic changing your Summer travel plans?

Does anyone else feel like we are in a bit of a stand-still? We remain hopeful that we can get out to our cabin in Estes Park, Colorado at the end of May, but it is feeling less and less likely. I wrote about past Memorial Days we’ve spent in Rocky Mountain National Park here.

Some travel experts believe once travel resumes in the United States, people are going to be looking for wilderness adventures in more remote locations that allow for natural social distancing. Others might choose destinations that are closer to home. (Forbes article).

on my mind: Summer Hats

After a recent virtual visit with my dermatologist, summer sun protection is on my mind. I received a sun hat for my birthday which will be getting a lot of use this summer. I also have a Colorado baseball cap that I can wear hiking. I’m on the lookout for more hats that are functional and cute!

Lanzom Women Wide Brim Straw Panama Roll up Hat Fedora Beach Sun Hat UPF50+

For my girls, I want to find sun protective hats like this one from RuffleButts. We recently bought them SPF swimsuits from this brand and they are adorable! (rash guard one piece).

*this post contains affiliate links

Thanks for following along our adventures!

Puppy Picks – Products We Like for Our New Puppy

SKy’s Favorite things:

Raised dog bowls with mat under to catch spills

Strong dog leash. Our six month old pup has chewed her way through two leashes already, so for our third leash I wanted to get something stronger. I ordered a leash from BAAPET. I like the padded handle, even though she chewed some of it off already. I also like how thick the cord is. She doesn’t seem to want to chew on that as much. Fingers crossed this lasts. I have a good feeling about it!

ChuckIt! balls – We’ve also gone through our share of tennis balls. The ChuckIt balls seem to have a little more durability for our active puppy. We also ordered a launcher to help us throw the balls even further, but it hasn’t arrived yet in the mail. In the mean time, these balls have provided tons of fun with just good old fashion throwing.

Nylabone – This is a bacon flavored chew toy that looks like a little pig. It is supposed to help clean teeth. Sky doesn’t seem overly interested in it, but it has lasted several months.

Poop Scooper – I never thought I’d spend money on a poop scooper, but I have to say this scooper from Arm & Hammer makes the dirty chore a lot easier. I totally recommend getting one!

Raised Pet Bowl and silicone mat to protect our hardwood floors from water spills. At the time of purchase, I felt that a cute raised pet bowl was a bit of a splurge, but I’ve been very happy because we haven’t accidentally kicked over the bowls or stepped in the water (I’m not sure if I’m just clumsy, or if other people have this issue?). I’m really happy with this purchase.

Slicker brush – My dog runs away from me the moment I start walking towards her with this brush. I have a feeling that her behavior has nothing to do with the brush itself. The product is rated well on Amazon. I like that it is self cleaning. I’m going to keep trying before I make my final decision on this one.

Plush toy – This cute lady bug plush toy lasted much longer than I expected it to. I’m not a huge fan of the squeaky noise it makes, but our puppy sure is. The manufacturer is ZippyPaws and they have adorable dog toys. I’m wondering how Sky would like a hide and seek toy like this squirrel one.

8 Must-See Attractions in Rocky Mountain National Park

May 3 – 9, 2020 is National Travel and Tourism week. Given our current travel restrictions in the United States, the U.S. Travel Association decided on the theme of ‘the Spirit of Travel cannot be broken.’

Since I heard the theme, I’ve been contemplating what the ‘spirit of travel’ means to me. I ran across this quote from novelist Anita Desai.

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”

Anita Desai

That’s it. I feel that a part of me is missing right now. The part of me that likes to travel, explore, find adventure, and plan trips. In a world where I can’t go to the grocery store without a face mask on, it seems silly to miss travel as much as I do. But, I do!

Must-See Attractions in Rocky Mountain National Park

It’s comforting to think the places you love become a part of who you are. In honor of travel week, I put together a list of must-see attractions in Rocky Mountain National Park.

This list includes the places I feel best represent the diverse landscapes of Rocky Mountain National Park. I chose spots that are accessible to most travelers (you don’t have to walk 10 miles to see them). Together, they showcase the dynamic spirit of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a popular destination in Rocky Mountain National Park. The lake sits at 9,475 ft in elevation. Behind the lake, you can see an open view of Hallett Peak. Our kids love walking the half mile loop around Bear Lake. Starting from the Bear Lake trail head, hikers can access destinations like Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, and Hallett Peak.

Bear Lake

Alberta Falls

You can hike to Alberta Falls from Bear Lake, but the shortest route starts from the Glacier Gorge trail head. The hike to the waterfall is less than a mile. After enjoying the magnificent waterfall, you can continue on to Mills Lake, The Loch, or even Sky Pond.

Alberta Falls

Moraine Park

Moraine Park is one of our favorite places in RMNP to spot herds of elk. The Big Thompson River winds through the valley. Compared to other areas of the park, Moraine Valley is lower in elevation, so we typically choose hikes in this area when we are acclimating to high altitude. I recommend a hike to The Pool which leaves from the Fern Lake trail head or a hike to Cub Lake which starts at the Cub Lake trail head.

Hike to Cub Lake in RMNP
Moraine Park

Gem Lake Trail

The Gem Lake trail begins at the Lumpy Ridge trail head. This area has unique rock formations that attract skilled rock climbers. This trail offers views of the Estes Valley and Rocky Mountains that are stunning. Another hike we enjoy in the Lumpy Ridge area is the Black Canyon trail.

Views from Gem Lake trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

Wild Basin

The Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park feels a bit more rugged. You will find towering trees, vibrant wildflowers, and waterfalls. From the Wild Basin trail head, you can hike to Copeland Falls, Calypso Cascades, and Ouzel Falls.

Calypso Cascades

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road is a scenic highway that connects Estes Park, Colorado to Grand Lake, Colorado. Along the way, there are several places to pull off to take in the sweeping views of the tundra. On this road trip, you will reach over 12,000 ft in elevation! The Alpine Visitor Center is a great place to stop for a restroom break, snack, souvenir shopping, and to learn more about the unique landscape.

Ute Trail – from Trail Ridge Road

Adams Falls

Adams Falls is located on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park near the town of Grand Lake, Colorado. The hike to Adams Falls is only .3 miles each way. There is a viewing deck for visitors to see the falls from. From this spot, you can continue on to beautiful destinations like the East Meadow.

Adams Falls

Longs Peak Viewpoint

Take a drive down Highway 7, and you will come to a vantage point of Longs Peak that is worth stopping to appreciate. At 14,259 feet in elevation, Longs Peak is the highest summit in Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Learn more about Travel and Tourism week here.

Learn more about the destinations mentioned in this article

Bear Lake: Bear Lake, Dream Lake, Hallett Peak

Alberta Falls: Alberta Falls, Mills Lake, Sky Pond

Moraine Park: Moraine Park, Cub Lake, The Pool, Fern Falls

Gem Lake: Gem Lake, Black Canyon Trail

Wild Basin: Copeland Falls, Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls, Finch Lake TH

Trail Ridge Road: Alpine Ridge Trail, Ute Trail

Adams Falls: Adams Falls and East Meadow, (video)

Longs Peak: The Keyhole

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the places I am missing most. It is a part of me. Ocean views, mountain town, bustling city, desert landscape… what destination are you missing most? I hope you share in the comments.