Our Adventure on The Estes Park Aerial Tramway

Iconic red trams go up and down Prospect Mountain over Estes Park, Colorado. According to their website, the Estes Park Aerial Tramway was built by Robert Heron who gained experience during World War II and studied tramway design in Europe. The Estes Park tramway opened to the public in 1955 and has safely carried over 3 million people! The tramway is still owned by the Heron family.

Our Trip on The Estes Park Aerial Tramway

The lines can get long for this popular attraction. The website suggests going in early morning or late afternoon. Our line wasn’t bad because we went early in the season, but according to some reviewers on Travel Advisor, getting there before the doors open is optimal. The 2017 tramway schedule is: 9 am to 6 pm from May 27th through September 4th.

lines for estes park aerial tramway

The tickets are $14 for each adult. Our kids are both under 5, so they rode free. It’s hard to guess how children will react to heights, crowded spaces and strangers. I was a little nervous but mostly excited when we boarded our tram with a few fellow visitors. The kiddos both did great. The windows were open which was nice for airflow. I held on extra tight to them and let bigger kids and adults stand closer to the windows. The ride was fast and smooth.

views from estes park tramway

At the top we enjoyed sweeping views from the platform, looking around the small souvenir shop, sipping our drinks and sharing cookies at the Tram Top Coffee Shop and hiking around the family-friendly trails a bit.

prospect mountain estes park aerial tramway

chipmunks estes park aerial tramway

The coffee shop stays open until 5 pm, but peanuts are sold until 5:30 pm. Chipmunks are friendly up on Prospect Mountain and I’ve read they may eat peanuts right from your hands. I’m sure our toddler would love that!

tram top coffee shop

hiking estes park aerial tramway

On the way back down the mountain there was a misting rain so the windows to the tram were shut. If weather gets bad the trams shut down until it clears to ensure rider safety, so make sure to pay attention to the weather forecast.

kid friendly activities Estes Park, Colorado CO

The Estes Park Tramway is located at 420 Riverside Drive in Estes Park, CO. You can learn more about the history, pricing and even wedding information at http://www.estestram.com.

Waterfalls, Wildflowers, Weather and Wine – Why I love the Rocky Mountains in July

The Best of Rocky Mountain National Park in July

We just got back from a trip to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park and I already miss it! Here are the 4 things I loved most from our July trip to the Rocky Mountains:

#1: Weather – it’s hot, hot, hot back home in Kansas City. The mountains welcomed us with sunshine, cooler breezes and the occasional refreshing rain storm.

#2: Waterfalls – in the early part of summer the snowmelt is still strong, creating impressive displays.

Alluvial Fan
Alluvial Fan
Chasm Falls
Chasm Falls off Old Fall River Road
Wild Basin Waterfall
Wild Basin Waterfall
Waterfall near Alberta Falls
Off trail waterfall near Alberta Falls

#3: Wildflowers – blooms in yellow, white, purple, blue, red and pink created colorful carpets beneath scenic mountain landscapes and surrounding our favorite lakes.

Wildflowers near Horseshoe Park
Wildflowers near Horseshoe Park
Flowers Near Lily Lake
Flowers near Lily Lake
We love wildflowers
We love Rocky Mountain wildflowers

#4: Wine – the wine at Snowy Peaks Winery in downtown Estes Park, Colorado tastes even more delicious when your toddler is happily playing in the adjacent children’s area.

Snowy Peaks Winery and tasting room in Estes Park, Colorado
Snowy Peaks Winery and tasting room in Estes Park, Colorado

Snowy Peaks Winery in Estes Park Colorado

Planning a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park? Later this week I’ll let you know about my least favorite parts of our trip and how you can avoid them.

Estes Park Summer Bucket List

My Dad always said planning a trip is sometimes more fun than the actual vacation itself. I don’t know if that’s always the case, but I love to research fun, new activities to do on our famiy’s trips to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. I never run out of options because there is so much to do in this quaint mountain town and in the nearby National Park. Here are some of the top things on our Estes Park Summer Bucket List in 2017:

Eat an ice cream cone at Hayley’s

The delicious smell of waffle cones wafts out the door as you enter our favorite ice cream shop. It’s tiny inside so we choose our favorite flavor and take it outside on a stroll down the river walk. Hayley’s is located at 102 W. Elkhorn Avenue in downtown Estes Park, Colorado.

Best Icecream in Estes Park, Colorado

Pikas in the Park

What’s cuter than a pika? nothing! I’m so excited to participate in this new scavenger hunt activity. Just download an activity guide at visitestespark.com and start looking for 12 bronze pika sculptures in downtown Estes Park.

Be a Junior Ranger

We will head to the Fall River Visitor Center to pickup the Junior Ranger packet for kids 5 and under (they have packets designed for older kids too). The visitor center is open from 9am-5pm every day during the summer. You can pick up packets at any of the park’s visitor centers. Here is a link for more information about Rocky Mountain National Park visitors centers locations and hours. You can find more information about their Junior Park Ranger program here.

Bonus: While we are at the Fall River Visitor Center, we will enjoy a delicious breakfast and spectacular views at the attached Trailhead Restaurant. After dining, we will let our toddler play at the little playground right outside to burn off some endless energy.

rocky mountain national park visitor center playground area

Go on a boat ride

We want to spend some time on the water. Last year we rented a pontoon boat for a half hour ride on Lake Estes. This short amount of time was perfect for our little one’s first boat ride. Lake Estes is beautiful, conveniently located and rentals are fairly inexpensive. The marina website has rental information listed.

Another option is to drive over Trail Ridge Road to get to Grand Lake. The drive could take an hour or two depending on traffic. The boat rentals seem to cost a little more on this side of the mountain and I haven’t found rental options for under an hour. But, it’s always fun to try something new and we could easily make this a full day trip with stops along Trail Ridge Road and visiting attractions in the town of Grand Lake, CO. Two marinas we are considering renting boats from are Trail Ridge Marina  or Grand Lake Marina.

Rent Boat at Lake Estes Marina

Enjoy a Rocky Mountain waterfall

There are many amazing waterfalls in Rocky Mountain National Park. This year Chasm Falls is on the top of my list. The falls are located right off of  Old Fall River Road, a one-way gravel road which travels all the way up to an elevation of 11,796 ft at the Alpine Visitors Center. The road is scenic and enjoyed at a leisurely pace (15 miles per hour speed limit). It’s a good idea to check park Road Status Reports before heading up.

Gaze at the stars

One of the best things about being further away from the city is being able to see stars light up the night sky. We are excited to attend a “Stories Behind the Moon & the Stars” program at the Moraine Valley Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park. The events will take place around 8:00 on Fridays June 30, July 7, August 4 and August 11 in 2017. You can learn more at angelsabove.org

Hike to a mountain lake 

It’s hard to pick a favorite mountain lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, but this year we are going to attempt a family hike to Mills Lake. The roundtrip journey is roughly six miles. We can start at the Bear Lake trailhead and pass by Alberta Falls on our way up.

Mills Lake RMNP

Watch fireworks

We are going to grab some lawn chairs and watch a spectacular fireworks show over Lake Estes on July 4th. The event begins at 9:30PM.

What are you looking forward to this summer? I’d love to hear about your bucket list!

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. 

Rocky Mountain Tot Goes to Bridal Veil Falls

Rocky Mountain National Park’s Bridal Veil Falls is located in a more remote area of the park. The land was once a cattle ranch and was converted to a destination dude ranch before the park service purchased the land in 1988.
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From the Cow Creek trail-head it is a 3.2 mile hike to Bridal Veil Falls.

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The trail meanders along the creek.

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When you get 1.2 miles into the hike you can split off to go to destinations like Balanced Rock or Gem Lake. We will keep this in mind for future hikes, but for this one we kept on our original path. IMG_4877

It definitely feels like an old John Wayne movie out in these parts!IMG_4872

Until we cross over the creek and into the woods.

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Wait, where did the trail go!?

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I’m pretty sure this is not the 20 foot waterfall we were looking for.

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But, that’s okay our little dudette was pretty tuckered out.

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We will have to try this one again. In the mean time if you are interested in hiking to the falls, I recommend reading this helpful post from Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails.com. Good luck!

Rocky Mountain Tot Goes to Cub Lake

Last week we headed to Colorado to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary, because what could be more romantic than bringing a one-and-a-half year old hiking? Well, maybe it wasn’t the most romantic trip we’ve been on, but I couldn’t think of a prettier place to celebrate than Rocky Mountain National Park.

Weather
When we plan hikes with our little one the first thing we think about is the weather conditions. The Bear Lake area currently has 40 inches of snow. We wanted to stay in lower elevation, so we decided to check out the Cub Lake trail which is in the majestic Moraine Valley. We were lucky to arrive on a sunny day, but melting snow made the trail muddy in places and we went through a few snow patches.

Gear
It’s amazing how fast Cecy is growing.  We are planning to replace her beloved baby carrier for a sturdier kid carrier soon, but for this trip we rented one at the Warming House in Estes Park for $10 per day (similar). I bought trekking poles (similar) which helped keep our balance especially in the snow, and took some of the impact off our knees and back. I was also very thankful for my waterproof hiking boots!

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The Cub Lake trail is 2.5 miles each way. The trail-head starts out in the Moraine Valley where we spotted elk grazing right off the trail.

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Feeling the Burn
Beyond the valley you enter a wooded section of the trail that is scarred by fire damage. Truthfully, the first time I hiked through this area I didn’t think it was very pretty. This time I decided to find the unique beauty in it which made a big difference on how much more I enjoyed this section of the hike.

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There were a few uphill bursts before the lake – made more challenging by snow and baby.

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We made it to Cub Lake and took a little refreshment break! Later in the season we’d likely see lily pads on top.

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After our break I offered to take turns and have Cecy ride on my back. This lasted about 25 minutes going down hill. Aren’t I nice? But honestly, I couldn’t have gone much further. It was tough work!! I’m excited to try again and build up some endurance and muscles this summer.

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I took Cecy for about 10% of the hike (downhill). 

 

New Year, New Outdoor Adventures

On New Year’s Day, my husband and I decided to try something new and rented snowshoes from the Warming House in Estes Park, CO.  The $8/day rental included personal instructions on how to properly put them on and trekking poles.

We started out at the Bierstadt Lake trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park and climbed uphill 1.3 miles to the frozen lake and back down.  The views were gorgeous the whole way!

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The snow was pretty packed in, so I don’t know if snowshoes were 100% necessary. We saw several people in them and several people with micro-spikes like these.

I’m a total novice and thought I would be very cold because the temperature was only 22 degrees.  I started with long sleeve Under Armour shirt (similar), a long sleeve t-shirt, a Northface fleece jacket (similar) , a waterproof winter jacket (similar), Under Armour cold weather leggings, athletic pants, two pairs of wool socks, a hat, gloves and waterproof hiking boots (similar).  Once we got moving, I took off several layers.

Speaking of heating up – sunglasses are essential because the snow makes the sun even brighter and for me it’s easy to forget drinking water when it’s cold, so I had to remind myself to drink up. We didn’t bring sunscreen, but I think it would be a good idea next time along with chapstick.

This past summer we went to the same beautiful lake via Bear Lake trailhead with our daughter Cecilia which I wrote about here. Since this was our first time snowshoeing, we decided to be extra cautious and get a babysitter (my amazing sister). We saw a couple on the trail with a baby, and learned snowshoeing isn’t much different than walking, so I would definitely consider taking her on future snowshoe adventures.

Even though I love hiking with our little one, I have to admit it was fun going on a snow day date with my husband!

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