Introverts Guide to Estes Park, Colorado

I’ve been on a search for a better vacation destination for our family than Estes Park, Colorado. Guess what!? I haven’t discovered one yet. The reason why is because Estes Park combines the beauty of the natural world with a lot of family-friendly entertainment options.

I found a fun article, The Vacation You Should Take, Based on Your Introverted Myers-Briggs Type. I believe there is something in Estes Park for every personality type or mood that you are in. Here are some ideas for my fellow introverts:

The article says that ‘INTJ: Go on a reading retreat at a secluded cabin’. If this is you, Estes Park is perfect because there are a lot of cabins like ours to rent in Estes Park. One of my favorite things to do on vacation is sit by our fireplace and get lost in a good book. I stock up on books when I’m in town at Macdonald Bookshop and Cliffhanger Used Books. Check out my Book Lovers Guide to Estes Park.

For the personality type INTP, the article suggests you ‘Attend your favorite convention, like Comic-Con.’ I used to work at a convention center, so I know there is a convention for every hobby. Some of the hobby conventions held in Estes Park include the Craft Spirits Festival, Bigfoot Days, and Wool Market which are held at Estes Park Events Complex. There is also a large Scottish-Irish Highlands Festival at the Estes Park Fairgrounds.

INFP types should ‘Connect with nature, like going on a quiet forest retreat’. Estes Park is located next to Rocky Mountain National Park. There are countless opportunities to connect with nature in the park. However, because this is such a popular tourist destination, you’ll benefit from venturing to the park during off-peak seasons such as winter and spring. If you go during summer months, avoid holiday weekends, get up early, and go hiking further than most fellow hikers (over 3 miles). One of my favorite spots to connect with nature is the Calypso Cascades in the Wild Basin.

The article says ISFP types should ‘Take a trip to the beach’. Based on the articles description (‘love spending time with a few favorite friends and hobbies’ + ‘often like to be creative and to explore new places’), this is the personality type I most relate to. One of the things I struggle most with Estes Park is that I feel like I’m going to run out of new places to explore if we keep going back every year. That’s why I often come up with ‘food adventures’ on our trip. For example we went to all the Asian restaurants in town to figure out which we liked most. We also did a Cinnamon Roll Showdown and searched for Estes Park’s best bowl of chili.

Finally, INFJ types should ‘Have “creative space” at an Airbnb in a new town.’ For these types I recommend going on a relaxing stroll along Estes Park Riverwalk. First stop at Kind Coffee whose mission is to ‘Promote the sustainability of our environment through the sales of certified organic and fairly traded coffees’. Next step into one of the town’s numerous art galleries. This summer I’m excited to check out Joy House, ‘a store made up of gifts that are all made by friends with special needs or disabilities.’ You might also enjoy spending time in Rocky Mountain National Park sketching or photographing the incredible mountain landscape and wild animals like elk or moose that frequent the area. For tips check out local photographer Erik Stensland’s new book, ‘The Photographers Guide to RMNP’.

Black Canyon Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

This hike is ‘in the middle of nowhere’ according to my 5-year-old. In reality, Black Canyon trailhead is in the Lumpy Ridge area of Rocky Mountain National Park. The drive is less than 10 minutes from downtown Estes Park, Colorado.

Here is a map of the Lumpy Ridge trails. Lumpy Ridge trailhead begins at 7,840 ft of elevation, I believe that’s the lowest trailhead elevation in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Twin Owls in Lumpy Ridge of Rocky Mountain National Park
Twin Owls

I agree with my daughter that it feels remote here. That is probably because we didn’t see many other hikers on the trail.

If I were going to buy land someday, my dream would be for it to have a similar landscape. I find the wide-open views and rugged rock formations uniquely inspiring. Drinking coffee and looking out at this view every morning… that’s worth dreaming about. Right!?

Views along Black Canyon trail in the Lumpy Ridge of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

According to AllTrails.com, this hike is 15.5 miles out and back. The trail will take you all the way to Lawn Lake.

Fifteen miles is obviously longer than we would expect to hike with young kids, so we set out with the expectation to turn around when everyone was feeling tired. The girls both did great. At 3.7 miles roundtrip, we hiked substantially farther than our first hike here. We are making progress!

Hiking with kids in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

We spotted wild turkeys in the grass. Farther down the trail we saw a coyote or fox (we should have brought binoculars). Lucky for the turkeys, I don’t think their paths crossed.

family friendly things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Between spotting animals, climbing on rocks and trees, and taking in the mountain scenery, I could not have asked for a better morning in Rocky Mountain National Park. I’m thankful for time spent ‘in the middle of nowhere’ with my favorite people.

hike with kids in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Low elevation hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Long Lake in Brainard Lake Recreation Area

On today’s hike I have the cutest little hiking buddy around. My 3-year-old daughter and I went on a .3-mile stroll to Long Lake which is located on the border of Brainard Lake Recreation Area entering into the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Where is brainard lake recreation area?

Estes Park to Brainard Lake
From Estes Park, take Highway 7 to Highway 72 and then turn onto Brainard Lake Road. The drive takes about 50 minutes.

Brainard Lake is also 50 minutes from Boulder and an hour and a half from Denver. Nearby towns include Nederland and Ward. It’s convenient location makes this a popular destination. Plan for long lines at the entrance and limited parking at trailheads, especially on weekends and holidays.

BRAINARD LAKE RECREATION AREA Entrance Fee

A day pass to Brainard Lake typically costs $12 per vehicle during the summer season which is July through mid-October. Brainard Lake Recreation Area is managed by the US Forest Service. You can find more information about fees and guidelines here. We use our annual America the Beautiful pass which includes entry into national forest areas as well as national parks.

When we arrived late in the afternoon, no one was stationed at the entrance booth, so visitors were expected to go to a self-pay kiosk.

Indian Peaks Wilderness. Brainard Lakes Recreation Area. Long Lake trailhead. Hiking Colorado.

parking at long lake trailhead

There are thirty parking spaces at Long Lake trailhead. We were lucky to get a parking spot on this trip. On previous occasions, we’ve parked in the larger parking lot near Brainard Lake and hiked up to the trail. Because of COVID-19, the parking is further restricted to 80% capacity. Once the lots are full, no vehicles are allowed into the park until the next scheduled timed entry. The timed entries are at 6:00 am, 10:30 am, Noon, and 1:30 pm. There is additional parking at the Gateway Trailhead which is located outside of the paying station. Walking trails lead into the main park.

Indian Peaks Wilderness. Brainard Lakes Recreation Area. Long Lake trailhead. Hiking Colorado.

high elevation trails

The elevation of Long Lake is 10,521 ft. There is typically snow until July. It’s unbelievably green and there is an abundance of wildflowers. This area is breathtaking!

Indian Peaks Wilderness. Brainard Lakes Recreation Area. Long Lake trailhead. Hiking Colorado.

dog friendly hiking trails

Dogs are allowed at Brainard Lake Recreation Area if they are on leash. We featured this area in our post, Dog Friendly Hikes near Estes Park, Colorado.

Indian Peaks Wilderness. Brainard Lakes Recreation Area. Long Lake trailhead. Hiking Colorado.

Moose in brainard lake recreation area

On our drive out of the park, we spotted moose near Brainard Lake. We were able to capture these pictures from our car. It’s important to give moose a lot of space because they are fast, large, powerful animals.

Moose at Brainard Lake in Colorado

trail maps for hikes in brainard lake recreation area and indian peaks wilderness

The short walk to Long Lake and back was perfect for my daughter. It was fun to see the little boost to her self-confidence from getting my full attention and slowing the hiking pace to her level. She wanted to look at every rock and step on every tree stump. I don’t have the patience to indulge in this level of curiosity on every hike we go on. It was a special treat for us and I’m thankful for the mini-adventure.

If you want to hike further, there are plenty of options. This map shows the trailheads within Brainard Lake Recreation Area. You can access the Jean Lunning Trail and the Pawnee Pass Trail from the Long Lake trailhead. These trails will take you towards Lake Isabelle. Additional hiking information and an Indian Peaks trail map can be found here.

more posts featuring brainard lake recreation area

Add This to Your Hiking Bucket List! Blue Lake in Indian Peaks Wilderness

2 Day Itinerary with Toddlers in Estes Park

Brainard Lakes Colorado, Indian Peaks Wilderness

Wildflowers in Bloom: A Family Hike to Mitchell Lake

Our New Estes Park Art

How do you bring the feeling of vacation home with you? This blog is one way. I enjoy writing about our experiences and often re-read the hikes we went on when the girls were babies. Another way we are savoring these moments is through the art work we are slowly collecting and displaying in our home. We have blown up pictures I’ve taken of the girls walking around Lily Lake. We’ve purchased professional landscape photography from Images of Rocky Mountain National Park gallery. And just recently, I commissioned my first painting from an Estes Park artist.

Last summer we attended an art fair in downtown Estes Park, Colorado. Walking around the stalls, I fell for a painting of two young deer curiously peeking out of the aspens. I didn’t purchase the painting right away, but I kept thinking of the piece. It reminded me of a hike we went on with our two little girls in the East Meadow. During the hike we were quietly followed by a mother deer and her two young fawns.

Hike in to the East Meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park

The artist is Liz Zornes. I’m glad I grabbed her contact information even though I wasn’t ready to buy at that moment!

After months of internal debate, I decided to ask for this piece for Mother’s Day/my birthday in May. I reached out and learned the original painting I spotted at the show was already sold, but Ms. Zornes graciously said she would paint another one for me.

I’m excited to say that it is now hanging here in our home. Every time I walk by, I smile. I love the colors, texture, and the happy memory it evokes from our magical hike.

I’m not sure how many art fairs will be taking place this year, but another great way to see local artists is walking through galleries in downtown Estes Park. Here is a list of the galleries to visit the next time you are in town, Estes Park Art Galleries.