Guide for Things to do in Estes Park, Colorado This Winter – 1 Day Itinerary

breakfast at a local coffee shop

The first thing on my mind when I wake up on a cold winter morning is drinking a warm cup of coffee. Our day started in downtown Estes Park at our favorite local coffee shop, Kind Coffee. I featured Kind Coffee when I wrote about the Best Places to Have a ‘Cup of Cheer’ in Estes Park. My girls were delighted to get hot chocolates. Along with our coffees, I ordered oatmeal and my husband enjoyed a breakfast burrito.

sledding in rocky mountain national park

The highlight of our day was going sledding as a family. After breakfast, we headed into Rocky Mountain National Park towards Hidden Valley. It is the only place within the park where you are allowed to go sledding. We were immediately hit with a strong blast of winter wind when we opened the doors to our SUV. We bundled up and started walking up hill to find the perfect sled run. Thankfully, the tall pines blocked the gusts. We flew down the hill on our little blue sled. We took turns – I was secretly competing with my husband to see how far I could make the sled go.

sledding at hidden valley in rocky mountain national park

Winter Hike at Lily Lake

After everyone had enough sledding, we decided to head over to Lily Lake for a short winter hike. The lake was mostly frozen over, but not solid. The wind made a marble pattern across the top. We enjoyed views of Longs Peak, the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Lily Lake frozen in ice. Views of Longs Peak, the highest mountain in rocky mountain national park

lunch

For lunch we went to my husband’s favorite sandwich shop. Scratch Deli makes fresh, delicious sandwiches. We took our meals back to our cabin and enjoyed lunch around our table. After lunch, we rested for awhile. We took showers and changed out of our snow gear. The girls happily played with each other, but refused to nap.

afternoon scenic drive around estes park

We decided to carry out our secret nap plan. An afternoon drive is a great way to explore the surrounding area. We saw a large herd of elk near our cabin. The girls drifted off to sleep as we cruised along the curvy mountain roads.

herd of elk in rocky mountain national park

shop estes park

In the late afternoon, we headed back to downtown Estes Park to go shopping. Cliffhanger Used Books is my favorite place to shop. I picked out three novels and several children’s books. Our total was under $20. Proceeds benefit the Estes Valley Library.

wine tasting in estes park

Happy with my deals, we walked further down the block to do a wine tasting at Snowy Peaks winery. The girls enjoyed their colorful play room and got to pick out a special rock from their treasure chest after they cleaned up the toys that entertained them while we sipped local wines.

family dinner in downtown estes park

For dinner we headed to a restaurant that has become a family-tradition, Mama Rose’s. The girls shared a milk flight and enjoyed spaghetti (our oldest) and meatballs (our youngest).

mountain retreat

After a full day, we headed back to our cabin. On a short trip, it’s hard to decide what to fit in. I hope our winter 1-day winter itinerary is helpful for anyone planning a trip to Estes Park this season. If you have any questions or suggestions, please comment below.

Hike Envy: The Awesome Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park That I Did Not Go On, But You Should

Kids make trips to the mountains fun in so many ways. However, with two young girls, the number of long distance hikes my husband and I can go on are limited. One of the keys to our vacation happiness, is giving each other time to go on adventures while the other person stays back and plays with our kids. On a recent trip, I was excited that my husband could take my brother on one of our favorite hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

I was pretty jealous of their adventure, but not jealous about their alarm clock. They woke up before dawn and started the hike up to Hallett Peak in the dark with head lamps on. Since they arrived so early (5:25am), they were able to find a parking spot near Bear Lake which can be difficult to do on holiday weekends. (we went on Labor Day weekend)

Early start to hike up Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park
Early start to hike up Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park

Hallett reaches 12,713 ft in elevation. The hike is 10 miles round-trip and involves a bit of class 2 scramble to reach the final destination. From the Bear Lake trailhead, the route follows the easy to follow trail to the summit of Flattop mountain for the first 4.4 miles, passing scenic overlooks of Dream Lake and Emerald Lake (link) along the way.

Sunrise view of Longs Peak from Flattop Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park
Sunrise view of Longs Peak from Flattop Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park
Sunrise view of Bierstadt Lake and Sprague Lake in the distance from Flattop trail
Sunrise view of Bierstadt Lake and Sprague Lake in the distance from Flattop trail
Emerald Lake Overlook

To reach Hallet from the aptly named summit of Flattop, hikers must do a bit of route finding, following cairns off-trail (trying to stay on hard surfaces to avoid damaging the fragile tundra flowers and plants). The route is relatively flat as it skirts around Tyndall Glacier on the left, but then gains nearly 400 feet of elevation in the last quarter-mile scramble to the summit. Its a fun challenge, with minimal exposure to steep drop-offs, though a turned ankle this far away from the car would still be miserable.

My brother hiking to Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park
My brother hiking to Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park
Approaching summit of Hallett Peak
Approaching summit of Hallett Peak

The views from the top are amazing in all directions, from the Estes Valley, to Longs Peak, and even over to Grand Lake and the Never Summer Mountains to the west.

Eric on the summit of Hallett Peak
My husband on the summit of Hallett Peak

After snapping a few photos and taking a brief rest, they headed back down the mountain to Bear Lake with a round-trip time of just under 5 hours. I was very impressed that they were back in time for us all to go out to lunch together!

Arkansas Hike: Triple Falls (Twin Falls) near Buffalo National River

The leaves are beginning to change and the morning air is crisp and cool. We set out last weekend to drive through the scenic towns of Ponca and Jasper which sit along the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. This drive features towering bluffs, river views, fall foliage, and even a chance to spot elk which live in the Boxley Valley near Ponca.

triple Falls (twin falls)

The highlight of our day trip was a hike to Twin Falls, also known as Triple Falls. To get there, take highway 74 and turn on to Camp Orr road by Kyle’s Landing. The gravel/dirt road is well maintained, but very steep. Don’t attempt to drive down this road without a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. We stopped several times to rest our brakes so they wouldn’t burn up.

how to get to twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike.
Steep gravel road leading to Triple Falls (Twin Falls) hike

There is a small parking lot and signage to point you in the direction of the falls. The hike is only .3 miles each way. I still can’t believe that we walked such a short distance to find such a gorgeous spot.

twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike.
Twin Falls signage

Perhaps the most confusing part of this hike is that it’s referred to as Triple Falls Trail on hiking sites such as AllTrails, however the official name is Twin Falls.

twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike.
The trail leads along a pretty creek. Our girls (ages 2 and 4) were able to walk on their own.
twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.
We held their hands to cross over slippery rocks near the falls. I’ve learned (the hard way) that I’d rather get our feet a little wet than falling on rocks.
twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.
Our girls loved playing in the flat area near the falls. They could spend hours throwing rocks into creek beds.
twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.
Taking in the beautiful falls
twin falls (also known as triple falls) near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.
Our daughter enjoys taking her own pictures on short hikes like this one
twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.
A kind fellow-hiker offered to take our family’s picture. She captured one of the rare occasions that we were all looking in the same general direction.
twin falls (also known as triple falls) near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.
When there is enough rain, you will see three waterfalls (rather than the two which the falls are named for).
twin falls (also known as triple falls) near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.

When we turned back towards our car to continue our drive, our girls asked if we could stay longer. That’s a big win! If you are looking for a fun family-friendly adventure near Ponca and Jasper, I highly recommend checking out Twin Falls.

For a slightly longer adventure, check out the Lost Valley hike which is located nearby.

Texas Girls Trip

In the beginning of the year, I sat down and came up with a list of 19 things I wanted to do in 2019. I got this idea from the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast. Last month, I got to check ‘girls trip to Dallas’ off my list. My mom, sister, and I took a weekend away to visit old friends, indulge in a little pampering, and take a day-trip to Waco to shop at Magnolia Market.

Girls weekend to Dallas, Texas

I decided to drive to Dallas from my home in Fayetteville, Arkansas which took about 5 hours. During the drive, I appreciated the rare alone time and listened to an audio book. The hours passed by quickly, and soon I was at the airport to pick up my mom and sister who flew in from Kansas City. This was my first time driving to the airport in Dallas, so figuring out the airport toll and which terminal to go to, was the most stressful part of the journey. Luckily, I arrived at the right place at the right time.

harbor district in rockwall, texas

We chose to stay at a hotel close to our friend’s home in Rockwall, Texas which is 25 miles away from Dallas. Our room had views of Lake Ray Hubbard – one of the largest lakes in north Texas. We also enjoyed the hotel’s proximity to restaurants along the Harbor.

Harbor District on Lake Ray Hubbard in Rockwall, Texas

Enjoying authentic Tex-Mex was a priority item on my Texas to-do list, so we ate a late lunch at Gloria’s Restaurant at the Harbor. We also went to Hollywood Nails & Spa to get a pedicure. It was nice to get pampered! We headed back to our room to freshen up before meeting our friends at their lovely home.

road trip to Waco, texas

Visiting Waco on a Saturday in September, we knew we had to get an early start to arrive before the Magnolia attractions got too crowded. We ate breakfast at our hotel and drove nearly 2 hours to Waco. The time went quickly as we chatted.

When we arrived in Waco, we found off-street parking a couple blocks away from the Magnolia Silos. On the walk there, we stopped in fun decor shops called The Findery and the Findery Marketplace.

Shopping in Waco, Texas

magnolia market

Once inside the Magnolia Market, it was difficult to decide what to look at first. How does Joanna Gaines design spaces that feel both crisp and cozy at the same time? I guess that is why so many people (including me) are drawn to visit the HGTV designer’s shops. Besides taking time to smell every type of scented candle, my favorite section was their beautiful garden. I’m inspired to plant daisies, lavender, and roses!

Magnolia Market & Silos in Waco, Texas
I love the sweet combination of Blackfoot Daisy and Fernleaf Lavender found in the Magnolia Garden.

Waxahachie, Texas

After a delightful morning in Waco, we headed back towards our hotel. On the way, we stopped for a late lunch in a quaint town called Waxahachie. On the town square we decided to try Farmluck. I wish we would have come with larger appetites. The ice cream desserts served from their old-fashioned soda fountain looked absolutely amazing. There is a vintage candy store in the back where I purchased kid-sized aprons for my two little girls.

Waxahachie, Texas

downtown rockwall, texas

Once back in Rockwall, we took some time to relax and change clothes before heading out to dinner with our friends in downtown Rockwall. We enjoyed eating at Zanata where we shared a flavorful house salad and a ‘Spiked Happy Hour’ pizza cooked on their wood burning oven. Downtown Rockwall was bustling with live music and families taking pictures of their kids all dressed up for homecoming.

Wine on the patio

We ended our girls weekend with a final stroll around the Harbor and a glass of wine at a restaurant that had an outdoor patio. Great food, nice views, fun pedicures, amazing shopping, a little wine, and the best companions made our Texas trip a perfect girls weekend.

the best of texas

I hope you enjoyed reading about our girls trip to Texas. From Dallas to Austin and San Antonio – there are a lot of big destinations to choose from when planning a trip to the Lone Star State. The smaller city of Rockwall surprised us with its charm and walkability. We fit in a lot to our weekend getaway, but I know there is more to experience in Texas. I’m excited to go back.