Winter Hike to Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Flying out of Northwest Arkansas regional airport (xna) to Denver

Last week we took a spontaneous trip out to Rocky Mountain National Park to play in the snow. It was the first time that I flew out of the airport in Northwest Arkansas. I was impressed with the ease of the small airport. We were able to walk from our parking spot right into the airport. Parking was less than $10/day. We easily found our gate and there were several places to grab a meal or purchase a magazine.

Family amenities at XNA include a giant chess board
Family amenities at XNA include a giant chess board.

It was also the first time I attempted to fly with both girls without my husband. Since we were flying out of a small airport, the plane we traveled in had two seats on each side. The girls (ages 5 and 2) sat on one side of the aisle, and I sat on the other. Loaded with Kindles and Halloween leftovers, we happily made it through the two-hour flight to Denver.

Ready for take off from Northwest Arkansas Airport to Denver Colorado
Ready for take off!

The contrast between the airport in Northwest Arkansas and the busy Denver International Airport was huge. Luckily, I have some experience navigating the Denver airport. We were happy when we spotted my husband waiting for us at arrivals after getting off the train between concourses. With work visits scheduled along the way, he drove out to Colorado on his own, bringing our luggage and vehicle with him.

Hiking in the snow – alberta falls

Once in Colorado, we were ready to get out in the snow. We bundled up our family and headed into Rocky Mountain National Park. We decided to hike to Alberta Falls beginning at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead which sits at 9,180 ft. in elevation.

Glacier Gorge trailhead to Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

At this altitude, there was a lot of snow and ice on the trail, so my husband and I both wore Yaktrax on our shoes to help with traction.

Yaktraxs help with traction in the snow
Yaktraks on hiking boots help with traction in snow.

The hike gains 220 ft of elevation and is a little under 1 mile each way. Our oldest daughter was able to hike most of it on her own. She did some slipping and sliding, so we were careful to hold her hand in spots we thought might be precarious.

winter hiking in rocky mountain national park

The weather was cold, but since we bundled up and kept moving, we felt pretty comfortable with the trees protecting us from the wind and the sun shining above.

kid friendly hiking in rocky mountain national park

The trail to Alberta Falls is well maintained, even in the snow. This is a very popular trail during the peak summer months. Many times when the Glacier Gorge parking lot is full, we have started this hike from Bear Lake.

trail signage to alberta falls and bear lake in rocky mountain national park.

We think Alberta Falls is one of the Best Waterfall Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. This was my first time hiking to Alberta Falls during the late fall/winter season. The snow and ice looked like a layer of sparkling white icing on the cliffs and boulders.

ice and snow in rocky mountain national park.

Alberta Falls is a powerful waterfall, but on this visit there was little visual evidence. Buried under the snow and ice, we could still hear water rushing underneath.

alberta falls covered in snow

The trip back down to the trailhead was equally as beautiful as the journey up. I didn’t mind when my daughter frequently stopped to practice writing her name in the snow with a stick ‘wand’ she found, because I could look up and see snow dusted mountains towering in the distance.

snow covered mountains in rocky mountain national park

The highlight of the trail for the girls was when their Dad slid down the final steep hill with them.

sliding down snow covered hill in rocky mountain national park

I highly recommend hiking to Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park anytime of year. If you want a quiet hike and a front-row seat to see this landmark, winter is a great time to visit.

If you plan to hike during the winter, make sure to keep an eye on the weather and talk to the helpful park rangers about trail and road conditions. I got the trail stats for this post from one of our favorite guide books, Rocky Mountain National Park: The Complete Hiking Guide by Lisa Foster.

More snowy hikes in rocky mountain national park

A Winter Walk in Moraine Park That’s Worth Freezing For

Frozen river in Moraine Park
We chose Moraine Park because at 8,080 ft of elevation there is substantially less snow compared to areas of the park with higher altitude.

Lily Lake Loop on a Snowy Spring Morning

Winter hike around Lily Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
Snow covered hike around Lily Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Eldora Ski Weekend

This week Estes Park, Colorado had its first snow of the season. Which means it’s time to start planning our winter trip(s) out to Colorado. There are a lot of fun things to do in Estes Park during the colder winter months. We’ve written about sledding, snow shoeing, winter hiking and shopping in downtown Estes Park.

For all that Estes Park has to offer, it does not have a traditional ski resort. However, there are day-trip destinations close by including Eldora which is located in Nederland, Colorado. Nederland is located an hour from Denver, an hour from Estes Park, and 35 minutes from Boulder, Colorado. There is a bus service from downtown Boulder to Eldora.

Ski lift at Eldora

Eldora is smaller in size compared to other popular skiing destinations in Colorado. We didn’t grow up going skiing, so we appreciate that there are slopes available for different skill levels. Lessons are offered for adults and children starting at age 4.

Eldora is scheduled to open for the season on November 15, 2019. You can find more information about ticket prices online at eldora.com.

My husband has enjoyed a couple winter ‘guy trips’ to Eldora and Estes Park. He helped me put together a sample itinerary based on his trips.

Itinerary for Estes Park and Eldora Winter Adventure Weekend

Winter Hike Rocky Mountain National Park

Thursday: Fly into Denver International Airport in the evening and rent car. Drive to Estes Park to stay in cabin. Stop by grocery store on the way into town to stock up on essentials.

Friday: Wake up and eat breakfast at the cabin before heading to Eldora for a day of skiing. Try to leave before 8am to beat the crowd. Parking is limited. Some in the group can take ski lessons, others might choose to immediately hit the slopes. After a full morning of skiing, take a break by eating lunch at one of Eldora’s restaurants.

Get in a couple more runs. After leaving Eldora, stop by Very Nice Brewing Company in Nederland, CO for a pint of beer. (Thank sober driver by promising to pick up his dinner tab.) Drive back to Estes Park and grab take-out pizza at Antonio’s Pizza, Poppy’s Pizza, or Sweet Basilico.

Saturday: Wake up and go to breakfast at Notchtop Café. Head to The Warming House which opens at 9am to rent gear such as snowshoes and hiking poles. Head into Rocky Mountain National Park to snowshoe or hike (depending on weather and trail conditions). It’s important to talk to national park rangers to check on conditions before heading out in the winter. Two hikes you can ask about are Bierstadt Lake and Mills Lake.

Frozen Mills Lake

After hiking, warm up at a local brewery. We enjoy Rockcut where you can play games in their laid back tasting room. Walk to nearby Café de Pho Thai for late lunch.

Downtown Estes Park has some great places to shop for a souvenir for kids or significant others. Trendz boutique and Mary Janes have a lot of great gift options.

Return to cabin to barbecue or make some chili. Stay up late playing ‘nerdy’ board games.

Sunday: Head back towards Denver. If there is time, stop at Snooze for brunch before dropping off the rental car and taking off at the airport.

A Winter Walk in Moraine Park That’s Worth Freezing For

Earlier this month we took a winter trip to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Little did we know, a few weeks later the national parks would be affected by the current government shutdown. Unfortunately, that means visitors can’t drive into the park. Based on articles I’ve read, this hasn’t had a big impact on the local economy yet because winter is typically a slower season. With that said, I hope that the situation is resolved soon!

Moraine Park

During our December trip, we enjoyed a brief but beautiful hike in Moraine Park beginning at the Cub Lake trail head. We chose this area because at 8,080 ft of elevation there is substantially less snow compared to areas of the park with higher altitude.

Frozen river in Moraine Park

I was excited when this picture was featured on the instagram feed @visitestespark where over 930 people liked it.

The first stretch of the hike is in a valley where there is little protection from blasts of freezing wind, but the scenery is worth bundling up and getting out of your cozy cabin for. The Big Thompson River was mostly frozen and seem to glimmer against the blue sky and snow covered mountain backdrop.

rocky mountain national park

Luckily, you don’t have to walk far before tall trees and surrounding rock formations block the wind. Our four-year-old daughter veered off the path to scramble up boulders to join her sister and dad taking in the peaceful views.

view of moraine valley rocky mountain national park

Beautiful views are not the only reason to visit Moraine Park, it is also a great place to encounter wildlife. Last fall we wrote, Cub Lake Trail – a Wildlife Hotspot in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Toddler Friendly Hiking

toddler friendly hiking in rocky mountain national park

Our nearly two-year-old insisted on hiking in her pajamas, wearing socks as gloves, and borrowing my hat. She held on to my husband’s hand in icy patches, but wanted to show off her independence by walking at her own pace. This led to our decision to cut the hike short. The trail to Cub Lake is 2.5 miles each way. We wrote about this hike in more detail in a previous post, Rocky Mountain Tot Goes to Cub Lake.

log bridge in moraine valley near big thompson river

New Year Goals

As we look forward to a New Year and new outdoor adventures, our goal is to have the girls walking rather than riding in kid-carriers during many of our hikes. We are excited to discover new hikes in the Rocky Mountains and the Ozark Mountains which are located near our new home in Fayetteville, Arkansas. We will write about all of them in our family hiking journal and also look forward to sharing with y’all too!

Best Places to ‘Have a Cup of Cheer’ in Estes Park, Colorado

From a steaming mug of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream to a glass of robust red wine, the holiday season is a great time to sip and savor. Estes Park has opportunities for you to pair fun winter adventures with your favorite cup of cheer.

Best Kid’s Drink

Trailhead Restaurant on Fall River Road serves hot chocolate the way  toddlers and their parents like it, with loads of whipped cream! If you are feeling extra festive you can order peppermint hot chocolate or opt for the hot cider that smells just as good as it tastes. 

Another favorite is the milk flight found at Mama Rose’s restaurant. Our kids enjoy small cups of strawberry, chocolate, vanilla and white milk. This is a fun replacement for dessert. 

Best Coffee

Kind Coffee is located on the edge of downtown Estes Park. Grab a cup of quality organic coffee and warm up in the cozy cafe before shopping, or take it with you on a stroll along the Estes Park Riverwalk. For many Christmas is the season for giving, but Kind Coffee gives back year-round by donating a percentage of their revenue to international charities as well as participating in the Estes Park Give Back community partnership. 

Estes Park Coffee Shops
Warm up in local coffee shops before shopping in downtown Estes Park

Best Local Beer

If you appreciate good beer and a laid-back, friendly environment, Rock Cut Brewing Company is your place. It’s a tough choice to decide which beer on their menu to try, so why not go with a flight of 5 tasters? Rockcut also contributes to the local community. When you order a pint of their German-style amber aptly named Altruism, $1 goes to charity. 

In this category we also have to mention Lumpy Ridge Brewery which is located in an old gas station building that feels both hip and compact. What they are lacking in space, they make up for in taste. Their menu currently includes a Winter Breeze Coconut Brown Lager – yum. 

Best Local Wine

We have written about our love of Snowy Peaks winery before and we probably will again because of their awesome play area for kids to enjoy why parents taste local wine. For $6 you can taste 5 wines that are made by Snowy Peaks and other local Colorado wineries. 

Snowy Peaks Winery in Estes Park Colorado
Kids entertained at Snowy Peaks Winery

Best Margarita

Merry Margarita to all! It’s not the first drink you think of on a trip to a winter wonderland like Estes Park, but there are several good Mexican restaurants in town and there is always room in our life for chips and salsa. If that comes with a refreshing margarita, no complaints here. For Mexican cuisine with a Colorado twist, we think Ed’s Cantina and Grille is the place to go.

There are plenty of ways to fill your cup this season in Estes Park, Colorado. We are excited to learn more about a Booze Cruise offered by the Ridgeline Hotel. We have kids traveling with us this season, so we can’t participate, but we want to share for those looking for a safe and fun way to experience local breweries and distilleries. 

The Ridgeline Hotel’s website also highlights Trendz boutique, which is one of our favorite local shops. They now offer a Sip & Shop experience along with a full calendar of great shopping events in December. 

Winter Refresh

We have been doing a winter refresh project on our blog and want to share a couple articles that have updated content. 

The Most Underrated Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park: Following the Historic Ute Trail

Gingerbread Cabin Cookie recipe