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!

7 of the Most Romantic Things to do in Estes Park, Colorado

Happy Valentine’s Day week! Last February, I wrote a post about 7 Romantic Things to Do in Estes Park. This post was one of our most popular last year, so I wanted to add 7 additional ideas for everyone planning romantic trips out to Estes Park.

Watch the sunrise over the mountains – On Valentine’s Day, the sunrise should take place right at 7:00 am. Kind Coffee, one of our favorite local coffee shops, opens at 6:30 am. Grab a warm cup of your favorite caffeinated beverage, and take a quick stroll in the Centennial Open Space at Knoll-Willows which is located across the street from the historic Stanley Hotel. The space overlooks downtown Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Not a morning person? This is a great spot in the evening too. Read more…

The Centennial Open Space is a great spot to enjoy an inspiring sunrise or breathtaking sunset in Estes Park, Colorado

Hike to a frozen waterfall (or climb over a waterfall in the summer) – Taking a break from our hectic lives and spending time out in nature always brings us close as a couple. We recently took a winter hike to Alberta Falls which was frozen over. Sitting in the quiet, we could still hear the water rushing beneath the layers of snow and ice.

Alberta Falls in the snow

If you are looking for a thrilling waterfall hike, I loved our adventure to Sky Pond last summer. My husband and I had to climb through a waterfall together to make it to this dreamy destination. If you think waterfalls are as romantic as I do, here are some more of our favorite waterfall hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Timberline Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Try out a new (to you) restaurant – there is comfort in returning to our favorite places. (Here is a list we compiled of our top restaurants in Estes Park.) However, this Valentine’s Day I’m craving novel experiences. A few restaurants we are hoping to try this year include Bird & Jim, Clair’s Restaurant and Bar, and Nicky’s Steakhouse.

Play a board game at a local brewery – We have been thrilled to see the number of breweries expand in Estes Park over the last few years. One of our favorites is Rock Cut. This place feels cozy in the winter and inviting in the summer months. It’s a great place to challenge your significant other to a board game over a pint of local brew.

Go indoor rock climbing – Estes Park Mountain Shop has an indoor rock climbing gym that would make a fun and active winter date. You can find out more details about times and pricing on their website.

Star gaze – One of my favorite romantic times during our vacations in Estes Park, is when we put the kids to bed and sneak out to the back deck where we can enjoy a glass of wine, have a moment to talk, and gaze up at the star-filled night sky. For a closer look at the stars above, Estes Park also has an observatory. Book your spot in advance through angelsabove.org.

Sleep in – The thought of snuggling into a warm, cozy bed and sleeping in without an alarm or children to wake us up, sounds amazing to this mom of two little kids + fur baby. If you are looking for a great place to sleep-in, I hope you check out our place at Solitude Cabins for your next trip to the mountains.

Plus: VisitEstesPark.com recently posted ‘3 Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day in Estes Park.’

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.

Book Lovers Guide to Estes Park, Colorado

Reading is one of my favorite things to do on vacation. It’s a treat to dive into one of the books from my always growing to-be-read list. I’m excited to share some of my favorite bookstores in Estes Park, Colorado and suggestions for ideal spots to sit back and enjoy a good book.

MacDonald Bookshop in Estes Park, Colorado

cliffhanger used books

I’m pretty obsessed with Cliffhanger Used Books. Shopping here feels like a treasure hunt for great books at bargain prices. This shop is run by volunteers and proceeds go to the Estes Valley Library Services. You can follow the store on facebook.

Reading Spot: Baldwin park

Baldwin Park is a quiet space located right by the Big Thompson River. When you step out of Cliffhanger Used Books, walk south towards Ivy Street. You will find several park benches and a playground.

macdonald bookshop

Macdonald Bookshop is family owned. They have been serving the Estes Park community with great literature for 90 years. The staff is welcoming and helpful with book suggestions. This is a good place to go if you are looking for regional material. They also have kids books and best sellers. If you are looking for a thoughtful souvenir, this is a great place to go.

Inkwell & Brew

Located behind MacDonald Bookshop, step into Inkwell & Brew where you can order a cup of coffee and shop for a new journal or the perfect fountain pen. I’m confident you will leave inspired to write, whether it’s your next novel or simply a hand-written note to a friend.

Reading Spot: George Hix Riverside Plaza

George Hix Riverside Plaza has flowers, benches, art, and a peaceful river running through. It is lined with restaurants and shops (including Inkwell & Brew). Don’t miss the new sensory garden.

The little free library

The Little Free Library is a community project led locally by the Estes Valley Library. There is a Little Free Library at the Glacier Basin Campground meant to serve the summer guests of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Reading spot: picnic spots in Rocky MOuntain National Park

I recently wrote a post about our favorite picnic spots in Rocky Mountain National Park. All of the places we mentioned would be wonderful spots to read a couple chapters. You could also bring a few children’s books along to read out in nature with your kids. Some of our favorite outdoor themed books include:

  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
  • Brown Bear Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr./Eric Carle
  • The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland
  • Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle

New! I tried to gather my suggestions for you on Google Maps as a resource for finding my book loving spots in Estes Park. If you have any additional suggestions, I’d love to hear them.