A New Year’s Eve Getaway in Estes Park, Colorado

Standing under the evergreens on our snowy hike up to Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park filled my heart with gratitude and relief. Just a few months ago, we were anxiously watching the news and hoping that the wildfires would be contained. Although the damage was substantial, thanks to the incredible effort by firefighters (and perhaps some good luck and answered prayers), Rocky Mountain National Park is open and beautiful.

Here is a map of the Area Closures due to fire damage.

America the Beautiful Park Pass

We bought our annual America the Beautiful Park Pass which covers entrance into national parks and federal recreation lands for the entire family. For us, this is a great deal because we go to the park frequently, plus we feel good about financially supporting the national parks. You can learn more about the pass here.

Details about day passes entrance fees for Rocky Mountain National Park as well as upcoming free days can be found on the nps website.

Nymph Lake

The hike to Nymph Lake begins at the Bear Lake trail head. The journey to Nymph Lake is only .5 miles. Our girls were eager to play in the snow and thrilled that the lake was frozen solid.

Hike to Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Cozy cabin in estes park

I spent a lot of time during our trip sitting next to the fire in our cabin, reading books, and drinking coffee. I read 37 books in 2020 which beat my previous year by 11 books. My 2020 favorites include Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. If you enjoy reading on vacation, check out my Book Lovers Guide to Estes Park, Colorado.

In 2020, COVID-19 made us weary of airport travel. We were also navigating the school calendar for the first time as our oldest started kindergarten. This meant fewer trips to the mountains last year. The positive side is that we were able to rent our cabin to many families who wanted a safe and relaxing vacation spot. We are reinvesting the rental income we earned into a couple of upgrades including new flooring throughout the first level. Learn more about renting our cabin here.

Solitude Cabins in Estes Park, Colorado

Hike around lily Lake

I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve written about Lily Lake on our site. Lily Lake is our favorite destination because it is easy, fun, and family friendly. A trip to Rocky Mountain National Park without a stroll around Lily Lake feels incomplete.

Lily Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National park
Lily Lake in the Snow

Sledding in rocky mountain national park

Hidden Valley is the only place where sledding is allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park. We have been taking our girls to this spot every year. It is a blast! You can rent sleds and other winter gear at Estes Park Mountain Shop.

Sledding in Rocky Mountain National Park

Sprague Lake

Sprague Lake is a half mile loop. We enjoyed this hike on New Year’s Day. This felt like a good start to the year even though life remains a little uncertain. Typically, I’m very goal-oriented, but this year (for now at least) I’m not writing a list of goals. I love to hear what other people do to celebrate the beginning of a New Year, so please feel free to share your reflections in the comments below.

Bierstadt Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Our 5 Most Popular Colorado posts in 2020

I always think it’s fun to see what our readers are finding on our site.

Our fifth most popular post was extra sweet. The Best in Estes Park: A Cinnamon Roll Showdown.

The Estes Park Winter Bucket List was the fourth most popular post this year. Although it was written in 2019, the list remains a good one! On our New Year’s Eve trip we checked off several bucket list items including sledding, winter hikes, shopping for a Christmas ornament, sitting by the fireplace with a good book, and swimming at the Estes Valley Community Center.

The Homer Rouse Trail – a Dog Friendly Trail in Estes Park, Colorado and the updated version Homer Rouse Trail – Revisited (written in 2019) continue to be among the most popular posts on our site.

The second most popular post was A Trail Less Traveled: Hollowell Park to Mill Creek Basin in Rocky Mountain National Park which was written in 2019. We returned to Hollowell Park this summer and wrote about it here. The wildflowers were beautiful! If this is a hiking destination you want to try, make sure to check in with the national park service. According to their website, ‘Trails that remain closed in the Bear Lake area include the Fern Lake Trail, Cub Lake Trail, the Mill Creek Basin, and Hollowell Park.’ (as of 1/4/2021).

The most popular post was 7 Romantic Things To Do in Estes Park, Colorado. This post was actually written in February of 2019, but most of the points remain true except that the Dunraven has a new location by Lake Estes.

If you are on pinterest, I’d love for you to check out our profile. I typically add videos on pinterest that aren’t included in the blog posts.

coming soon

I’m going to ask my husband Eric to post his favorite moments from our recent trip too. Some of his pictures are AMAZING. I can’t wait to share them here soon. I’m also excited to share about our latest Estes Park food adventure. A post about our Asian Takeout Extravaganza is coming soon.

Happy New Year!

-Kelly

Estes Park Winter Bucket List

The temperatures are dropping, the days are getting shorter, and the first few holiday decorations are going up. Winter is on it’s way, so I’m getting in the spirit by making a winter bucket list for our trip to Estes Park, Colorado.

Go Sledding

Santa is bringing us new sleds! Where is the best place to take them?

Our family is excited to go on an epic sledding excursion at Hidden Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park. Hidden Valley is the only place in Rocky Mountaion National Park where sledding is allowed. ‘Sleds and tubes are the most popular, but skis and snowboards without bindings also are allowed.’ according to visitestespark.com.

We wrote more about sledding in Hidden Valley in this post.

Snowshoe

According to Colorado.com, snowshoeing is one of the easiest sports to learn – even for kids. The snowshoes help make hiking easier by distributing your weight so that you are walking more on top of the snow instead of sinking into it.

Need snowshoeing gear? Last year we rented poles and snowshoes from Estes Park Mountain Shop.

Ranger-led snowshoe walks start mid-January 2023. Participants must be 8-years-old or older and reservations are required. The park’s website contains additional information.

Winter Hike

It’s important to be knowledgeable about the avalanche warnings and trail conditions before setting out on a winter hike so that you bring along the right gear. Sometimes we’ve hiked with waterproof boots and other times strapped on micro spikes for extra traction.

9 Wintry Hikes in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park

Planning for a Winter Visit – Rocky Mountain National Park

Frozen river in Moraine Park

Drink Hot Chocolate

Sipping a steamy cup of hot chocolate is the best way to warm up during the winter months. Our favorite places to get a hot chocolate are Kind Coffee and Trailhead Restaurant. For more ideas, we wrote a fun post about the Best Places to ‘Have a Cup of Cheer’.

hot chocolate at trailhead restaurant

Shopping in downtown estes park

One of our favorite holiday traditions is visiting one of the Christmas shops in downtown Estes Park and letting each of our girls pick out a special ornament to hang on our tree. The town has several Christmas shops including The Spruce House and The Christmas Shoppe.

Looking for unique gifts? Some of my favorite shops in Estes Park are Trendz boutique, Mary Janes, and Hyk.

Sit by the fireplace with a good book

Our cabin has a great fireplace in the living room and I love to sit next to it and read books while the snow falls outside our window. I wrote a post for fellow book lovers here.

Dine Out and enjoy downtown holiday lights

Last winter my husband and I enjoyed a romantic meal at Bird and Jims. We sipped on hand-crafted cocktails while the snow fell outside. It was so cozy! The restaurant offers a 12 Days of Christmas 3 Course prix fixe menu from December 21 – January 1 from 5-8pm.

HIMALAYAN CURRY & KEBOB is another Estes Park restaurant on the top of our list to visit this winter. The warm spices offer the perfect complement to the cold weather outside. Himalayan Curry & Kebob is located in downtown Estes Park which is always decorated with festive holiday lights. It feels like a magical winter wonderland!

Indoor Rock Climbing

Estes Park Mountain Shop has an indoor rock climbing gym for ages 5 and older. A variety of packages are available including a 3 CLIMBS FOR $20 option which includes belaying. Reservations are recommended. We haven’t gone yet, but this activity is at the top of my daughter’s list.

float down the lazy river

The Estes Valley Community Center has a pool with a lazy river, slides and water play area. There are resident and non-resident fees to use the facility. 

Enjoy a quiet moment of reflection

This time of year can be hectic with events and shopping. My natural inclination is to have a to-do list running through my head. Seeking out quiet places to reflect on the year will help me maintain a sense of peace and appreciation.

St. Catherine of Siena Chapel (Chapel on the Rock)

Whether you are traveling to Estes Park on a romantic getaway, a friends trip, or a family vacation, there is a lot to do in the winter. I can’t wait until our trip!