Steve and I decided it was time for another Colorado Road Trip so in August 2018, we packed up my Jeep and off we went! This time our primary destination was Rocky Mountain National Park with a stay in the Stanley Hotel, unfortunately no ghosts to report while we were there. This was going to be a much shorter trip than in 2016. The plan was to explore Rocky Mountain National Park and then on to Denver to visit my son. I love that my son lives in Colorado! It is such a fun state to visit!
We left bright and early for the 10 hour drive and made it to Colorado in the early afternoon. The drive was long, but I enjoy it much more when I have a travel companion in contrast to driving on my own! We made an impromptu stop at Boulder for a late lunch, and to take a stroll on Pearl Street. Pearl Street is a pedestrian mall lined with historic store buildings that house coffee shops, cafes, and shops. Overall, it is an area with a cool vibe. There was even a magician performing in the street while we were there! I wish we had been able to spend more time in Boulder, nonetheless, it was a good time and we will be back someday! Refreshed and ready to go, we made our way to Estes Park via Hwy 7 also known as The Peak to Peak Highway.
Chapel on the Rock
Next stop was Chapel on the Rock near Allenspark, Colorado. I spotted this cute little chapel from the road and I just had to stop and check it out. It sits serenely on a large rock just off the road and south of Estes Park. This quaint stone chapel looks like it belongs in a Hallmark movie! In the same fashion, the inside is simple yet beautiful. Sunlight was shining through the large stain glassed windows giving the chapel a charming glow.
Lily Lake, Colorado
Back in the car, we continued on to Rocky Mountain National Park. Next impromptu stop was Lily Lake. This lake is about 6 miles south of Estes Park and again, right off the road. We walked the easy Lily Lake Loop Trail around the lake, which is less than a mile. A very pretty walk with plenty of wild flowers and mountains in the background. Walking around this lake was getting me excited for tomorrow as we were planning a big hike in the mountains.
The Stanley Hotel
It was late afternoon when we arrived at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. Estes Park is a small mountain town surrounded by beautiful mountain peaks just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Stanley Hotel stands majestically on a hill overlooking the town with beautiful views of the mountains. This grand hotel was built in 1909 and offered an elegance that catered to the wealthy of that era. It is here that Stephen King not only spent one night but also was inspired to write his book, The Shining, after his stay. The hotel is said to be haunted.
For many years, staying at The Stanley Hotel had been on my bucket list therefore I was thrilled to be there. Ascending the grand staircase was like a dream come true, I loved the beautiful woodwork of the staircase and all the pictures on the walls. Our room was small but comfortable, we were staying in a historic room but not a haunted room. Even so, I was still hoping for some ghostly activity. Not too much though!
We ate at the hotel dining room that evening and had a wonderful meal. The dining room was lovely with a view of the hotel garden from the windows. In addition, the adjoining bar and lounge were very ornate. After dinner we explored the hotel, but did not see any signs of spirits. We went to bed fairly early as we had a long hike planned for the morning.
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Rocky Mountain National Park
Hike to Sky Pond
Bright and early we were off to explore Rocky Mountain National Park. Rocky Mountain National Park is located in Colorado and is a nature enthusiasts playground. You can find more information about the park and what it has to offer by following the park’s link. https://www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm
We were on our way to hike Sky Pond which is inside the park on the Eastern side. This particular trail is about a half hour from Estes Park. Follow Highway 36 W and then take Bear Lake Road. The trail starts at Glacier Gorge Trailhead. It is an 8.5 mile out and back trail, although there are a few variations you can take. Specifically, you can start at other trails which can shorten or lengthen the hike.
I picked this trail because there is so much to see and there’s even a climb up a waterfall! In addition to waterfalls, there are lakes, forests, and alpine ponds. We started at Bear Lake since the parking lot at Glacier Gorge Trailhead was full. It was a pretty place to start although it extended the length of the trail.
After enjoying Bear Lake, we took the easy dirt trail to Alberta Falls. This 30 foot waterfall is spectacular. You can hear the water smashing on the rocks below and the roar of the creek much sooner than you can see the falls.
The trail towards The Loch starts easy and then becomes steeper and more rough as you get closer and includes a few switchbacks. The Loch simply means The Lake. It is located in a valley with mountain tops surrounding it. We spent about an hour or so here just soaking up the sun and the beauty of the area. It was so peaceful, I even had a short power nap!
When leaving the Loch area, follow the trail on the left side of the lake as you continue your hike. You will soon see Timberline Falls in the distance. This is not as easy as the trail was earlier. Lots of steps and the terrain is more rocky and strenuous. The falls were spectacular with the water glistening in the sunshine.
To continue on to Sky Pond you must climb the side of Timberline Falls. This was just a bit scary for me but we both made it up with no issues. Once to the top, we arrived at Glass Lake, also called Lake of Glass. This is an alpine lake surrounded by mountain tops. Very serene and peaceful.
Steve and I continued to Sky Pond. It is only a short distance from Glass Pond but you must walk over a rocky terrain. My knee was bothering me trying to step up the huge rocks so I stayed put and Steve finished the journey. He took some amazing pictures and told me it was worth the effort to see Sky Pond, so of course, I wish I had went.
We hiked back the way we came. We absolutely loved this hike and had a perfect day. After returning back to Estes Park we wandered through the touristy part of town. Lots of restaurants and shops. We enjoyed homemade taffy at two different places and I bought some locally made soaps. For dinner we dined at the Twin Owl Steakhouse. We both had steak and enjoyed our meal. The service was excellent.
The Stanley Hotel Ghost Tour
The hotel offers different tours including a nightly ghost tour. Since we still hadn’t seen any ghosts, we decided to take this tour, hoping for a bit of ghostly action. The tour was a lot of fun and included the Concert Hall, which is considered very haunted. We also toured the main floor of the hotel where we saw a flag in which a mysterious face can be seen and a piano that at times plays on its own. Last on the tour was a tunnel in the basement of the hotel. The tunnel, now blocked off, at one time served as a way for staff to go from building to building.
In spite of all my wishing and hoping, the spirits were not in the mood to hang out with us. Our tour guide was very informative and regardless of lack of spiritual encounters it was well worth the money and Steve and I both had a good time with it.
The time had come to leave The Stanley Hotel. We had so much fun here that it was hard to leave, of course I started talking about next time we stay there! I can never go on a trip without planning another one!
Rocky Mountain National Park
After a hearty breakfast at Claire’s Restaurant in Estes Park we headed towards Rocky Mountain National Park. The plan was to take the Old Fall River Road and then connect to the famous Trail Ridge Road. We would be ending our day in Denver to visit my son. It was a beautiful day for a drive through the mountains and we were anticipating lots of fun stops.
We headed west from Estes Park towards Old Fall River Road. It was a pleasant drive. Our first stop was the Alluvial Fan. We parked at the West Alluvial Fan Trailhead and walked the less than 1 mile trail to the East Alluvial Fan area. In 1982, this Alluvial Fan was created when the Lawn Lake Damn broke and the force of the water caused boulders, rocks, trees and sediment to basically landslide and form a fan. Now, water flows down the fan over the rocks and boulders to a small lake below. We had a lot of fun climbing the rocks and crossing over the water, stepping on the rocks and logs to keep our feet dry. Even though it was mid morning, there were plenty of people there.
Old Fall River Road
About a mile past the Alluvial Fan was the beginning of the Old Fall River Road, it was well marked. This was the original and first high country road in Rocky Mountain National Park. It is a one way up gravel road about 11 miles long and connects to Trail Ridge Road at the Alpine Visitor Center. The road is steep and narrow with some switchbacks, speed limit is 15 mph. It is a beautiful drive up and over the mountains.
The next place we explored was Chasm Falls. A beautiful waterfall that flows through a chasm, and then down a narrow gorge. This waterfall is just off the road. Fortunately, since it is a popular area, there are many pull offs from which you can view the falls. You can also hike along the gorge to get closer or farther from the falls depending on where you parked. We didn’t stay long as we were close enough to the falls from where we parked and had a good view and easy access to the creek below.
Back in the Jeep, we put the top down and enjoyed the rest of the drive on Old Fall River Road. It was a perfect drive through the mountains, sunshine and warm but not hot. Just before the end of the historic road, we decided to stretch our legs, even though it isn’t a long road, it took at least an hour to drive. We pulled over at Marmot Point and walked up the 0.8 mile trail to the top, elevation 11,900 feet!
I couldn’t believe what a tough hike this was. The path was an easy dirt trail and it was short, but I was huffing and puffing. The elevation left me breathless. I felt better that it wasn’t just me. The few people on the trail, like me, walked a bit, then caught our breath, then walked again, then caught our breath again. Slowly but surely, Steve and I made it to the top. What a view! Pictures do not do it justice, regardless, it is a pretty amazing place. We even saw a marmot or two!
Alpine Visitor Center
We reached the end of the road at the Alpine Visitor Center, from there, we would continue via Trail Ridge Road down the mountains. We took some time to browse around the visitor center. Lots of variety there from traditional touristy souvenirs to Colorado hand made goods. There is also a cafeteria style restaurant in the visitor center.
We followed Trail Ridge Road down the mountains and out of Rocky Mountain National Park. At Grand Lake we wanted to get out and walk around but it started to rain so we put the top up on the Jeep and headed to Denver.
We arrived in Denver early evening. Unfortunately, my son was stuck at an airport on the east coast. Disappointed, but I knew we would see him tomorrow. We stayed in Golden which is close to where he lives. Dinner was at my favorite Mexican Restaurant in Golden which is The Table Mountain Inn. We had a wonderful meal and especially enjoyed the salsa. I also enjoyed a margarita!
We awoke to a beautiful day! Weather was perfect. We met my son for breakfast. He took us to Snooze. If you are ever in the Denver area, Snooze is the place for breakfast, be prepared for generous servings! After breakfast Steve and Tony went golfing. I took myself shopping to Arvada and then I went for a hike.
My Second Hike to Forgotten Valley
A couple of years ago, I started a hike to Forgotten Valley, Colorado. I never made it as I had a bit of a scare after seeing some mysterious animal footprints. Between the footprints and the scenarios I conjured up in my mind, I had turned around without reaching Forgotten Valley. I decided I would go today as I figured I had some unfinished business, so to say.
Forgotten Valley is in Golden Gate State Park, near Golden, Colorado. It is a 3 mile round trip out and back trail. At the end of the trail is the abandoned Tallman Homestead alongside a lake which sits in Forgotten Valley. My plan was to hike to the homestead and explore the area.
The hike itself is an easy hike, beginning uphill through a forest. You can see mountains all around you and generally it is a pretty hike. The trail continues through a tree lined path down into the valley. I had turned around at this point last time I was here. Hiking down through the trees I felt very alone as I had not seen anyone else on the trail for a long time, it was a bit unnerving, but I was determined to see Forgotten Valley and the homestead.
As the path evened out, suddenly, through the trees, I saw the lake and Tallman homestead. I was elated! I had made it to Forgotten Valley! It was a picturesque sight to see. The lake wasn’t anything I’d swim in as it appeared a bit murky, be that as it may, it was still a pretty scene. While taking pictures, I noticed a dark cloud approaching and heard thunder. As much as I wanted to explore the homestead buildings I did not want to get caught in a mountain storm. Reluctantly, I turned around and headed back to my vehicle.
The storm was approaching more rapidly than I would like, even though I was walking at a very brisk pace. The weather became cooler so I started to jog back to the trailhead. It was a good thing I did. Just before the end of the trail it started to sprinkle and as I was packing my Jeep, the rain hit hard. It was surprising, as I headed down the mountain, how quickly the dirt road became slick. I made it back to my motel without incident and as I made it to my room, it started to hail. Wow! I was really glad I turned around when I did. I’ll have to explore the Tallman Homestead at Forgotten Valley yet another time! If you want to read about my first attempt on hiking to Forgotten Valley you can follow this link. https://thegenxtravels.com/2019/05/13/hike-to-forgotten-valley-coloradoalmost-made-it/
Steve and Tony didn’t escape the storm either. They were on the 17th hole as the storm came up and the hail started as they were on their way back to the club house. Once the hail stopped, the storm moved on and the day was once again sunny and bright!
In spite of the crazy weather, we had a great day and ended up enjoying dinner at Mr. Tuna in Denver, an Asian, sea food, eclectic restaurant with a lot of ambiance. I had my first attempt at chop sticks, didn’t seem to work right for me. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the meal considering I don’t like Asian or seafood!
In the morning we said goodbye to my son and once again, made the 10 hour drive back to Iowa. Even though this trip was shorter than our last Colorado road trip, we still packed in a lot of fun and adventure. Our Rocky Mountain National Park trip was definitely one to remember, and I can’t wait to go back and hike more trails, see more waterfalls, and stay at the Stanley Hotel again!
Additional information about Rocky Mountain National Park can be found on the Park’s website by following this link. https://www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm
If you want to read a more detailed account, including trail distances, click on my like to my Hike to Sky Pond post.
To read about my first attempt hiking to Forgotten Valley and how I was scared away you can click on my link, Hike to Forgotten Valley, I almost made it
Clock on my Other Colorado Hikes and Trips for more adventures!
Wondering what to wear on a long day hike in the mountains? Check out my link, What to Wear on a Mountain Day Hike, for advice and clothing ideas and also read up on what to take on your day hike, Packing for a Day Hike
I used this guide book to determine which hike I wanted to do. This book covers a lot about each trail listed along with difficulty level, distance, and location. In regards to location, it is also broken down by area and includes maps of each trail. It also has a lot of colored pictures which I like.
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