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Trip Report Aspen, Vail, Summit CO, RMNP Trip report - long

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Just got back from our wonderful trip to Colorado. What a great trip. Thanks to all on this forum who helped us plan and gave advice, it was very helpful and appreciated. We flew into Denver, arrived around 11 AM, rented our car and headed towards Aspen over the Independence Pass. Beautiful drive. Independence Pass wasn't half as scary as we expected, really not that much exposure compared to Trailridge Drive, and the narrow parts mostly had guard rails. Beautiful views though. Ended up in Aspen late afternoon. We loved Aspen. The town is beautiful and so much activity, the park with vendors selling art, all the wonderful live classical music on every street corner, etc.... Due to Aspen's "snooty" reputation we thought it might be off putting, but though there were tons of designer shops and such, there were far more very normal and fun things to do and see. We really enjoyed the town. Next day took the quick bus ride from Aspen to Maroon Bells, really enjoyed that, including the stop at Aspen Highlands to connect with the shuttle. Maroon Bells was as beautiful as we had heard, took the scenic loop hike around the lake, just gorgeous. I recommend taking the first shuttle in the morning for best photos, we got a perfect reflection of the Maroon Bells in the water when we arrived, it was gone by the time we left a few hours later. Took the Gondola up Aspen Mountain to the free Bluegrass concert, very fun and what a ride! Stayed at Aspen Mountain Chalet which we highly recommend. Dining was extremely expensive everywhere though excellent food, I recommend Brunelleschi's(Bruno's) for a great Italian meal at sort of reasonable prices(for Aspen).

Next day on to Vail via Glenwood Canyon, arrived around noon, took the Gondola to the top of Vail Mountain and hiked, just beautiful views everywhere. Next day in Vail we drove down to Frisco and rented bikes from Pioneer Sports, they shuttled us to the top of Vail Pass and we rode the 14 miles downhill back to Frisco, then a bit around the lake. That was a blast. The views and just being out there coasting down the mountain was exhilarating. Do be aware the the path meanders pretty close to I-70 so it's not pristine wilderness, but beautiful nonetheless and quite fun. Went fishing that evening at Gore Creek, no catches though we did see a huge trout that wouldn't bite. Great dinner at Blu's restaurant by Gore Creek, again great food and reasonable prices for Vail which is also very expensive dining. Stayed at the Sitzmark which was very nice, right by the water. Vail was a really cute, little imitation German town. We enjoyed it alot. I've read comments about Vail being too close to the highway but never had a sense of the highway being near while we were in the town.

Next day off to Frisco and Summit County. Headed early for Mayflower Gulch. This is a must do hike! Really unbelievable views, feeling of being really out there in the mountains. It was pretty cloudy with rain coming in, so not so great for photos, but still amazing. The rain came in as we were leaving the hike for Frisco, so we got rained out of our kayaking Lake Dillon but it looked fun. Stayed at the Galena Street Inn, nice Bed and Breakfast which fortunately had our room ready early since it was raining. rain stopped late afternoon, we went over to Dillon and actually preferred views of the lake from that side. Tried fishing the Blue River with no success. Good Prime rib at Pubs's restaurant in Dillon.

Next day off for Rocky Mountain National park. Now we were having a great time and really loved everything we did up to then. But when we entered the park, everything else seemed like nothing in comparison. We'd been to the park a few years ago, but it didn't matter that we'd seen it before. Trailridge Drive and it's amazing beauty still left us speechless, the mountains, the trails, the whole park felt like coming home. An amazing place. We stayed at Castle Mountain Lodge, unfortunately for just one night. We had the simple lodge room but it was nice and the whole property was close to the river. They have nice looking cabins too. Tried to hike to Dream Lake but the rain came in again and drenched us, That's okay, we'd hiked it last time. Rain of course cleared as we left the trailhead. Hiked another trail whose name I don't remember for a piece, then strolled along the Fall river, had dinner at Nicky's on the water. We loved the park so much we seriously considered staying an extra night but alas our dogs were waiting for us at home. Last morning we didn't have to leave for the airport till noon, so we made a quick visit to Sprague lake, then spent the morning hiking around Moraine park meadow and fishing in the meandering stream that runs through it, I think that is my favorite place in the park, so peaceful and beautiful. Then it was time to leave for the airport, and now we are home. A truly wonderful week, we just love Colorado and are already talking about when we might come back.

Tips: Wear tons of sunscreen and moisturizer, the air is very dry and it's easy to burn.

-Drink tons of water, it really helps with adjustment to the altitude.

-Bring insect repellent, we forgot ours and got eaten alive at times.

-If it rains, wait an hour and the weather will change again.

-Don't underestimate the effect of the thin air at 9 or 10,000 feet. The air is really thin at such high altitudes, give time to adjust.

-Photos are best in the morning, the glare hits the mountains by about 11 AM and the pictures aren't as good.

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