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Trip Report Colorado: Estes and WinterPark

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Rocky Mountains July 22-July 31, 2010

The trip: We were invited to a wedding at the YMCA in Estes Park on Sat. July 23rd. My husband won a bid on a condo in Winter Park at an auction. We decided to combine these. We love vacationing in the mountains.

Car rental: Car rentals are expensive at the Denver airport. We rented from Budget for $319 for our 8 days. This was a great last minute rate that I received in an email from Budget. I had been rejected many times on Priceline at $350. Here are my suggestions for renting a car in Denver:

Get an idea of the cost for a rental by checking on www.kayak.com. Check as soon as your flight reservations are made.

Become a member of the car rental companies. This is free and they send you special e mail rates. The rate we received did not show up on kayak.

Book offsite on Quebec street. If you are staying overnight at a hotel, stay on Quebec St., take the shuttle to the hotel, rent the car the next morning.

If you find a decent rate, book it. You don’t have to enter your credit card info and you can cancel it if you find a cheaper rate.

After we booked the car with Budget, I signed up for the special member program….The program that every car rental company has, where you enter credit card numbers and DL#. You avoid the long line for rental. We just walked up to the window and then picked out our car. The line at the regular Budget desk was long and in another location.

Make sure there is no extra charge for the second driver (if that is important)

Check Hotwire rates and then bid lower on Priceline.

There was some question about driving the toll roads in Colorado in a rental car. The toll booths are unmanned. When you return your vehicle, you will be charged the toll + $2.50/day after passing the toll booth—I think this is correct. We drove the scenic routes—no tolls.

Itinerary:
Friday: Flew Continental on a reward ticket—not direct. Arrived at 11:15am. Stopped for lunch in Lyons at the Barking Dog Café and drove Rt 36 into Estes. Get together was held that evening at the Brewery

We spent Friday and Saturday at the YMCA in Estes Park where the wedding was held. We stayed at the Longs Peak Lodge ($179/nt) where the guests of the wedding were all staying. The YMCA is a very large complex, very family oriented, fabulous setting. A good place for a group or families. If my husband and I were just going to Estes for a vacation, I would choose to stay at one of the facilities that offer cottages on the river.

Saturday: We left the YMCA at 4PM and drove the beautiful Trail Ridge Rd. ($20/car--good for entrance to the park all week). About 25 elk in a group in the meadows--bull and cows. 2 moose in the willows toward the end of Trail Ridge Rd. Arrived in Winter Park at 8:30 PM. Dinner at Moe’s Barbecue

Sunday: Breakfast at the Rise and Shine Café—great homemade bread.
Hiked from the Devils Thumb Trailhead
Friends join us at the condo
Dinner at Deno’s—we all enjoyed our meals there

Monday: Hiked Creekside and Flume from the St. Louis Campground Trailhead
Afternoon at Grand Lake. We tried to eat at the Rapids Restaurant--lovely lodge by the river--only open for dinner. Got sandwiches at the stand down by the lake and ate outside. Rented a pontoon and enjoyed gawking at the beautiful lakeside homes.
Dinner: Albertos—good Italian

Tuesday: Golf Special at Pole Creek Golf Course. Girls breakfast at Carvers and then headed to the Winter Park Resort. Lunch at Pole Creek on the terrace.
Hiked the Waterfall Loop at the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch

Wednesday
Float trip with “Adventures in Whitewater”—locally owned—hour drive to Kremmling
Lunch at Glory Hole in Hot Sulphur Springs--great bread pudding
Hike Monarch Lake Trail
Pizza for dinner—DeAngelos (not recommended) recommended by river guide—think Hernandos would be the better choice

Thursday
Golf again at Pole Creek—girls just hang out
Back to Winter Park to see Crankworks--the wild bike races
Dinner at the Tabernash Tavern—highly recommended. Drove down to see Broken Thumb Ranch—really lovely—would like to have eaten dinner there

Friday
Drive back Trail Ridge Rd.
Lots of elk—maybe 40+ seen as we walked along the trail at Medicine Bow Curve
We did the ranger led hike on the Ute Trail at the Alpine Visitors Center
Got drenched on the hike to Mills Lake
Drove down Rt 7 to Boulder and then into Denver. Stayed the night at the Hyatt Summerfield Suites on 71st right by the airport. $89/nt--new and lovely suites.
Dinner across the street at Vinnies

Saturday
Fly home at 10AM with a 6 hour layover in Las Vegas. Stored backpack in a locker and took a taxi to the Mandalay Bay. Lunch and gambling. Left at 3PM for our 4:30 flight back to Cleveland.

More later...........

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