Boulder and North Central Colorado Feature

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Rocky Mountain NP Base Camp: Estes Park or Grand Lake?

More often than not, people choose to stay in Estes Park instead of Grand Lake because it’s closer to the cities of the Front Range—but the traffic, particularly on summer weekends, reflects that. Expect parking in downtown Estes Park to be difficult and count on delays while driving through town. There are also more options for lodging and meals here than in Grand Lake. A hotel room averages $150 per night, and a burger will run you about $8. The Safeway in Stanley Village at the intersection of U.S. 34 (Big Thompson Avenue) and U.S. 36 (St. Vrain Avenue) is the best place to pick up insect repellent, sunscreen, water, and snacks (including deli sandwiches) for hiking.

Grand Lake is a smaller resort than Estes Park. Getting around in a car is easier, and parking is rarely a problem. It’s also a bit closer—only 2 miles—from Grand Lake village to the RMNP entrance, and some naturalists might argue that the Grand Lake side of the park is wilder because it’s the road less traveled. The outdoor activities here are more diverse than in Estes Park; the list includes water sports on Grand Lake, mountain biking, and snowmobiling. Grand Lake village is also close to skiing and ice-fishing, and hiking in the Indian Peaks Wilderness and the Arapaho National Recreation Area. A hotel room averages about $110 per night, and a burger costs around $7. The Mountain Food Market at 400 Grand Avenue is a handy spot to stock up on supplies before entering the park.

Updated: 01-2014

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