Estes Park or Grand Lake

Feb 3rd, 2019, 08:05 AM
  #1  
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Estes Park or Grand Lake

I am headed to the Denver area in mid-August and wanted to combine it with a few days (maybe 2-3?) in RMNP. I know Estes Park is very popular, though the lodging options I found so far were a little more expensive than what I found in Grand Lake. Do people still recommend Estes because there's more to do there/it's closer to Denver? Other pros and cons of those two areas? And any recommendations of inexpensive but nice places to stay for 2 people? Under $150/night would be ideal, but the only places I've seen in Estes have been right at that mark or above. Thanks for your help!
cecer3 is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2019, 11:25 AM
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Estes has far more lodging and dining options and is closer to some of the more popular features of the park. The western side has more felled forest (beetle kill) and less to do (although there are places to visit such as hot springs and the Winter Park ski slopes can be fun in the summer). I'd stay on the Estes side (try VRBO for cabins and condos on the river; we like the Fall River entrance) and do a day trip over Trail Ridge road to the other side , to at least see the lakes (Grand, Shadow) if not for a longer drive to other spots.
sylvia3 is online now  
Feb 3rd, 2019, 07:27 PM
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Exactly what are your interests for that time period? It is very touristy and Estes Park, as a town, is full of t-shirt and candy shops with nothing else going for it other than the entrance to Trail Ridge Road. There are many other places much nicer and less crowded and, therefore, cheaper.
fmpden is online now  
Feb 4th, 2019, 07:32 AM
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I'm mostly interested in what I would call "relatively low-key" outdoor activities (walking/hiking, canoeing/kayaking, and ideally a trail ride, but not much more adventure-y than that -- by "relatively low-key" I mean not bungee jumping, skydiving, or rock climbing: I know the hikes in RMNP are not necessarily "low-key" compared with what I'm used to on the east coast.)

I also heard about some of the arts-related things in Estes (Performance Park concerts and Plein Air Rockies) that would definitely interest me if they're happening when I'm there, but I couldn't find details on dates for those. Basically, I don't need t-shirt and candy shops, and I'm happy cooking some meals on my own instead of eating out all the time, but I wouldn't mind the occasional event or cultural or culinary experience to mix it up. That being said, I will also have at least 2 days in Denver, so I can get some of that during that part of the trip.

In the meantime, I'll definitely look into VRBO. Thanks!
cecer3 is offline  
Feb 4th, 2019, 08:33 AM
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You might also consider staying in Winter Park (ski condo type lodging; again, VRBO is a great place to compare lodging options): Google "winter park summer" or similar for many lists of and links to fun summer activities. Close enough for day trips to RMNP, Grand Lake area, Hot Sulfur Springs, etc., but nowhere near as touristy or expensive as Estes, plus there are groceries, shopping, all you need. It's a very good option for those not intent, say, on trekking into the Never Summer Range
sylvia3 is online now  
Feb 6th, 2019, 10:27 AM
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From my earlier post you can conclude that I am not the greatest fan of Estes Park. It is strictly a tourist town with many better options in other location. If you have three days and want light activity -- if you truly want to see some of historical Colorado and the scenery, let me suggest some alternatives. Get an early start from Denver and swing through Estes Park (you have no choice) and drive Trail Ridge Road through the park. Could well take half day or more depending in the number of stops you make. Once on the western side continue on US40 past Winter Park, Berthoud pass, rejoin I-70 and depending on your time make a stop at Georgetown. The last territorial town in Colorado. Fairly well preserved old Victorian mining town. Tours of the old hotel, I think, are still free. The Georgetown loop railroad is great but you may not have time for it. Maybe catch it on your return to Denver. I would suggest you stay in Breckenridge for a couple of nights but Frisco would work just as well. Breckenridge is another old mining town but reworked greatly by the ski industry. Has a lot of activities from gold mine tours to horse back rides. You can take a day trip to Leadville and hike some of the Mineral Belt trail - 12 miles, relatively flat - a great outdoor museum of mining history. You could go as far as Glenwood Canyon - hour and half beyond Frisco over Vail pass - a great scenic drive through the canyon. Unfortunately the short hike to the hanging lake in the canyon now requires a reservation. And if just interested in long driving day -- from Leadville take Independence pass into the back side of Aspen and then loop down to Glenwood Springs and take I-70 through the canyon, pass Vail and back to Breckenridge. Lots of options.
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Feb 6th, 2019, 11:23 AM
  #7  
 
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I'm not a huge fan of Estes, either, but I understand that everyone wants to see "RMNP". I like fmpden's idea of driving through the park, over Trail Ridge Road, and out the other side of the Park.
Since you only have 2 or 3 days, I suggest you stay in Grand County, as opposed to driving further to Summit County.
Stay in Grand Lake one night, then move to Winter Park for the final night. There's plenty to do for you, and perhaps less expensive than Estes.
MoBro is offline  
Feb 9th, 2019, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by fmpden View Post
It is very touristy and Estes Park, as a town, is full of t-shirt and candy shops with nothing else going for it other than the entrance to Trail Ridge Road.
I think you misspelled Rocky Mountain National Park there.

You want to spend 2-3 days in RMNP. Estes is your best option. The east side of the park is far more scenic than the west side, so don't spend your time in Grand Lake please. If you want to drive all the way to the west side as a day trip utilizing Trail Ridge Road, go for it, just don't use Grand Lake as your base.

Estes is extremely touristy and busy, and August will be a mess. Find lodging on the west side of town so you don't have to drive through town each day to go to/from the park and you won't notice the crowds so much. You'll have a day to spend in the Bear Lake area - get there early to avoid the biggest crowds and longest shuttle lines. One day along Bear Lake Road, one day to drive Trail Ridge Road and see some of the west side, one day to do something in Estes plus some hiking in the Moraine Park area. Easy to fill up 3 days and mostly avoid Estes' tourists.

If you had a week some of these other suggestions would work, but do you really wanna spend several hours a day driving when you only have 2-3 days? Just pick a location and explore, don't keep switching locations and making day trips from each new location.

WhereAreWe is offline  
Feb 10th, 2019, 01:24 PM
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"I think you misspelled Rocky Mountain National Park there."
What does that mean?

In any event, Grand Lake is a fabulous location.
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Feb 10th, 2019, 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by MoBro View Post
"I think you misspelled Rocky Mountain National Park there."
What does that mean?

In any event, Grand Lake is a fabulous location.

The quote in question said Estes Park's has nothing else going for it except being the entrance to Trail Ridge Road. That's ludicrous. I was pointing out that the town is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park - with the obvious implication that there is far more to the park than just a road going through it.

Grand Lake is nice but fabulous is a stretch, especially for someone who wants to visit RMNP. It's just not convenient to the majority of the major park locations.
WhereAreWe is offline  
Feb 17th, 2019, 04:35 PM
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I agree that Estes Park is a tourisy town, which is why we visit during the shoulder season to avoid the crowds. However, we are there to hike and the best hikes and scenery is definitely on the east side of the park. We usually stay at Woodlands on Fall River - units with full kitchens so we can avoid going into town. It's on the west side of town and you can enter the park through the Fall River entrance and avoid EP. You could also split your stay between EP and one night in Grand Lake, especially if you plan to drive across Trail Ridge Road and stop and see the scenery and do a few short hikes...it can take an entire day. Grand Lake (the town) doesn't have that much going on and not many great food choices...and hotels are just so/so When we've stayed in Grand Lake we stay at the Gateway Inn. If you're looking for short and/or easier hikes, this website has great information: Best Easy Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
Sprague Lake is great early in the morning for amazing pictures!

Enjoy your trip!
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