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Great Trip to Vail, RMNP and Colorado Springs-July2008

Great Trip to Vail, RMNP and Colorado Springs-July2008

Aug 2nd, 2008, 12:54 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 274
Great Trip to Vail, RMNP and Colorado Springs-July2008

Much of my trips are based on advice from other posters on Fodors, so I hope that the following information will be helpful for others planning trips to Colorado.

I spent a week in Vail for a training and was able to rent a car for the same price as the transportation service from Denver to Vail. On the way to Vail, I drove up to Mount Evans-a bit harrowing, but fantastic views. Many mountain goats with new kids! I stayed at the Lionsbridge Marriott for 6 nights and was very pleased with the room, food, service and location. From Vail I visited Glenwood Canyon and the Maroon Bells (began raining as soon as I got there) and Aspen, drove scenic route through Leadville, took the free gondola to Vail Mountain and hiked short trails there twice (free Thurs, Fri, and Sat. 4-9). There is a lovely paved bike.footpath which runs through Vail/Lionsbridge.

On the way back to DIA, to meet my son, whose flight was delayed almost 3 hours, I drove through Frisco, Glenwood Sp;rings, and Red Rocks Park. After expressing disappointment at being 10 minutes late for the tour at Red Rocks I was informed that the tour didnít happen since no one had signed up. The tour guide offered to take me anyway, resulting in a great, personalized tour. He was an artist authorized to paint the performances occurring at Red Rocks. At his recommendation, I walked up nearby Dinosaur Ridge but had difficulty interpreting the fossil impressions-other than the converse of an Apatosaurus footprint-awesome! I spent slightly over an hour visiting the Denver Botanical Gardens, which had particularly nice water gardens.

Since my sonís flight was late, we didnít make the Coors tour as intended. However, we still ate at Woodyís in Golden (recommended in the Fodorsís guide), which had an all you can eat buffet of wood cooked pizza, soup and salad. Delicions! We then drove the peak to peak byway from Golden to Estes Park.

Spent four nights at the Fawn Valley Inn. Since my business trip to Colorado was planned fairly late, there werenít many condos left with 2 bed accommodations. I was a bit dismayed when we approached this dated (60;s) property, but I had read a review on TripAdvisor of the specific unit we booked and we werenít disappointed. My son (21) and I both agreed that we enjoyed having a full kitchen, a patio a few feet from the river, and accommodations less than a mile from the national park entrance.

During the three full days we had in the eastern section of the park, we hiked to 1) Alberta Falls and Mills Lake (great hike) and on to Bear Lake; 2) Alpine Visitor Center to Milner Pass with a ranger (nice, but windy), 3) Emerald Lake (went as far as Dream Lake with a Ranger)-great, trail to Ouzel Falls (particularly portion as far a Calypso Cascades). The falls at Alluvial Fan are a short distance from the road and very pretty. On our fourth day we drove the Fall River Road up to the Alpine Visitor Center and picked up Trail Ridge Road and continued across to the western section of the park. My son was a bit skeptical about my plan to attend a two hour talk titled ďSisters of CourageĒ about two women who homesteaded in the valley, but we both agreed the speaker was great with a special twist on the story (you need to attend to find out why). We also enjoyed touring the Holzworth Ranch and learning about other early settlers. During our four days in the park we saw elk, moose, fox, mule deer (they hop like rabbits when startled), marmots, and grouse. We also attend three terrific evening ranger programs. I could easily have spent our whole week in the park hiking and attending programs.

We spent our last night near the park in Grand Lake at Gateway Inn. Grand Lake was very pretty and much more low key than Estes Park, which we also both enjoyed.

We took the scenic route from Grand Lake to Florrisant Fossil Beds passing many lakes and varying terrain. Stopped in Frisco to tour the historic park which contained a jail, store, houses and other buildings from the late 1800s which were relocated to the town park. The main street of Frisco is cute-it looks like a western movie set-historic and modern buildings intermingling,and only one story high. Butterhorn Bakery had delicions sticky buns and good coffee.

Florissant Fossil beds has large stumps of petrified redwood trees, the largest of which is 12 feet high and 38 feet in circumference. The ranger talk explained their fate and showed examples of some of the insect and leaf fossils from the beds. Drove on to Manitou Springs and the Americaís Best Value Inn where we spent the last two nights. We took the last tour of the night at Cave of the Winds, which my son enjoyed more than I did. There were some nice formations, but it didnít have any of the large rooms and effects (colored lights, pipe organ) offered at Luray Caverns.

The next day we had fantastic multigrain pancakes, sherry potatoes and fresh fruit for breakfast at Adamís Mountain Café. The food was so good that we decided to return for dinner that night, eating outdoors in the patio. While breakfast was somewhat pricey, dinner was not. We had Senagalese Vegetables with chicken and prawns with mango, both of which were good, and came with excellent soups as a first course.

We took the 9:20 Cog Railway up to Pikeís Peak. The reservation agent had suggested that we take a morning train since afternoon clouds and thunderstorms are common in summer. We both enjoyed the narrated ride up and the view from the top, but my son who is 6í3 found the steep ride down uncomfortable. The train cars are configured with three seats on one side and two on the other. While visibility is good from either side, if you plan to take photos, ask for a seat on the 3 passenger side. All seats are pre-assigned.

After going up to the Cog Railway, we visited the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, which were Anazazai homes which were moved from southern Colorado to Manitou Springs in 1904. We had read this elsewhere, but oddly there was little information about the history of the museum. I loved Mesa Verde when I visited it 15 years ago and wanted to go to the Manitou Cliff Dwelling since it was too far to visit Mesa Verde on this trip. The gift shop was larger than the museum and the $9.50 admission seemed exorbitant. I canít figure out why Fodors made this a starred attraction.

On the other hand, I agreed with the Garden of the Gods as a Fodors Choice destination. We attended a nature walk which discussed the natural features and wildlife in the park, watched technical climbers scaling the huge red rocks, and returned in the evening to walk around other sections of the park. Interesting to see the weird shapes in different light conditions.

stillhouse is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2008, 02:10 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 124
Thanks for the report, I'm using
some of your advise in planning
my trip.
ehovis is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2008, 04:10 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,286
You certainly did pack in the activities! Sounds like it was a trip to remember.

Perhaps you can tell us how the construction is coming along in Vail. If you weren't there for a training, would you have chosen to stay there?
Ronda is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2008, 06:15 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 274
I was very pleasantly surprised by Vail. I'd never been there but had read about the construction and was somewhat apprehensive about how noisy or disrupted the town would appear.

I thought Vail was lovely. The conference was in Lionsbridge and there was a crane close to the Marriott, but we never heard construction noise. The only change was that on one day the shuttle stop was moved a 1/2 block away.

The mountains surround Vail and there is a nice creek which runs behind Vail center, Lionsbridge and Cascade(?)-the three sections of Vail. I walked in the morning and saw others biking and running. Not sure how long the path was-several miles.

Provided that you have a car, I thought that Vail was ideally situated. I described some of the drives that I did within 2 hours in the trip report. I got a map from the hotel which had scenic byways and took a very scenic round trip drive to Leadville, which I didn't mention above. Frisco and the Dillon reservoir are 20-30 minutes away and Breckenridge (cute touristy town) is about 45 minutes away.

Several folks from the training, who did not have a car, arranged to go white water rafting and ziplining/hiking. In the first case the company picked them up. The Marriott apparently has free car loans not to exceed 4 hours or 100 miles, thus providing the transportation to the zipline/hiking. Bike rentals were also available and could be taken to the top of Vail Mountain for a variety of easy-difficult rides down.

I don't ski, but I would recommend Vail as a summer destination.
stillhouse is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2008, 06:23 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 274
I forgot to suggest that if you visit Vail, take the shuttle to the end to visit the Betty Ford Alpine Garden. Small, but lovely. Supposedly the highest alpine garden in the US.
stillhouse is offline  
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