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Need advice for 3 day Denver area trip with son

Need advice for 3 day Denver area trip with son

Old Jul 15th, 2018, 11:07 AM
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Need advice for 3 day Denver area trip with son

I'm taking my 16 year old son on a father/son get away weekend and need some advice. We'll be arriving late Thursday evening in early August and will be flying out Monday morning. So we have 3 full days to spend some time together, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Right now my tentative itinerary is as follows:

Friday: Leave from north Denver hotel and drive up to Fort Collins and then up into the mountains to drive through the Rocky Mountain National Park. Our goal will be to drive up Old Fall River Road. If we arrive there around 9 or 10am, how bad will the line be? This will be on August 3? We'll basically spend the entire day making a large loop that will end up back in west Denver that evening. We'll stop along the way multiple times and enjoy the view, hike and eat a few meals.

Saturday: We'll leave our west Denver hotel and go see the Red Rock Amph. We'll then do some white water rafting near Idaho Springs and hopefully end the day with a drive up to the top of Mt. Evans. We'd then head toward a hotel for the evening that helps our day on Sunday...maybe Aspen, or that direction?

Sunday: This is my dilemma...what to do on the 3rd day. From some early research we thought it would be neat to drive through the Curecanti Nat. Rec. Area near Gunnison and also drive past the Royal Gorge, with the intent of ending up back in Denver to stay our last night at the airport at the Westin. But I'm now realizing that's at least an 8 hour loop drive w/out stopping. That's just too much driving. What should we do on the 3rd day?

We don't mind putting a lot of miles on our rental car. It's interesting how we often talk more when we're driving anyway. But I need input on where to go and what to do on the 3rd day. We're not interested in spending time in Denver. We want to do something neat in the mountains for each of our 3 days. Any thoughts about the 3rd day, or advice on our first 2 days?

Thanks

**EDIT**
I can switch any of these days around I believe, so if a Friday vs. a weekend day helps any good options, that's a possibility.

Maybe the 3rd day is just spend at a big ski resort that has zip lines, mountain coasters, etc??

Last edited by Wekiva; Jul 15th, 2018 at 11:12 AM.
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Old Jul 15th, 2018, 11:34 AM
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Gunnison is too far for a one-day visit. So is Aspen, in my opinion.

Instead of returning to Denver after RMNP, you could stay in the mountains for Friday and Saturday nights. Drive from the park over the spectacular Trail Ridge Road, into Grand County. Stay in Grand County for the night, if you don't want to drive further. Grand Lake Lodge, Snow Mountain Ranch near Fraser, Devil's Thumb Ranch (insanely nice place) near Tabernash, or someplace in Winter Park like Vasquez Creek Inn, etc.

Shift your Red Rocks visit to Sunday, on your drive back to Denver. It is right off of I-70, so makes an easy stop.

Take your rafting trip someplace in Grand County, although the water is running low everywhere, so you might not find white-water in August.
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Old Jul 15th, 2018, 02:27 PM
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If you were planning on missing the east side of Trail Ridge road, that would be a mistake, IMO. Fall River road is hemmed by trees much of the way, and the views on TRR are unbeatable. Mount Evans would be better done in the morning, to not chance the p.m. lightning/thunderstorms. You seem to be underestimating the time it takes to drive some distances. (Just stay the first night at an airport hotel and hit I25 to 34 for RMNP in the morning.)
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Old Jul 15th, 2018, 02:47 PM
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MoBro is on the right track. I don't see the point of driving back to west Denver for the night when you don't wan to do anything in Denver. Also, Fort Collins is a little out of the way if you're heading to RMNP - not much out of the way but if you want to get there by 9 am, you won't want to go to Fort Collins first.

I would stay overnight in Boulder the first night. That gets you closer to RMNP than north Denver. Either drive up 36 or take a longer route through Allenspark to RMNP. If you go through Allenspark and up Hwy 7, I'd recommend bypassing Estes Park by taking Marys Lake Road - look at Google maps for that. Just pack a cooler with some food for the day and you can avoid Estes Park entirely.


I would recommend starting the day in RMNP on Bear Lake Road - if you get there early enough you may be able to find a parking space but more likely, you'll need to park at the Park 'n' Ride lot and take the shuttle. Walking around Bear Lake and the hike to Alberta Falls are practically a must-do. Sprague Lake is also super easy and quick. If you have more energy, I'd recommend going beyond Alberta Falls to either Mills Lake or the Loch.

After that, drive up Trail Ridge Road or Old Fall River Road. You mentioned Old Fall River Road - that is a decent drive but Trail Ridge Road is better. Your choice. Old Fall River will connect with Trail Ridge Road at the Alpine Visitor Center, however you would want to go back east on Trail Ridge Road to see some of the viewpoints and get out and walk at Rock Cut. Just remember, you will likely have afternoon thunderstorms and you don't want to be out walking around on the tundra when they hit as lightning is a very real danger. If you spend all morning hiking around the Bear Lake corridor road, keep that in mind when you start the drive up and over to the west side.

Again, as MoBro mentioned, you should head over the west side of RMNP and find lodging somewhere beyond the park instead of going back to Denver. You could spend Saturday at Copper Mountain, Vail, Breckenridge and do the zipline/coaster stuff. I would also recommend biking down from Vail pass to Frisco (going through Copper). You can google Vail Pass bike shuttle and find a company that will rent a bike and shuttle you to the top of the pass. Vail and Breckenridge have more for the adventure activities than Copper does.

I wouldn't plan on any major whitewater rafting, August is too late and the water flow is not good this year. We went over the 4th of July and it was already fairly tame. If you do that, Sunday on your way back to Denver is a good plan since you'll head through Idaho Springs anyway. If the weather is decent, you can drive up Mt. Evans as well, save the Red Rocks visit for late afternoon and then head back to Denver for the night.
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Old Jul 15th, 2018, 05:08 PM
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Thank you all for your advice. I've driven the Trail Ridge Road before and thought my son might appreciate the more remote Old Fall River Road...but I do remember how impressive the views from TRR were, so we'll likely skip OFRR. We'll also likely head to Boulder when we arrive to get a more direct route to RMNP.

At Red Rocks it talks about blocking off access around 2pm when there's a night concert. Sunday Joe Bonamassa is coming at 8pm, so I'm assuming we'd need to get there around noon which might be tough. I'll have to ponder that. It appears there is a concert every evening we're there, which does lend itself to a morning visit.

If we spent Friday night around Winter Park, are there any scenic drives around there that stand out from the others? Anything with neat hikes along the way?

Which ski resort would be the best one to visit in the summer, or do they all have the same activities like coasters, zip lines, etc?
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Old Jul 15th, 2018, 06:09 PM
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If it makes sense, reverse your itinerary and go to Red Rocks on Friday morning, then finish with RMNP on Sunday. The park is busier on Sunday but it's going to be busy on Friday as well.

Breckenridge had a fair amount to do. Vail looked good but I didn't go there. Copper looked to have the least amount of the 3. I'm sure others can chime in about those 3 plus any others in the area.
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Old Jul 16th, 2018, 04:05 PM
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If you stay in Winter Park on Friday night, personally, I would stay there, and enjoy Grand County a second night. There’s plenty to do there. Fishing, hiking, horseback riding, rafting. Check the calendar for outdoor concerts, also.

Like I said above, I highly recommend Devil’s Thumb Ranch. Hiking galore, horses, locally sourced fine dining, gorgeous huge working ranch, zip lining, eco-friendly, fishing, rafting close-by.

If you want to drive further, you could go to Steamboat Springs for a night. It’s a very pretty drive. I think about an hour and a half from Winter Park itself. Going home from Steamboat, you could go through Summit County.

Or, if you prefer to stay a night in Breckinridge or someplace in Summit County, drive there from Winter Park, along scenic highway 9 from Kremmling.
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Old Jul 16th, 2018, 04:46 PM
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At Copper there is the Woodward facility that your son might enjoy jumping around in. You've done Trail Ridge--don't rob your son of it--as has been pointed out!! ;o)
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Old Jul 17th, 2018, 09:50 AM
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I echo the concerns about rafting, but fwiw there is rafting in fort collins (just don't know if that late in the year). When we were in fort collins we rafted, enjoyed a pinball pub downtown and did a hike around a nearby reservoir.

Breckenridge would offer a nice town, plenty of hikes and the Peak 8 adventure park. Overpriced IMHO but it has a good alpine coaster and slide (we get there early and do the coaster over and over before the line catches up). You can take lifts up and hike or bike down. There is a zip line but it's a bit pathetic, but there may be better ones elsewhere.

Farther west is Glenwood springs. It has a neat adventure park with a lot more to offer someone his age. The town isn't quite as enjoyable, though.
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Old Jul 18th, 2018, 03:23 PM
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Why is Ft. Collins on the list? Is it critical? If not, I have a circle route for you.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2018, 02:43 PM
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fmpden - Ft Collins ins't critical and I've dropped it. The current plan is to head straight to Boulder when we arrive (around midnight) and then head up to Rocky Mountain National Park Friday morning. As mentioned above we'll stop at Bear Lake on the way to RMNP.

I'm considering staying near Winter Park Friday night and then looking for activities around there for Saturday. We'll then head south a bit and likely hit Mt. Evans and the Red Rocks Amphitheater on Sunday and then fly out on Monday morning.

I'm interested in your loop input tho. Currently I've only made Hampton Inn reservations, which give me cancellation flexibility. I love the look of Devil's Thumb Ranch , but the moment I make the reservation I'm on the hook for at least $100, so I've held off on making that reservation yet. If you've got a good circle route I'll need to know it soon in case it switches things up.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2018, 03:52 PM
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Bear Lake is in RMNP.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2018, 05:35 PM
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Good point...I guess I meant we'd go to Bear Lake for a hike and then drive the Trail Ridge Road through the rest of the RMNP.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2018, 08:45 PM
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It looks like you have the circle route planned already, something like this:
https://goo.gl/maps/gwH1hKU2LU82

Note Google default routes you on the toll road leaving DIA to Boulder, but there are ways to avoid that. However, they will all be slower.

You may not be able to drive to Bear Lake on a weekend morning unless you get there REALLY early. They close the road except for the shuttle bus when the parking lot is getting full. Instead, consider looking for some hikes along Trail Ridge Road as you head over to Winter Park. For example there is a trail that leaves from the west side of the Alpine Visitor Center parking lot, other trails by Milner Pass, and yet more in the Kawuneeche Valley. The west side of the Park not the really rugged rocky scenery of the east, but you are on a time budget and you'll still see plenty of good stuff.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2018, 08:52 PM
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Nelson - Yes...that is general route of my current plan. We'll just stretch it out for 3 days and enjoy the scenery.

The current plan is to attempt Bear Lake on Friday morning. Since we'll be hitting the sack around 1am (3am EST) I'm not sure how early we'll be able to arrive. If it's already closed then we'll likely move on and do more hiking along Trail Ridge Road,
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Old Jul 23rd, 2018, 09:23 AM
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I think you're on the right track, to slow down and enjoy your visit.
One suggestion, though, is that you just stay in a hotel close to the airport, instead of driving to Boulder after midnight.
You would be more rested for the next morning drive, and would see things in daylight.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2018, 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Wekiva View Post
Nelson - Yes...that is general route of my current plan. We'll just stretch it out for 3 days and enjoy the scenery.

The current plan is to attempt Bear Lake on Friday morning. Since we'll be hitting the sack around 1am (3am EST) I'm not sure how early we'll be able to arrive. If it's already closed then we'll likely move on and do more hiking along Trail Ridge Road,
I'd still give serious thought to reversing the route. Start with an easy day visiting Red Rocks and Mt. Evans on Friday, end with hiking in RMNP on Sunday.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2018, 12:40 PM
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Yes, reverse the route is a good idea. That has the additional benefit of not driving down I-70 on a Sunday afternoon, which can be notoriously miserable.

Good luck and have a great trip.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2018, 01:40 PM
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I see your point. But I was thinking we might want to be in RMNP on Friday vs. the weekend when I'm sure it will be busier. But will weekend crowds impact us much if we're mainly driving around? We're no longer queuing up to drive up Old Fall River Road since we're sticking to Trail Ridge Road.

What will be more difficult on Sunday...driving up to the top of Mt. Evans or driving through RMNP?

Last edited by Wekiva; Jul 23rd, 2018 at 01:45 PM.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2018, 05:26 PM
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I've never driven up Mt. Evans. RMNP will be somewhat busier on Sunday vs. Friday, but not a huge difference. It's summer and every day is busy.

West side of the park is never as busy as the east side but is also not as scenic. I mention that since a reversal of the itinerary would have you entering the park at Grand Lake and exiting by Estes Park. You probably aren't going to do a lot of hiking on the west side, so it actually works out fairly well in that you'll be up on Trail Ridge Road before noon and can gauge the weather to avoid being up there during any thunderstorms.By the time you're over to the east side, it will be busy and you may be better off saving Bear Lake Road for later afternoon, like after 4 or 5.
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