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need help - last minute weekend trip to denver/RMNP area

need help - last minute weekend trip to denver/RMNP area

Old May 12th, 2009, 07:32 AM
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need help - last minute weekend trip to denver/RMNP area

Hello all,

I have an opportunity to go to colorado on a last-minute trip this weekend. I would arrive in denver on Saturday around 10am, and the flight home leaves Tuesday morning just before 6am. I’ve checked the weather for the weekend, and while they’re not always right, the weather looks decent, only expecting a few showers on the day that I arrive. I’m looking for some pointers to see if my plans are reasonable or not. My biggest concern is the altitude, since I live at sea-level, and I'm 5 months pregnant. My doctor has cleared me for travel to Colorado, reminding me only to drink plenty of fluids and not to over-do it. I’m planning on traveling with my husband, and we are also thinking of bringing our other 3 children along (who are very good travelers…we have never left them behind before), who are ages 8, 5, and 1.

My primary objective is to visit rocky mountain national park. I'm pretty sure trail ridge road isn’t completely open, but that’s ok, as long as we can get into the park and do a short hike or two and some sightseeing. Are things blooming yet?

I’ve also read about the garden of the gods in Colorado springs and pikes peak, but I’m not sure if this will warrant taking a whole day out of my short trip. I read a bit on the pikes peak cog railway and the highway, but I’m concerned about the effects of the altitude, and I’m not sure if garden of the gods is enough of a draw down that way, or if we should just stick to denver and points north given our time.

Denver itself doesn’t seem to be a big draw for me. I know it has all the typical kid attractions, like a zoo, children’s museum, etc. but unless something is really amazing, we tend to skip that stuff since we have it all at home. The US Mint looks interesting, but maybe not realistic with a toddler, since you can’t bring any bags in and there’s no storage? plus, i think we'd explore denver on saturday, when the mint is closed...

We love the outdoors and nature things and food; we’re not into shopping, and if we take the kids we won’t be eating at any fancy places either! When we visit a place, we like to do things there that we can't do elsewhere, things that are special and specific to that place.

I'm looking for suggestions/help with a specific itinerary. I’d like to iron this out before I book the tickets (which I need to do very soon). My general ideas go something like this:

Saturday – arrive denver, explore town a bit (US mint is closed though) and rest after the flight. Maybe take the trolley around? maybe stay at a hotel with an indoor pool for the kids?
Sunday – possible daytrip to Colorado springs for garden of the gods and pikes peak. Maybe a peek into the Olympic training center as well, if they’re open and if time permits. Overnight back in denver
Monday – daytrip up to rocky mountain national park, do a few easy hikes, drive around a bit. Overnight denver
Tuesday – early flight home

sat - arrive denver and relax/do something fun with kids, overnight denver
sun - drive up to RMNP, making a stop in boulder along the way?, overnight estes park
mon - do another hike in RMNP, maybe my husband could go on an easy horseback ride with our oldest child?, return to denver and overnight near the airport
tues - early flight home

big thanks in advance!!! this forum is always so helpful!
meab is offline  
Old May 12th, 2009, 10:36 AM
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RMNP Trail Ridge to the top doesn't fully open until (or after some years) Memorial Day due to snow. You will be able to drive most of the way into the park and mountains but not the highest elevations or to come out the west end for a 'loop' tour. Pikes Peak and other high altitude locations such as Mt Evans will not be open much of the way up due to seasonal closures due to the snow.

You can visit Red Rocks State park west of Denver, which is similar to Garden of the Gods but not as spectacular. Visit Golden and/or Boulder for small cities. Spend a half-day on Pearl Street in Boulder on your way to RMNP. You can do quick hikes on the mesas in Golden or in White Ranch open space just NW of Golden. Actually there are many many places to hike just west of the Denver-Golden-Boulde area. Same with the Springs area. There are also Central City west of Golden and Cripple Creek-Victorville west of the Springs which are old Gold mining towns with some historical interest if you ignore the casinos.

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Old May 12th, 2009, 11:16 AM
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I would recommend going to Georgetown. The historic railroad is ideal for kids, and it's got enough to interest you for a day, without the trek down south to the springs. You could even continue through to Glenwood Springs if you wanted!
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Old May 12th, 2009, 12:06 PM
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Skip Colorado Springs if you want to do RMNP. You don't have enough time to do both without the kids spending much more of their trip in the car. You'll find plenty of short hikes in RMNP. I'd drive straight to Estes Park and enjoy that area for your trip (and if you get bored, head back to Denver).
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Old May 12th, 2009, 12:13 PM
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With only 2.5 days, I agree with padams421--stay in the Estes Park/RMNP area.
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Old May 12th, 2009, 03:53 PM
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Let me give you a whole different set of suggestions based on living here and your three kids. Not sure if any of the other posters live here. You guess on the weather is good. We have had six straight weekends of snow or rain. Should get a break this weekend.

I don't think Estes or RMNP is a good choice at this time. This is our change over season which some locals call mud season. I don't like the phrase but it is a good descriptions. The foothills are snow free but doubt if snow line is much above 8,000 ft and in shade areas will be lower. And anything directly below that is muddy and the includes the trails because many are the conduit for run off. We are coming off of a record snow fall in the mountains this year. Estes is a dead end and dead at this time with little for the kids to do. And there is nothing around there either. You and hubby might like Boulder and the Boulder mall but not the kids. And the train in Georgetown does not start running until Memorial Day weekend which someone else suggested.

My suggestions -- Land Saturday around 10 AM and clear airport by about 11PM. If you do not want to do anything in Denver -- Children's Museum, etc. -- drive through Denver, 285 west to Tiny Town. Kids would love it and there is little train there. Open till 5 on the weekends. You could continue on 285 to 9 and come over Hoosier pass into the south side of Breckenridge (about 2 hrs.) That is a pretty drive. You could stay in Breck but would suggest Frisco -- a little lower in altitude. Some nice, kids friendly restaurants probably running some specials at this point. From Frisco you have paved paths to Breck and Copper Mt that will be snow free that would allow a little hiking. A swing up to Leadville on Sunday would be interesting. And Leadville has a great twelve mile loop, Mineral Trail Loop, is relative flat (north side). It is outdoor museum. Leadville is 30 mins from Frisco. Vail is also 30 min away. A great scenic drive would be I-80 to Glenwood Springs through Glenwood Springs canyon. In the canyon there are some turn outs with hiking trails leading off and there is a trail the runs along the Colorado river in that location. About 2 hours from Frisco to Glenwood. And that is a lot driving.

You could explore Breckenridge, the Cowboy mine is there and the kids might like but Breck will be quiet but good place to eat also.

A Frisco you are two hours back to DIA. You would come down I-80 with a stop in Georgetown -- mostly shops and old buildings and train is not running. A good ice cream place. And Idaho Springs is interesting old town with a great micro brewery. On the way down you could swing through Golden and Buffalo Bill's grave if that does anything for you. Depending on your timing you could spend Sunday evening on the 16th Mall and Confluence Park in downtown Denver. Free mall shuttle bus to drag you up and down the mall, We have sun light till nearly 8:30. You might pop for evening carriage ride -- about $100 for nearly an hour. They stage in front of the Cheesecake factory.

Good luck.


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Old May 12th, 2009, 06:25 PM
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Just realize I miss read your original post. Thought you were going home Monday AM. With the extra day I base myself in Frisco and do a day trip to Glenwood Springs. Glenwood Springs has terrific swimming pool -- about two blocks long and half block wide fed by a local hot springs. Kids would love it. There is also a chair lift that take you up the side of mountain for great views. I would pack a lunch, maybe stop in Vail for an hour or so on the way, stop at Hanging Lake exit in Glenwood canyon, have lunch along side the river, hike a little bit towards Hanging Lake, go on into Glenwood and spend part of the afternoon in the pool. Then use Monday to explore Breck and Leadville and come to Denver. I don't think the carriage ride is available during the Monday. Save it for the next trip.

To further clarify an earlier remark. Estes is on the very eastern edge of RMNP with the bulk of the park laying on the other side of the divide. From the Estes side you would see very little of the park because the road is closed about half way to the top of trail ridge road. That is why I said it was dead end. To see the other side you would need to go through Golden, Winter Park to get to the other side -- a very long way around.
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Old May 12th, 2009, 09:20 PM
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Spend Saturday around Denver. Hammond's Candy Factory has a free tour the kids would love. Open from 10-3 on Saturday.
5735 N Wasington St. PH 303-333-5588. You can sign up for a more extended tour where you & the kids can (for a fee) hands on make your own candy to take home. Your idea about the hotel with indoor pool can finish off the afternoon.
Sunday: Of course go to RMNP! Drive up 36 through Boulder to Estes Park. Go to the Stanley Hotel (where Stephen King was inspired to write The Shining.) They have a ghost tour. The scenery is breath taking. Then drive into the park and just drive in a little ways and stop with the kids at random spots. You don't have to drive that far to enjoy it. Plenty of wildlife can be seen from the car. Elk are all over the place. Monday: If you feel like a 3 1/2 hour drive, go to Aspen. The drive is beautiful through Vail and the white river canyon. I'm new to Colorado (I live in Westminster), and the scenery truly is the best part of this state. Have fun!
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Old May 12th, 2009, 10:56 PM
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Aspen? WAY too much drive time. Go with fmpden, he's pretty much right on. However, he means I-70, not I-80. And I'd check on Tiny Town. Don't know if it's open for the season yet.

Snow above 10,500 to 11,500 (depending on exposure). I know because I live at 10,250. No trolley in Denver. Free shuttle on 16th St. Mall (pedestrian mall). The pedestrian mall in Boulder is the Pearl St. Mall (no shuttle - not needed). Light rail in Denver Metro travels mainly south & southeast from downtown area. Great resteraunts & nightlife in LoDo in downtown Denver. Never heard of Hammond's Candy Factory (I've lived here 30+ years). The pool in Glenwood Springs is a hoot! Could be high point of the trip for the kids. If you go through Vail, see the ski museum. Butterfly Museum in Broomfield on your way to Boulder from Denver would be great for the kids. Hanging Lake hike: short, but uphill hike. Worth the stop. Think I did it in an hour and a half once, round trip. But I was in a hurry.

Someone mentioned Leadville. My town. LOTS of history. Highest incorperated city in US. Arguable the most incredible views in the state, with panoramas of the 2 highest mountains in Colorado. Views of the upper Arkansas River Valley with the Sawatch Mountain Range on one side of the valley, and the Mosquito Range on the other. Leadville sits on the western slope of the Mosquito Range. I could go on and on. But, as much as we'd love to have you come up, at 10,200', it might be too much for a wurl wind tour. No time to aclimate. Plus, not much for the kids, except hiking, etc. However, HEAVEN for outdoor enthusiusts.

Colorado Springs is always a good bet. Easy paved hikes in Garden of the Gods, with spectacular red rock formations. Kid friendly. Seven Falls (lit up at night). Cave of the Winds. Cog Railway (don't worry much about the altitude if your not doing anything strenuous, like hiking). Pottery Factory. Car Museum. Lots of touristy stuff in the Springs. Stop in Manitou Springs, near Cave of the Winds, if you go to C.S. Shops, quaint.

Well, like I said, I could go on and on.
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Old May 12th, 2009, 11:26 PM
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All answered are great. Quite useful information to visit Denver. Thanks for it.

Open Table for Denver Restaurants
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Old May 13th, 2009, 06:31 AM
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I think Zachary is trying to slip in a little web marketing.

You are correct, I meant I-70 -- I grew up along I-80 so my figures always type that. I sure the "white river canyon" that Lisa mentioned is the same canyon I referenced earlier -- Glenwood Canyon which straddles the Colorado River on I-70 between Vail and Glenwood Springs. This area is the White River National Forest which is a loose collection of eight wilderness areas that form a rough triangle from Silverthorne to Aspen to Meeker. Aspen is four hours from Denver and five hours from the Estes park area. Long drive with three kids.

Many people are big fans of Estes but I am not one of them. I think the great RMNP scenery is the decent on the west side from the top of Trail Ridge road but that is not available to you. I think the east side is pretty average for Colorado and Estes is a big tourist town. The areas around Glenwood, Leadville are more spectacular. Tiny Town is open on the weekends in May and September and weekdays in between.

There is a trolley in Denver that runs west from REI at Confluence Park. Don't know the hours. It was running the other day with no passengers so am guessing it was warming up. So much of Denver and the mountains do not wake up till Memorial Day weekend.

Confluence park is at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the S Platte River. It is the point where gold in Cherry Creek was first discovered and viewed as the founding point for Denver. It has been turned into a big urban playground and well worth a visit. If the weather is nice it will be crowded.
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Old May 13th, 2009, 07:24 AM
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Thanks all, especially to fmpden with the kid-friendly approach to things. Given what i've read, i think i'm going to pass on going this weekend. Even though it's a great deal, I think i will hold out for a point later in the summer, even if that means higher prices or larger crowds. also in the summer, we can afford more time to sightsee instead of squeezing in as much as possible.

summer would also allow us to traverse trail ridge road and get a better feel for the park i think. also, i hadn't considered much the glenwood springs area, and the stops in vail, leadville, etc. that were mentioned by several posters. i think that definitely sounds like a nice way to round out the trip. now i just have to get over disappointment over staying home this weekend and start looking for reasonable summer airfares.

thanks for all the help. even though i've decided not to go this weekend, all your information was truly helpful, and i hope to put it to good use this summer!
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Old May 13th, 2009, 08:26 AM
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That is too bad because you would have found some very good deals on lodging and meals. From the closing of ski season in mid=April to Memorial Day, it is pretty dead and the deals will often extend until mid June.
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