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Need help to plan Colorado trip from Oct 7th - 12th

Need help to plan Colorado trip from Oct 7th - 12th

Old Sep 30th, 2017, 10:06 AM
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Need help to plan Colorado trip from Oct 7th - 12th

First time visiting Colorado and I need help planning. We like nature, hiking and kids (11 and 13yrs) would like to see wild life. We are flying to Denver on Saturday, Oct 7th afternoon and leaving Denver Oct 12th early morning. So we will have 4 full days to plan.

My rough plan is -

Saturday afternoon visit Denver art museum and stay in Denver.

Sunday drive to Estes park, RMNP and return to Denver (or we can stay in Boulder)

Monday drive to Georgetown, Vail and return to Denver

Tuesday drive to Colorado springs return to Denver

Wednesday – may be Denver

What is the better area to stay in Denver considering everyday driving back and forth. We are looking at following options Downtown Denver, Lakewood area, Boulder area. Last day we are planning to stay closer to the airport.
Is it better to stay in Estes park for a night instead of staying in Boulder and driving to Estes park? Please let me know your suggestions..
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Old Sep 30th, 2017, 12:37 PM
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I love the Denver Art Museum and it has wonderful Native American exhibits which might be particularly interesting to kids yours ages. But there is also the Natural History Museum. Not knowing what you may have in your home town, you can make that call better.
If you go to Colorado Springs, I might suggest you go to Woodland Park about 25 miles west and see their excellent dinosaur exhibit. They also have a lab there doing paleontologic research/cleaning/etc. It is small and worthwhile--moreso IMO than a trip up Pikes Peak, if that was in your minds.
If you stayed in Boulder you also (and your kids would have fun) go to the Celestial Seasonings plant there--especially the mint room. In Westminster, on the way to Boulder there is also a butterfly park (word escapes me!! What's the name!!).
There is really nothing in Vail--except a LOT of shops and looking at the mountain. AT Copper Mountain there is a facility called Woodlands where your kids could go for a couple of hours and jump into foam pits the way skateboarders and trick skiiers learn their tricks safely. And you could probably take a gondola or lift to the top of the mountain (as you could in vail) to see the wonderful terrain.
There is the train ride in the area of Georgetown and a gold mine tour that is fun for yours ages.
Frisco is a fun little town in that area with lots of restaurants and shops.
IMO "staying closer to the airport" just takes away activities and good places to eat in Denver (or wherever) on a quite short trip. It isn't that hard to get up and go to the airport from town.
If you decide to not stay in Denver you could stay in Frisco or even Breckenridge and get a nice taste of the mountains.
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Old Sep 30th, 2017, 07:38 PM
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Gretchen has listed a lot of fun ideas for your kids. I wouldn't drive back into Denver each night, traffic is awful. Stay a night in Estes, you can spend a lot more time in the park and less time in the car.
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Old Oct 1st, 2017, 05:19 AM
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I would not drive back and forth to Denver every day. Do you really want to have a fun day end in a car ride back to Denver every day? Just stay overnight wherever you spent the day and drive to the next destination in the morning.

Estes Park/RMNP is insanely busy on fall weekends - supposedly busier than summer weekends. Do not go there on Sunday unless you want to sit in traffic everywhere and be surrounded by hordes of people.

Better plan is to either stay in Denver on Sunday, or go to Colorado Springs that day.

Monday/Tuesday - split those two days between Estes Park/RMNP and the Georgetown/Vail part. Personally I wouldn't go all the way to Vail unless you have something specific you want to see there.
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Old Oct 1st, 2017, 07:45 AM
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And be prepared for cold and snowy weather in the mountain areas. Boots, jackets, stocking caps, etc. Today we are getting heavy snow in the mountains down to maybe 7000 feet. A little early but not totally unexpected. Check carefully on the status of Trail Ridge Road though Rocky Mt. Nat Park. If you don't have a lot of experience with snow and ice, you might want to avoid that road if the weather is bad. The Rangers can advise you.

If you want to do day trips from a fixed base, I would look at the far west side of Denver off of I-70 - perhaps Golden. That would give easy access to the interstate system. However, Sunday afternoon along the I-70 corridor into Denver can be bumper to bumper traffic.

Personally I think it would be more enjoy to a couple of nights in different locations.

PS - Gretchen, it is silver mine on the Georgetown Loop Railroad.
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Old Oct 1st, 2017, 09:07 AM
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Thanks everyone. When we booked the tickets last week, the average weather for 10 days was showing 70s and 60s. But now it shoes 50s and 40s. even snow forecast in Estes park and vail. We are not comfortable driving in snow/ice roads. So I don't want to book Hotels in different locations then cancel it. Right now only in Denver weather looks ok.
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Old Oct 1st, 2017, 09:13 AM
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That's a lot of driving.

I suggest you not drive back to Denver every night.

Drive to Estes, spend the night in Boulder or Golden, because you can't count on Trail Ridge Road being open to drive to Grand Lake.

Drive to Vail or where ever. Spend the night in the mountains.

Skip Colorado Springs.
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Old Oct 1st, 2017, 09:18 AM
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swtraveller, we were posting at the same time.

All I can say about the weather, is that it is so unpredictable all year long, that I wouldn't even try to plan around it. You just never know exactly what will happen, regardless of what they predict.

Make your plans and hope for the best.

I still stick to my recommendation above. Driving in and out of Denver every day is a waste of time and could be a problem, because the worst driving is going to and from Denver. The route to/from Colorado Springs can get icy and dangerous. I-70 to/from the mountains gets crowded.
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Old Oct 1st, 2017, 11:19 AM
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Thanks MoBro for the suggestions. I booked a Hotel in Boulder to stay after Estes park visit. But still not sure about rest of the trip. I should have planned my Colorado vacation in summer. But thought there may be fall colors to see.
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Old Oct 1st, 2017, 11:40 AM
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I would not stay in Boulder at night after visiting Estes Park/RMNP. You're going to want a full day in RMNP and you'll definitely want to stick around to see the elk rut in the meadows before dusk.

Then, do you really want to drive an hour in the dark on the windy roads? No. Just stay in Estes Park for the night and enjoy the scenic drive in daylight. And as I mentioned earlier, don't go to Estes Park on Sunday as you originally planned unless you enjoy crowds everywhere.
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Old Oct 1st, 2017, 02:06 PM
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WhereAreWe, Only Sunday forecast looks sunny to visit Estes park during our stay in Colorado. Monday/Tuesday weather is 44, 46. We would like to visit Copper mountain or Georgetown if not Vail as Gretchen suggested. But weather is so unpredictable and we may change our plan/activities based on the weather.
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Old Oct 1st, 2017, 02:18 PM
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Also there is shuttle services in Estes park only till Oct 9th.
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Old Oct 1st, 2017, 03:06 PM
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OK, the gold mine tour is in Idaho Springs.
http://historicargotours.com/
Don't get too hung up on the weather--we all went to extremes to talk about it ONLY because "it might happen". It could equally be that 75* clear blue sky day I described and remember so well.

Vail is really NOT as much fun as other places at the time you are going.
You'll have a great time visiting Colorado and be wowed by what you see.
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Old Oct 1st, 2017, 04:11 PM
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AccuWeather says 58 on Monday. Wait a couple days and the forecast will change again.

The shuttle only runs through the 9th....that should tell you about visitation numbers after the 9th. If it stayed busy enough they would keep the shuttle going later in the year.

You have a car, why would you want to ride the shuttle if you don't have to?
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Old Oct 1st, 2017, 05:47 PM
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I thought riding the shuttle is convenient because of mountain terrain. We are arriving in Denver at 2pm. Is it possible to drive to Estes park the same day? at what time it will get dark? Thanks for all the helpful information.
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Old Oct 1st, 2017, 06:28 PM
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Let me explain how weather works in this area. It is very dependent on altitude for obvious reasons - the higher you go the cold it gets. When you see weather reports, the temps are from the reporting cities and are only good for that immediate area. We are in the change over season. The low areas around Denver (5,000 feet) are still warm from the summer but cooling down. Probability of snow in and around Denver, along the front range is low unless a deep cold front comes down from Canada.

The local forecasts will reference snow down to 9,000 feet or 8,000 feet or like yesterday to 7,000. So it is raining in Denver but snowing in Estes Park at 7500. But -- since Trail Road is 12,500 at the max, it was snowing hard for most of the road. CDOT is good at keeping it open but will give up something in Nov. And will be closed from time to time depending on the snow.

So next week will be generally nice with some rain. If you go into the mountains you will/might actually see snow on the side of the road at higher elevations and not in the sun. We had 5" of snow at the tunnels and that is roughly 10,000 feet. By the time you get to Frisco in the valley the snow is probably gone. You will not have snow everywhere.

As far as Estes Park, I am not a big fan. It is basically a tourist town with t-shirt shops. It is reasonably scenic but many places in Colorado as just as scenic if not more so. If it didn't sit at the entrance to RMNP and Trail Ridge Road, no one would go there. If you are not going to drive Trail Ridge Road and go into the park, there then is no reason to go to Estes Park.

We don't want to frighten you about the weather but just to forewarn you of possibilities so that you are prepared with jackets and gloves.

As I type this I am hearing a tease on the TV for the 10pm weather about heavy snow in the mountains. Nothing in the city.
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Old Oct 1st, 2017, 06:31 PM
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You should make Estes before dark if there are no unexpected delays. Note that Highway 34 from Loveland will be closed, if that was on your radar, so you have to go up 36 from Lyons. Best way is probably up I-25 to exit 243, highway 66.

The mountain terrain that the Estes shuttle runs on is easy to drive. When the Park is crowded the shuttle is the only option.

Ditto what was said above: definitely spend the night in Estes (sounds like you are going to) because early AM wildlife viewing is also excellent.

Also as noted the current long range forecast is not worth planning a trip around. There are no major changes on the horizon, so the day-to-day stuff a week out doesn't carry much weight. Good idea to keep an eye on it though.

In RMNP the little Moraine Park Discovery Center will be enjoyable for you and kids, I think. You could see a herd of elk from the porch. Bring binoculars.

Good luck.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2017, 05:00 AM
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Sunset is 6:30.

As Nelson said, the roads the shuttle services are pretty easy. The only part that's sort of steep/windy is the last 0.5 mile going to Bear Lake. Everything else is simple.

https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvis..._bus_route.htm

Most of the park is not serviced by the shuttle, just the busy Moraine Park and Bear Lake corridors. If you're going to visit those areas, plan to go late in the day or early morning. Sprague Lake or Bear Lake is perfect for sunrise.

You don't have to take the shuttle, but most parking lots along the shuttle route will fill on the weekends between 9 am and probably 4 pm. So...basically you have to take the shuttle if you're planning to access locations along the shuttle route during the day. Be prepared to wait 30 minutes for a shuttle, and if you're at the Park 'n' Ride it might be even longer than that.

Moraine Park is generally great to view elk, especially in rut, but it will be a zoo in late afternoon on the weekends. The road will be lined with cars and people watching elk - same goes for most of the prime viewing areas. Don't let that stop you from going to watch but expect to sit in some traffic as you exit along with everyone else.

Nobody has mentioned the altitude and acclimation yet. General recommendation is to spend the first night in Denver or Boulder to somewhat adjust to the altitude. Drink lots of water (more than you think you need), you will feel tired and probably have a bit of a headache for most of your trip.

Extended forecasts for Vail/Georgetown/Estes Park are relatively similar in terms of temperature, cloud cover and chance of rain/snow.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2017, 06:49 AM
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REally good point about the water--just carry a bottle with you and drink drink drink. Also sun screen!
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Old Oct 2nd, 2017, 08:11 AM
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I am being over cautious about the mountain weather being in Texas for a long time. Thanks everyone for taking the time to respond. Lot of useful information for a first time visitor like me. I really appreciate it.
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