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Need help with Denver/Rocky Mountain State Park Trip

Need help with Denver/Rocky Mountain State Park Trip

Old Jun 14th, 2009, 05:58 PM
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Need help with Denver/Rocky Mountain State Park Trip

My husband and I are planning a trip to Denver and Rocky Mountain State Park. We are wanting to do a lot of outdoor type things. We like to walk, run, and are wanting to start hiking. We are both in decent shape and love being outside. We will be driving but we won't have our bikes or anything like that. Not opposed to renting if someone knows good ways to do that. Here is the plan so far:

Thursday - get to Denver stay Thursday and Friday night. Would like to find a great park (Cheesman?) and do some running after the long drive. Good eating advice would be welcomed as well as entertainment.

Saturday - Tuesday - Drive to RMNP/Estes Park. I have found a lot of trails but would love to know which ones are the best and what the difficulty is. Is the Estes Park Aerial Tramway a good use of time? We have never camped and wondering if this is the best place to give it a shot. Do places like this rent camping equipment? Are there places to stay around there that are rustic, but not too challenging for those who don't know how to camp?(We are both in our 40's so we are young enough to learn, but old enough not to want to sleep on the ground and think that we can get up the next morning!)

Wednesday - start back home (Houston) Drive to Boulder

Thursday - Drive to Colorado Springs

Friday - Drive to Amarillo - stay at Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Saturday - Drive to Houston

We appreciate any advice we can get. Any ideas on places to stay, things to see, where to eat, and anything else is welcomed. We don't vacation much and when we do it is usually for business and those trips are all planned for us. Thank you in advance for being willing to share ideas!
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Old Jun 15th, 2009, 04:43 AM
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We've driven from Houston to Colorado a few times, but I'm only going to be of limited help. Can't help with the camping or trails RMNP/Estes.

Suggest Guiseppe's in Colorado Springs for lunch/dinner. It's in the former Denver & Rio Grande RR Depot. Food was quite good and the atmosphere is interesting with lots of RR memorabilia.

If you have the time, Garden of the Gods is a nice visit as well as drive up to summit of Pikes Peak.

I suppose you're aware that the drives on Fri and Sat are going to be VERY long (about 9 and 10 hrs, respectively with decent traffic and no delays).

Not sure how flexible you are, but we ususally try to break up the trip with stop in Santa Fe. A little out of the way, but always worth it IMO.

Hope this is some help.
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Old Jun 15th, 2009, 01:48 PM
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For running in Denver your best bet would be to stay near the Cherry Creek trail as it goes for miles in either direction and is a beautiful place to run,walk,bike,whatever. Any of Denver's downtown hotels would be fine. They range from the very expensive to more a moderate price range. Downtown Denver would also give you easy access to about any kind of entertainment you wanted as well as numerous restaurants.

As to the camping part of your question, it's been too long, so I'll let the more knowledgeable answer those questions. Suffice to say, with a few exceptions, I'm always a bit leery about recommendations regarding Estes Park. Renting bikes won't be a problem but camping equipment...I have no idea.
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Old Jun 15th, 2009, 05:49 PM
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The Cherry Creek trail has a major detour about University and Spear. For you interests I would opt for downtown Denver and the Platte Valley trails would serve you interests just as well.

Years ago REI rented camping equipment -- assume they still do but you should check directly with them. Their flagship store at the confluences of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek. However, this may not be the time to learn. Camping in the mountains can have additional risks that you might not recognize. Also, you did not indicate the time frame for your trip. That can make a lot of difference.

Bike rentals are available there and elsewhere. We have about 500 miles of bike trails in the metro area. You should bring your bikes with you.

There are so many hiking trails of various levels that I suggest that you hit the Colorado section of the Tattered Cover book store in LoDo (Lower Downtown) and buy one of the many trail books that are available. Best has no meaning and difficult is relative. You are coming from Houston and even if you are in great shape you could have problems with altitude sickness so I would stick to trails in the foothills and avoid the higher mountain trails.

LoDo has a very wide range of restaurants and some of the other neighborhoods like Highlands, Gaylord, Cherry Creek have interesting places. Without a price range or preference for type of food, it is difficult to make a recommendation. The leading restaurant guide for the area is Gabby Gourmet. When getting the trail book you can check out her book.

Good luck -- Frank
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Old Jun 15th, 2009, 06:14 PM
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Thanks for everyone's input. Will definitely take advice on running in foothills- dt Denver. Still looking to get someone advice on good place to stay 2-3 nites once we enter RMNP area. Also DFR4848 when you make drive from Houston do you primarily take hwy 287 or do you go another route based on going directly to Denver area from Houston, with possibly driving over to CO. Springs first. Any suggestion would help on best driving route and also RMNP info...place to stay, things to do. Thks again.
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Old Jun 15th, 2009, 07:31 PM
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Have you ever done running etc at altitude? It can be quite different than what you might be used to - so take that into consideration. You might need a day or more to acclimate. I am assuming you are doing this in summer. Water, sunscreen are critical. Also, if you are going to be camping overnight, temps drop quickly once the sun sets here.

Hiking also has it's own considerations.

Have fun, but be smart, be prepared and be informed.

Deb
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Old Jun 15th, 2009, 08:27 PM
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I forgot about the glitch ( construction) on the Cherry Creek trail as I usually don't get that far but as fmpden mentioned the Platte River trail continues from Cherry Creek at the Confluence.

There are only campsites available inside RMNP, and they are limited. You will need to book. If you want something other than a campsite, you'll have to stay in Estes Park.

I suggest you go to the RMNP website www.RMNP.com for information.
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 02:20 AM
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Just west of Denver is Red Rock Park, if there isn't a concert or something it would be a place to get a good work out with fantastic views. It is a natural outside amphitheater.
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 04:06 AM
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cjrey - if we want to drive straight through with only overnight stops and no diversions, we usually take 287, then north of Amarillo cut over to 87/64 to Raton and connect with I25. If we can take a couple of extra days, we prefer to take 287, then take I40 at Amarillo over to 285 to Santa Fe. Then I25 if we're going to be in the Denver area or north. If we're headed to the mountains west of Denver, we'll often take 285 from Santa Fe north through Colorado to I70 or wherever we're going. 285 isn't a spectacular drive scenery-wise, but prettier than I25 IMO. [Obviously you can do the reverse].
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 04:40 AM
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I cannot comment on the running. But, for camping with some frills, you might check out the YMCA of the Rockies. It is used for summer accommodations.
www.ymcarockies.org
It is used for fancy conferences and summer camp - all kinds of things.
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 05:03 AM
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dfr, thks for response. I'm looking to do trip to Denver in one day, so yes I was looking for possible way of getting on I-25 and where was best to cut over. Were leaving very early on thur-july 2nd and I think counting about 3 hrs for stops we can make it in about 16 hrs total, is that doable. I have kind of lead foot..suv toyota sequoya-v8. Were doing 10 days, so was looking @ doing Sante fe / Amarillo on way home maybe and any other stops that may be interesting. we have hotel- denver thur/ fri nite and Estes pk cabin lodge reserved for Sat - tue nite so starting Wed. till Sat. morning headed home is open for suggestions from you or anyone else on forum.
Thks again.
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 08:48 AM
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hearing quite a bit about CRESTTE Butte and mesa verde can someone give me insight as to where they are and points of interests. We have 7-8 days not counting from & back to Houston but trying not to cram to much so we can enjoy places that are planned....denver - 1-day, estes/rmnp - 3-days, boulder - 1 day, Co. Sprgs - 1-day... so we have 1-2 days open for suggestions.
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 09:41 AM
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Crested Butte is a very nice area (though we've only been in winter to go skiing). But it's an end destination, not a place you go through. It's at the end of a road about 35 mi. north of Gunnison, somewhat in the middle of the state. With your schedule, I'd pass on this trip.

Mesa Verde is a fascinating place with it's cliff dwellings and well worth a trip. It's in extreme southwest CO near Durango and the NM border. It's out of the way with the other places on your itinerary and you'll be spending a lot of time getting there and back. You'll have to decide whether you can squeeze it into your schedule. I think I'd leave it for another time and spend more time in places on your current list.
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 10:13 AM
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Mesa Verde NP is 3.5 hours from I 25, just north of Albuquerque{exit at Bernalillo, SR 550}. Add in 30 minutes to get to visitors center; then time for tours etc. 1/5 days here will work.

You could also go to Cahco Canyon, which is 2 hours from the same point on I25. Then drive in time. There are no scheduled tours so how long you spend is up to you.

Chaco and Mesa Verde are quite different, both awe inspiring.

If you can't do them this trip, do come back for them.

Deb
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 10:23 AM
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This is in response to your answer to my other post. This was our first time out there so it is just my observations/opinion. I did have a hard time trying to figure out the different hikes in RMNP also. We hiked in the Bear Lake area. I think you probably have to take a shuttle right outside that area during the summer because it gets so crowded parking is limited. We didn't have that option during the week the first part of June -- the parking lot at Alberta Falls always said full, but there were places to park. People come and go. The nice thing about the hikes beginning at Glacier Gorge trailhead (we took this to Alberta Falls) is that you can go to Alberta Falls (which was a great short hike) and if you want continue on. The trails at Bear Lake (walking around the lake was nice also) do the same. You can hike up to Nymph Lake (which was gradually, but steadily uphill) and continue on to Dream Lake and Emerald Lake if you want. You can also access the Alberta Falls hike at Bear Lake (it's only slightly longer there). I would do these hikes first and see what other ones you want to do after. They do start at a high elevation and it will give you a better idea of what they mean by "strenuous" and "easy" and what you feel capable of doing. We've found in different parks that strenuous sometimes means that you are walking on rocks and across tree limbs, not necessarily that it is steep elevation.

As far as going to Grand Lake, you should definitely travel over Trail Ridge Road. Grand Lake is one of a couple of lakes over there that are very pretty to see, but appear to be a destination for fishing, boating, etc. in themselves. It is about 5 minutes outside of the west entrance to RMNP so if you want to see it, it wouldn't take you long to get there. I know some people we met said they never went past the Alpine Visitor Center on TRR and some others were going to the west side to try to see moose (which apparently is the only place to see them). We were coming up from the southwest so it was a good option for us to stay there the first night. I probably would have travelled over to see it anyway.

You were asking about places to stay. We don't camp so I can't help you there, but there were plenty of what appeared to be lodges and cabins right outside the park entrance on 34 and the setting there is very similar to being right in the park.
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 10:30 AM
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http://www.rmnpforums.com/forums/index.php?act=idx

Here's another great forum site I found when I was headed out there last year. Very good recent reviews of lots of things including trails and camp sites.
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 11:36 AM
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If you go back by way of Santa Fe, not far from there is Bandelier NM which has neat ancient dwellings carved into the side of the mountain (really hardened volcanic ash). These are very interesting and there is a neat undeveloped area called Tsankawi which is part of the park but about 5 miles closer to Santa Fe. It is less developed but has a nice trail up onto a hill that you can walk in grooves carved into the hill over years of hiking. There are some pictures of our trip there on www.flickr.com/photos/emalloy2009/sets in the 2008 set.
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 01:34 PM
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My family has vacationed in Estes Park / RMNP for years. I recommend the Bear Lake trailhead. Hike to the Loch and Dream Lake. It is a relatively easy day hike. If you are ambitious continue the trail up to Sky Pond. The trail from Bear Lake to Dream Lake is absolutely beautiful. Also, drive up the old fall river road to the alpine visitors center. (old fall river road is not open until July4th). We have not camped so I have no info, but we have stayed multiple times at the Castle Mountain Lodge located along hwy.34. Castle Mountain Lodge has real nice cabins/cottages. They also have a few motel rooms. The property is located about half way between Estes Park and RMNP entrance. Good Luck, you will have a great time. RMNP is a wonderful place to visit!!
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 03:43 PM
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Ok we are slowly but surely getting our itenerary in order. Thks to everyone's help. So far we get to Co Springs on 7/2, arrive denver 7/3 late afternoon, drive to estes/rmnp arrive early eve sat.--- doing driving into rmnp, lots of hiking, site seeing--staying thru wed. nite, heading to boulder thursday-- sleep over in boulder, drive fri to great sand dunes and visit. Any opinions are appreciated. Is staying 5 nites in estes/ rmnp too long of stay for area. Either way wea re e xcited about our upcoming trip.
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Old Jun 16th, 2009, 04:11 PM
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IMO if you are planning on doing lots of hiking, 4 full days (which is what I figure you will have)is not too long to stay. I still would start with the Bear Lake hikes and see how you like them, then ask the rangers (plenty of them at Bear Lake trailhead) or at the visitor centers about the other ones they would suggest. We went by Longs Peak trailhead and the parking lot was packed. (a little longer than we wanted, but we have hiked up to mountain passes before and there is nothing like it) Natural Born Hikers have detailed descriptions of a couple of longer trails in RMNP.
http://www.naturalbornhikers.com/Lon.../longspeak.htm

Have fun and let us know how your trip turns out.
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