RMNP here we come

Old Apr 14th, 2013, 05:47 PM
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RMNP here we come

Hello! We're heading to the Rockies at the end of July and had a few questions to finalize our plans. Our flight arrives at noon and were heading straight to Estes Park, where we'll stay for 4 days before heading to Grand Lake on the west side for 3 days. My questions are as follows :
1. Is it doable to head to Estes from Denver via the peak to peak highway? How much time would this add to our drive? If taking this route, where would be a good place for lunch ? Or would we be better off heading straight to Estes, and if so, where should we stop for lunch.
2. Is a stop in Boulder feasible on our way up to Estes?
3. We would like to fit in a rafting trip, but not sure if we'd be better off taking one from the Estes Side of the trip or the Grand Lake side. Some of the companies I've talked to say it doesn't matter as the drop off location is equal distance from both ends of the park. Does anyone have any of experience with any of the rafting companies?
4. On our way to grand lake would we be able to take old Fall River road, being that we will be in a 15 passenger van?
5. Not sure why, but am not having an easy time finding sites to research hikes. In trips to other NPs, have found information readibly available , personal accounts of hikers trips, for RMNP, I've found descriptions, but no maps or information on loop hikes other then the ones around the lakes. I've ordered some books, but while I'm waiting for them to arrive, Can anyone recommend any moderate 3/4 hour loop hikes in both the east side & the west side? Or any sites that have detailed descriptions of hikes.
6. Should I fit in a day trip on either end of the trip to any particular place I shouldn't miss or will I have just enough time in 7 days for Estes and Grand Lake?

I think this covers all my missing pieces. Sorry if its too long, Any suggestions are welcome. Thanks in advance!,
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Old Apr 15th, 2013, 03:40 AM
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I think you would be fine in a van on Old Fall Road. It is a nice road, but just dirt. For sure, do drive Trail Ridge Road at least once too though.

Boulder is an easy stop on the way to Estes. There is a huge Whole Food Store right in the middle of town, that I like to stop at. I can't remember if there was a Walmart type of place there or not, but surely there would be.

http://www.thespiritoftherockies.net...ikingRMNP.html
http://www.mikes-hikes.com/hikesA-F.html
Links above to hikes. You can also look on youtube at many of the hikes to get a feel for them.

3/4 of an hour isn't much of a hikes, so you won't find to many in that range. That would only be 1.5 miles or less in nearly all cases.
I like hiking to Sky Pond, you could stop at The Loch on this hike if that were to far. This is a pretty easy hike as there isn't to much elevation gain(just some). This 4 or 5 hour hike all the way to Sky Pond and back.

Coyote Valley Trail on the Grand Lake side is a short hike. Moose are common in that area. Adam Falls is a short hike on that side too.

Link to our photos from camping with Daughter August 2011 in RMNP
http://share.shutterfly.com/action/w...0IatW7FqybsWkT

I think I read there is some major road construction in the park to the area we camped in. This is a major trailhead area, so you will need to know about that.
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Old Apr 15th, 2013, 03:44 AM
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Pictures of my red jeep are on the Old Fall Road. Have a meal in Stanley Hotel if you can.
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Old Apr 15th, 2013, 06:08 AM
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I would hesitate to recommend Old Fall River Road in a 15 passenger van if you are not comfortable with mountain driving on steep, dirt roads.The reason I say this is we took that road when wet following a rainstorm in our 3/4 ton pick-up and the long wheel base (like your van will have)made for some 3 point turns on some slippery hairpin turns. Loved the scenery, hated the turns.

If you land at noon you might want to think of stopping in Boulder for lunch then taking the Peak to Peak Hwy to Estes. It would be a pretty late lunch if you land at noon, get your bags and rental van and drive straight to Estes.

Agree there are not many 3/4 mile loop hikes. There is a great information center in Estes park you can get suggestions for hikes from the volunteers once you are there, or might want to call now.

Have fun!
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Old Apr 15th, 2013, 06:44 AM
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I don't remember the road being bad at all, perhaps I'm wrong.

http://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisi...river_road.htm

Here is the link to the NPS sight. Normally, the NPS is very cautious on roads-lengths of vehicles. Especially trailors and RV's. I don't see an restrictions, but maybe I'm missing something.

Here is a video on youtube that I guess these folks thought it was scary too. I don't remember having any fear at all. Different for everyone I guess.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6id-p_aoyQ
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Old Apr 15th, 2013, 07:03 AM
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The road would have been easy in a car with a shorter wheel base like a jeep. The problem was we were in a F250, with a long wheelbase. Since the road was muddy from the rains we could not make the tight u-turns or the back wheels would let loose. It necessitated driving the turns on the very outside of the road (my side - yikes!), or making a 3 point turn (read backing up on the downhill). Not fun.

We made the mistake years ago of thinking our 4 wheel drive truck could handle the same roads people were renting jeeps to do. Mistake. After bottoming out a couple times we learned our lesson. Also having driven a 15 passenger van before I would not choose to take that van on that road. Having said that if the OP is familiar with twisty mountain driving and is comfortable with the van, have at it.
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Old Apr 15th, 2013, 07:05 AM
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Spirobulldog, forgot to add you are right the dirt road is in good condition, just twisty and in our case slippery with mud.
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Old Apr 15th, 2013, 07:43 AM
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There is no "Walmart type of place" currently in Boulder. A nice option for the drive to Estes, if you go through Boulder, is to take US 36 through Lyons (lunch?) to RMNP instead of Boulder Canyon to to Peak to Peak (119 to 72 to 7). Both are very scenic, but US36 will be faster.
Much of Fall River Road is a view of trees. Trail Ridge is one of the most spectacular roads in the country, a must-see; Fall River? meh. Don't do Fall River if it's instead of, rather than in addition to.
The official RMNP brochure/map is a great resource for hikes, picnic spots, etc. in the park; but the best resource is in the visitor centers. They will listen and provide you with the best ideas for you and your hiking desires.
A meal (on the porch) of the Grand Lake Lodge (http://www.grandlakelodge.com) overlooking the lake and mountains is wonderful. The town below is a fun place to spend some time, and a day trip to Hot Sulphur Springs might also be fun. http://hotsulphursprings.com/
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Old Apr 15th, 2013, 08:45 AM
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Hello, great replies.
Spiro I meant 3-4 hours. Sorry, didn't realize it could be interperted as less then an hour ! I'll have to look at your links from home as I can't access them @ work. Thanks for reminding me about you tube. I'm not much of a user, so usually forget that it too is a good resource.
Barb, thanks I'll definitely rethink taking the road especially after Sylvias remark that it's just views of trees.
Sylvia, I've heard so many great things about boulder I'd love to at least stop by for lunch, can I incorporate both the peak to peak with boulder ? Time is not an issue, we just would need to have lunch as soon as possible. For our bellies, It'd be 2-3 in the afternoon!
We are actually staying at the grand lake lodge. I've read the reviews, and while not the best for accomodations, I wasn't able to find any vacation homes available for our dates. I figure If I don't like the rooms, I'll stay by the pool all day & enjoy the view! I'll check.out hot sulphur springs, maybe I can do the rafting from Estes and the springs from grand Lake.
Keep the suggestions coming !!
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Old Apr 15th, 2013, 09:41 AM
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You can absolutely drive up Boulder Canyon from Boulder, on to the Peak to Peak (in Nederland); it is a very nice drive. Lunch on the Pearl Street Mall (lots of places) or my favorite, Brasserie ten ten (http://www.brasserietenten.com/) on Walnut (a block over), across the street from a public parking garage (at the St Julien hotel). Easy to hop onto Canyon (119), up to Nederland, and then on to Peak to Peak (72 then onto 7). If you want to see some nice Victorian houses, just drive around west of Broadway in the historic district.
If you want to take a side trip from the Grand Lake area, Winter Park/ski area has fun summer things to do on the mountain (ride up, bike or hike down, Alpine slide, etc.)
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Old Apr 15th, 2013, 10:12 AM
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Sprague Lake is a short hike
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Old Apr 16th, 2013, 09:16 AM
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Sylvia; If from the Airport I head straight to Boulder, then from Boulder straight to Nederland, will I miss a very scenic portion of the Peak to Peak? (Black hawk to Nederland)?
Haven't had a chance to check out the lunch suggestion, but will definately do so. Thanks so much.
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Old Apr 16th, 2013, 11:19 AM
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great thread-we'll be there in early July. Is htere still construction on the road into the park?
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Old Apr 16th, 2013, 12:07 PM
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RMNPforums.com is a really good source of info as well. I think you have to register to read all the forums topics.

There aren't a lot of loop hikes per se, its more a lot of out and back hikes, especially on the west side. But there are some that may work for you.

From the Glacier Gorge trailhead, hike to Mills Lake (and/or the Loch), then backtrack a little ways and take the primitive trail to Lake Haiyaha. From there, continue down to Dream Lake, and then Nymph and Bear Lake. You can either take the shuttle back to Glacier Gorge trailhead or hike back. You could also hike up to Emerald Lake from Dream if you have time.

Also from Glacier Gorge, you could just continue past Mills to Black Lake and beyond,into Upper Glacier Gorge. There are several small lakes up there and the scenery is amazing.

You could do a loop from the Fern Lake trailhead to the Bear Lake trailhead past Odessa Lake (or vice versa) and use the park shuttle to get back to your starting point. But that may be longer than 3-4 hours.

There's a loop from Cub Lake over to the Fern Lake trail, you could hike up to Fern and back down. Also, you can go from Bear Lake over to Bierstadt, then there are several options...I don't have a map in front of me but I know you can either hike down to the shuttle or go to Cub Lake (?) or somewhere else I can't remember right now.

On the west side, the only 2 loops I can think of are Bowen/Baker Gulch and a loop using Tonahutu and Onahu and Green Mountain trails (I think?). The former would be more scenic whereas the latter is mostly in the trees or around lower elevation meadows. Never done either one so I don't remember the exact routes/trails.

But like I said, most hikes are more out and back which isn't all bad.

Old Fall River road is nice enough as long as you do Trail Ridge Road as well. OFRR is not as scenic but a bit quieter. I'd only do it if you're looking for a different way to get to the west side after you've done TRR...or if you really really want to see Chasm Falls. They were doing trail maintenance last summer so I couldn't sneak my way down to see it.

Bear Lake road will still be under construction so there will be issues with that. Read the park website for updates and to know when you can and cannot drive your vehicle on the road. You will end up using the park shuttle unless you get there early enough....and I highly recommend you start early anyway to avoid afternoon thunderstorms as well as traffic issues.
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Old Apr 16th, 2013, 12:15 PM
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http://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisi...nstruction.htm

Park website for Bear Lake Road construction
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Old Apr 16th, 2013, 02:48 PM
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"If from the Airport I head straight to Boulder, then from Boulder straight to Nederland, will I miss a very scenic portion of the Peak to Peak? (Black hawk to Nederland)?"

If you want to go to Boulder, then the toll road E470 (to US 36 to Boulder) from the airport is the best way to go; no crowds, open lanes, very direct. IMO, going out I70 all the way to the Blackhawk (119)exit just to travel on that section of road is WAY too far out of the way, and definitely NOT worth it, scenery-wise or time-wise. And if you do that portion, you miss Boulder.
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Old Apr 18th, 2013, 12:32 PM
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To avoid some of the road construction hassles, get into the park early. You'll get some information when you buy your park pass about driving to the trailheads with your car vs. the park shuttle. Last summer we always arrived into the park just as the sun was coming up and had no problems getting to the trailhead before they closed the road to cars. Otherwise, you could have a long wait for shuttles.

Some of the best hikes in RMNP are Chasm Lake (my personal favorite), Emerald Lake, Bluebird Lake, and Sky Pond. I also love the Ute Trail off Trail Ridge Road. Very few people and spectacular scenery, but be careful of extreme weather changes. Last time we hiked it, we started off in sunny weather and on the return the temps dropped significantly and we were caught in hail before we could get back to our car.

Here's good site to help you figure out what hikes works best for your skill level, it's broken down by difficulty:

http://www.rockymountainhikingtrails...ional-park.htm
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Old Apr 18th, 2013, 12:57 PM
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Thanks wave! We're coming from the east coast, so I figure we shouldn't have a problem getting to the trailheads before the road closes, my worry is that by the time were done hiking, the roads will still be closed and we'll have to wait anyway. I'll have to talk to the rangers to decide what to do. We have 10 in our group so I'm trying to to find something not too easy for the adults, but not too strenuous for the kids. I've read some on Ute and while it sounds amazing, being stuck out there in a storm sorta freaks me out !!! Thanks for your input.
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Old Apr 18th, 2013, 01:06 PM
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Mabella, Grand Lake Lodge is a longtime favorite of ours. We stop in every summer, to eat in their restaurant overlooking the lake. It is a grand old Western lodge, with a wonderful front porch and swings, a huge circular fireplace in the Lodge where you can enjoy coffee or cocktails.

We have never stayed there, though. The cabins are fairly rustic. But I imagine they are well-kept as the Lodge is.

I think between Estes and Grand Lake, you will have plenty to do in 7 days, and weather should be good.

It is fun to rent motorboats and go out on Grand Lake for a half day, and onto the connecting lake (Shadow Mtn or Lake Granby?).

Winter Park is 45 minutes away, and has summer activities at the base of the mountain and in town.

A good river raft company in Fraser is Red Tail. Be very aware of the company you hire, if you want to do this. This is a good, safe company.

If you need more suggestions for Grand County, I'd be happy to help. Ask away!
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Old Apr 18th, 2013, 03:21 PM
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"my worry is that by the time were done hiking, the roads will still be closed and we'll have to wait anyway."

Read the link I provided. The major restriction is that from 9 am to 4pm (or whatever hours they decide for 2013), you cannot drive Bear Lake Road headed into the park. You can however, drive in the opposite direction. So if you get there early and park at Bear Lake or Glacier Gorge for example, you will be allowed to continue driving on the road the rest of the day as long as you aren't going the wrong direction on the part that is under construction.
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