Rocky Mountain National Park

Old Aug 31st, 2009, 05:23 PM
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Rocky Mountain National Park

My husband and I are throwing around some ideas for next summer's vacation and are considering spending a week or so in Colorado - some of our good friends just moved to Monument, south of Denver, and we are thinking of going to visit them for a few days, and then head out on our own to see some more of the state. I've been to Denver several times in the last few years, but always for work and I haven't had the opportunity to go sightseeing.

I am wondering how much time should be alotted for a visit to Rocky Mountain national park - a decent visit with time to do some hiking, photography, hanging out, etc. rather than just a drive through. Would 3 days be reasonable?
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Old Aug 31st, 2009, 08:52 PM
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*If you arrive into the Denver airport on Day #1 - be sure to allow at least 24 hours before going into the higher elevations! (the headache associated with Altitude Sickness is not nice)

Yes - three days is reasonable for the Estes Park area; if you can stretch it to 4, even better - to include the drive up Trail Ridge Road.

Hopefully you can allow some time also for the short drive from Monument to Colorado Springs & Manitou, and take a walk through Garden of the Gods, see the Air Force Academy campus, the artists shops, Pikes Peak +

Have fun planning.
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Old Aug 31st, 2009, 09:38 PM
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Three days is reasonable enough. Two hike recommendations if you are based on the east side of the Park:

1) Glacier Gorge to either Black Lake or Sky Pond. If you are into photography then late afternoon light at Mills Lake (on the way to Black Lake) is often fantastic.

2) If you want to get up a peak on the divide then the trail to Flattop Mountain is excellent. You can continue on to Hallet Peak which is even more impressive. Noting tom_creans_daughter's valid caution about altitude sickness, don't do this one on your first day or two. Get a very early start to be down before the typical afternoon thunderstorms.
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Old Sep 1st, 2009, 07:25 AM
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There are lots of pretty areas in Colorado. RMNP is a nature focus with Trail Ridge Road but it is not unique. It does have a tendency in the summer to get crowded because everyone think this is where they should go. Personally I think that Estes Park is overly touristy but many do not.

Altitude sickness, causes and prevention, is not well understood. If you are going to have problems and not everyone does, waiting 24 hours may not do much. Won't hurt but will not prevent it. But a few days in Monument will be beneficial. The average person will adjust about 1000 feet/day. So if coming from sea level, it could take a week to adjust. And the sage advice of drinking a lot of water is very beneficial.
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Old Sep 1st, 2009, 08:56 AM
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Consider basing yourself on the west side of RMNP - near Grand Lake. It is a little less touristy than Estes Park - which experiences lots of day trippers and traffic jams in high summer. Camping inside RMNP is a delight - but getting to and from it every day out of Estes can leave a bad taste in the mouth of someone craving solitude and nature. That said, staying on the west side means a much longer drive to the most popular hiking areas. If you do stay in Estes, my vote is to look for one of the older tourist lodges or cabins.
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Old Sep 1st, 2009, 01:50 PM
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Thanks for the advice so far.

I'm pretty good with the altitude when I go to Denver - I drink plenty of water the day of arrival, avoid alcohol the first day, and get to bed early. The next day I wake up fine. And since our plan would be to visit our friends in Monument first, I think it would be ok - give us a chance to aclimate.
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Old Sep 1st, 2009, 02:03 PM
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I agree completely with fmpfen--have never understood why RMNP is such a major draw-is it mainly the national park mystique? Check a Colorado map and consider heading southwest instead going to Cresed Butte, Durango or ? If that is not appealing or you think it'too far, head to the areas west of Denver. Vail is only 1 1/2 hours from Denver and Aspen no more than four hours. Be aware that some of our pine forests have been hit hard by the pine beetle. I live in the far west part of the state. Maybe someone farther east could share info about that situation.
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Old Sep 1st, 2009, 03:15 PM
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We've been all over Colorado and after SW Colorado (Durango, Silverton, Ouray, etc), our next favorite place is RMNP.

I agree that staying inside the park is nice but you'll have to camp--there are no lodges.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2009, 07:00 AM
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Without discounting the incredible beauty of SW Colorado, Crested Butte, the Sangres, etc., RMNP has some of spectactular and "easily accessible" scenery in the state. The Longs/Meeker cirque is arguably one of the most dramatic mountain cirques in the Western US. Yes, it's crowded in the summer and that is a negative, but it is still a jewel of a Park.

BTW, that opens up more hike suggestions: Chasm Lake at the east face of Longs, and/or go on up the Long Peak trail as far as the Keyhole. Dramatic loacations. If you stay on the Grand Lake side of the Park then hiking along the Colorado River trail and up to Mount Ida from Milner Pass are two good options, as is the entire Tonahutu drainage trail system.

The pine beetles have hit the Park hard, with the west side looking worse, but they have moved over to the east side last year as well. Sad.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2009, 08:01 AM
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We love RMNP and the variety of hikes it offers. We stay for a week at a time and hike in a different locale every day. Estes Park isn't for everyone - it is touristy but isn't that difficult to get around. We like to rent homes (check out VRBO) a little outside Estes and only go into town when we want to eat out, etc.
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