I guess I got my taste for the USA back after my trip to Florida in May. I spent 10 days in Colorado in June visiting friends. At first I thought I’d have a few days to chill but I quickly realised that there is A LOT to do and see in Colorado. The most amazing day of my trip was when I visited Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park. Here’s what I got up to during my trip.
Exploring Colorado – Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park
Colorado is a huge state known for incredible ski resorts in winter and outdoor adventure in summer. There is SO much to see and do. The people of Colorado are incredibly friendly and big fans of the outdoors. During my trip I encountered a lot of people out trail running and hiking with their dogs. And every single one of them stopped to chat.
When it comes to weather Colorado apparently enjoys more sun than Florida! Which surprised me because I’d always thought of Colorado as a cold, snowy state. The capital city of Colorado is Denver. To get to Colorado I booked flights to Denver from Dublin, via London, with British Airways for about €360 return which was a bit of a bargain.
Denver airport is a bit of a funny airport. When you walk out into arrivals you instantly have to turn left or right, there’s barely any time to think. It’s not very intuitive, but don’t let that put you off, you’ll manage. There is a bus that goes right from the airport into the city centre of Denver. There is also a bus that goes to Boulder from the airport.
Public transport in Colorado is actually really good. You can pay on the bus but you’ll need change. I found it easier to download the RTD Denver app and buy my tickets through that. A day pass costs $5.20 for local pass and $9.00 for a regional pass. I always needed the regional pass to get to Boulder and Denver. But all the details are on the website if you get confused. Obviously there’s a lot more to know about Colorado but that’s a brief overview for you.
You can read about Colorado in more detail here.
Estes Park is often thought of as a gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park, but it is so much more than that. If you’re into beer then make sure to stop at Rock Cut Brewing Company. I’m not the biggest fan of beer or IPAs etc, but the bar man asked me a few questions and quickly found me a beer to my taste. And honestly, the barman had the most incredible voice, he should record audio book or narrate documentaries.
They also have a whole wall dedicated to buying people drinks called “Beer it Forward”. For example, $20 for a fire fighter or $50 for Tom Jones etc. Worth checking in case you fit into any of the categories and get yourself a nice little bar tab.
If you’re more of a coffee drinker than a beer person then make sure to check out Coffee on the Rocks, a lovely little coffee shop with its own duck pond and lots of outdoor seating. I had a smoothie made predominantly of peach and pear (I think) and it was deliciously fresh.
Libations aside, water activities were the highlight of my trip Estes Park. Lake Estes is perfect for paddle boating, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding. The day I visited Lake Estes the sun was beaming down and the lake was incredibly still. I visited Lake Estes Marina and the wonderful gentlemen in there hooked me up with a sparkly blue paddle boat.
Let me tell you, sparkly blue paddle boats really are a lot of work. My legs were jelly after we got halfway around the lake, and really, my friend Nathaniel was doing most of the work. But it was all worth it for the views. The mountains in the distance, the picturesque lakeside homes and the sparkling lake rolling out before us.
And perched on one of the hills, not too far away, we could see The Stanley Hotel, the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write the Shining. Needless to say, I did not spend the night there. Though I was curious!!
You can read more about Estes Park here.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is a place I’ve always dreamed of visiting. It spans the Continental Divide. Located between Estes Park and Grand Lake it spans 415 square miles of stunning, picturesque land. The colours of this park are so beautiful in June, full of varieties of green, blue and purple. Alpine tundra, apparently, is the type of flora up there, and I am in love with it.
As me and Nathaniel cruised through the park we saw so many animals. There were elk everywhere. And we saw two moose! At the highest peaks we saw tonnes of marmots scampering around on the rocks. And we were even lucky enough to see a coyote stalking a marmot. We stopped at the Alpine Visitor Centre midway through our drive to take in the panoramic views across the valley. Not to mention, I had to pick up some souvenirs.
Obviously there are plenty of fantastic hikes and walks around throughout the park but I didn’t get a chance to do any as we were on a bit of a tight timeline. If you’re planning on driving through the park make sure you’re comfortable with winding mountain roads. There’s nothing too hair raising in fairness, but just in case you’re a particularly nervous driver.
The entrance fee to Rocky Mountain National Park costs $25 per car for a day pass, or $35 for a 7 day pass. You can also get an annual pass for $70. You can buy the permits online before arrival if you wish. There are park ranger stations at each park entrance. They give you a map upon entry. You can hike or cycle into the park from either Estes Park or Grand Lake and there are campgrounds within the park, but they get booked up quickly so make sure to plan in advance.
For more info about Rocky Mountain National Park, click here.
Colorado Tour Packages
There are plenty of ways to see Colorado, but a package can make things easier. American Sky has an incredible 15-night tour that takes in the city of Denver, before heading on a scenic drive through the Rocky Mountains, with a gondola ride over the breathtaking Elk Mountains and an overnight stop in Aspen. On then to Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, before a visit to Taos Pueblo on the way to Colorado Springs at the end of the tour. You can read more about the tour in detail here.
Canadian Sky also has a tour that kicks off in Denver and lasts 12 nights exploring all the way up to the Canadian Rockies, with a stop in the famous Yellowstone National Park. You can read more about it here.
American Sky helped me out by organising some of my activities while I was in Colorado, so I know that they have great connections on the ground. I’m more than happy to recommend them!
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