Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado

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Not one to miss a scenic drive, we took the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway from Boulder to Estes Park. Passing through the towns of Nederland and Allenspark. On the way, I read that several famous musicians, including Elton John, Dan Fogelberg, Chicago and Amy Grant, recorded at the nearby (but now closed) Caribou Ranch.

After eating a BBQ lunch in Estes Park, we entered Rocky Mountain National Park. The first stop was the Beaver Meadow Visitor Center where the ranger gave us an itinerary for our trip.

We headed straight to Bear Lake. Although the trail had four feet of snow, it was packed enough to walk on it without snow shoes. The lake was completely frozen, but not safe enough to walk over.

Bear Lake

Bear Lake

Trailridge Road leads visitors from the eastern side to the western side of the park. Until Memorial Day weekend, the road is closed. The ranger said the road offers some of the best scenery and recommended we take the road until it closed near Many Parks Curve.

On the Trailridge Road

On the Trailridge Road

 

The end of Trailridge Road for the winter.

The end of Trailridge Road for the winter.

We also drove to the Alluvial Fan – an area created after severe flooding in the 1980s. After exiting the park at the Falls River entrance, we stopped by the historic Stanley Hotel where Steven King wrote “The Shining.”

The Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel

Although winter activities abound at RMNP, hiking, bicycling, picnicking while watching the wildlife are best enjoyed in the summer months. I’d like to come back in the middle of summer to get the true experience of the complete park. For more information, visit RMNP’s website here.


Boulder, Co

Bicycles in front of UMC

Bicycles in front of UMC

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Dalton Trumbo Fountain Court at University of Colorado

We drove through Boulder to see the University of Colorado. We stopped at the student center, called the University Memorial Center (UCM), to buy t-shirts. Both the town and campus are beautiful. If we had more time, I would have liked to take a tour at Celestial Seasonings. We did try to drive by the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, but the street was close due to a festival.

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University of Colorado


Salida, Colorado

Salida, Co

Salida, Co

Although Salida is a small town, I wanted to highlight the scenery around the area. Leaving Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, we continued east on Hwy 50. After the town on Cimarron, the road hugged the Blue Mesa Reservoir which was frozen in parts.

Blue Mesa Reservoir is Colorado's largest body of water.

Blue Mesa Reservoir is Colorado’s largest body of water.

 

After the town of Gunnison, elevations changed drastically. As the road twisted on switchbacks our ears began to pop. One daughter was started to look a bit green since she often gets carsick. It turned out we were crossing the Rockies at Monarch Pass at dusk. Cold air blasted through the open window when I took the following photos.

Crossing the Rockies at Monarch

Crossing the Rockies at Monarch

Descending Monarch Pass

Descending Monarch Pass

After a good night’s rest in Salida, we hit a part of the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway¬†as we headed up to Boulder.

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park – Montrose, Co

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I have to give a quick shout-out to one of my favorite blogs – Explore All 50. Written by a single mother of three, Alisa Abecassis details trips she has taken to show her children every state. I’ve looked at it to get trip ideas and I wouldn’t have ever known about this national park had it not been for her website.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP is an easy park to explore in a few hours. Starting at the visitor center, we watched the 12-minute movie and drove the 7-mile South Rim Road. With the multiple overlooks of the steep 2,000-foot canyon walls, you don’t have to do any hiking to get a feel for this awesome, little-known park.

At one of the overlooks

At one of the overlooks

Carved by the Gunnison River, the steep cliffs are mesmerizing. The ranger suggested stopping at Pulpit Rock, Painted Wall, Sunset View and High Point overlooks. We hit those and a few more on the way. The steep canyon is a dark, almost black color hence the name. The misnomer is that it is closer to Montrose than the town of Gunnison.

The Painted Wall

The Painted Wall

At the end of the drive is High Point overlook with a 1.5-mile, round-trip, Warner Point Trail. Although we all started the hike, only two of us got to the end. The sweeping vistas were beautiful and worth the hike.

Warner Point Trail

Warner Point Trail

The park’s gravel, North Rim Drive lies on the other side of the river, but it is remote and closed during the winter. Other activities include camping, climbing and kayaking. Learn more at the park’s website¬†here.