After some unexpected events the past few months, it was time for a much needed break! Even the smallest of breaks from your daily routine can make a difference.
Brad asked if I wanted to go somewhere… of course I did! He mentioned Colorado so we looked into a few places but when he specified Rocky Mountain NP I was all in.
Planning took all of 45 minutes to find flights, that were surprisingly reasonable considering the super quick decision to go.
Find out how to book and plan a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park below…
On Sunday I expressed the need for a break. On Monday we booked our flights (departing for the upcoming Sunday). Wednesday I booked our hotel and by Thursday I already had our 2-day trip planned out.
I decided to visit my local Barnes and Noble for a Rocky Mountain book after the usual scroll through Pinterest and a few blog reads. It seemed as though there was one major part of the park to stick to. Turns out, we were stuck to that one side of the park! (keep reading to find out why)
Book your trip:
The best and fastest way to book your trip will be through Kayak’s “explore” option which is what I used for this trip. You can pin point exactly the dates or the month your are looking to travel. It will provide you with flight cost across the globe, if you want.
Often times, the cheapest flights will be split between 2 airlines for your Round-Trip airfare. If you are willing to do so, book it! We found flights to Denver on United for $180 pp and return trips on Frontier for $40 pp. Granted, there are stipulations such as fees for checked baggage, carry-on’s, etc. If you follow the rules or pack accordingly then you may get out cheaper!
Just to be on the safe side, I chose to check in one bag and knew that my carry on bag would be considered a “personal item” considering the size. I also had brad tote it on the plane, just in case they got persnickety about it. One checked bag cost us $50 total (RT) and because I chose United as my selected airline for my AMEX, I will get my bag cost reimbursed (savings of $25).
Book your accommodations:
Depending on how you want to stay (camping, hotel, AirBnB, etc) there are many options to choose.
Based on weather and flights, I chose a hotel for us. 40º is just little to chilly for my liking and well, we didn’t need to pack extra to car camp for 2 nights. I used Booking.com for our accommodations, I really enjoy this site for many reasons: free cancellations, pay when you arrive and the ability to do last minute bookings.
I’ve been using Booking.com for almost a decade… I would not say they’re my go to site, but it has saved me in many pinches before and rarely lets me down on the accommodations. This time was definitely an exception, but not Booking’s fault. Long story short, the hotel was less than par of what it should have been (but that’s neither here nor there! I’ll leave that for the Trip Advisor/Booking.com review).
I highly suggest (if you plan to stay longer than 3 days) to look into an AirBnB!
Plan your (Park) Visit:
Do your homework before you leave!! RMNP has so far been the most “extreme” park I’ve visited. What I mean is that the weather can change rapidly! I expected and packed for 40-65º weather and when we arrived to the park it was barely 42º out. Knowing we were planning to hike to Flattop Mountain, I was not prepared!
Read as much about the park as possible before you begin mapping out your visit. Weather could get wild and shut down areas of the roads (depending on the time of year you visit). Decide on which side of the park you want to visit, because you could get stuck only visiting one side. Know the animal life that will be in the park in preparation to see them and look out for them during your visit.
Find maps of the park to scale your interest in specified trails/hikes or viewpoints. Note important facts like parking, where and when parking will be available and what kind of vehicles are allowed in certain areas. Some parts of RMNP fill up quickly, so you may not have a chance to see that special spot you planned to!
Here’s what we planned:
Travel to the west side of the park (2 hours drive), drive back and stop for scenic overviews and a few smaller hikes. Head to Beaver Meadows for “Golden Hour” head back to Estes Park for dinner, possible return to park to star gaze. Second Day-hike to Flattop Mountain via bear lake, leave park by Noon to head back to Denver.
Here’s what actually happened…
2- Day itinerary to Rocky Mountain National Park:
-Arrive to park at 10 AM
-Drive to Bear Lake, turn around because the parking is FULL
-Head back down Trail Ridge Road, get side tracked to Moraine Meadows
-Stop to watch elk and play with chipmunks
-Head to Moraine Meadows parking to hike Ute Trail (hike for a few about 1-1/2 hours out), head back to the car in hopes to get to back to Bear Lake by 1 PM (hoping most of the people have left for a lunch break)
-Get lucky and hit the jackpot that people did leave the Bear Lake parking. Find parking and prep for a hike
-Scurry to the bathroom before hitting the trail
-Start hiking past Bear Lake to Flattop Mountain Trail
*Flattop Mountain Trail is a 5.5 hour RT hike. It’s a strenuous uphill hike gaining almost 400 ft in altitude. Expect to be winded. Due to a snowstorm that blew through a few days prior, snow was still on this trail!
-reach the first view point overlooking what could be either Cub Lake or Beirstadt Lake. (Its difficult to tell up there!)
-Hike another 100 ft in elevation to the half way mark: Dream Lake Overlook.
If weather is good enough, keep ascending past the timberline toward Tyndall Glacier.
If weather is (looking) bad. Stop here. Enjoy a snack and look out for chipmunks! ((This where we stopped. Weather changes quickly up here and due to the amount of snow still left on the trail to trek through)
-Work your way back down to the trailhead at Bear Lake.
-Cool off with a lap around Bear Lake Loop.
-Head back to town to shower and eat.
-Eat carbs to refuel at Antonio’s Real New York Pizza. Best Pizza in Estes, CO.
-wake up at 6:45 AM to arrive to Rocky Mountain by 7:15 AM
-Drive along Trail Ridge Rd as far a possible. (Half the road was shut down due to previous week’s storm)
-Stop at Rainbow Curve for the view point.
-Turn around toward Estes and view the animals along your way back
-stop at Deer Ridge Rd. to get in one last small hike
-Hike Aspenglen is you have less that 3 hours. (Hike Deer Mountain if you have more than 3 hours)
*We had only 1-1/2 hours
-Hike for 45 minutes, turn back to the car to leave the park
-Stop by the Visitor Center for any Park memorabilia.
-Leave Rocky Mountain at 10:15 PM
Hope you enjoy Rocky Mountain as much as we did! We will certainly be back.
Until next time,
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