What do you do when you want to clear your mind? For me, the simpler the better. I want outdoors, some physical challenge, and beautiful scenery. I don’t need a fancy place, great restaurants, or entertainment. Give me a trail up a mountain and I’m in heaven. We just got back from an awesome 5-day hiking retreat in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and it was awesome… we came back in awe of the mountains, refreshed, and ready for new challenges!
Why the Rocky Mountains? We looked for direct flights from Cleveland to somewhere we could explore outdoors. There are multiple directly flights daily to Denver, CO from Cleveland, and despite multiple trips to Colorado throughout the years, we’d never been to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is only a 90-minute drive from Denver!
We rented a car at the Denver airport and drove to Estes Park, which is a town just outside Rocky Mountain National Park. Estes Park is a really cute little town, however we didn’t spent much time in the town because it was super crowded. In Colorado the Columbus Day weekend is a long weekend for the schools, so many locals were in Estes Park… something we didn’t find out until we arrived.
Not to worry, we rented a house just outside of town very close to the Rocky Mountain National Park entrance. We’re big fans of renting houses instead of staying in hotels. We’ve found that when we shop around the rates are often comparable to hotels and we get a whole lot more. Also, Carrie and I do work while we travel, so having some extra space allows all of us to both enjoy and have quiet work space when needed.
In the past we’ve always used VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) and AirBNB, however on this trip we used SkyRun. The house we rented was also listed on VRBO, but the SkyRun fee structure is different and the overall cost for 4 nights was almost $200 less! Plus, SkyRun doesn’t require as much cleaning at the end of the trip. We stayed in "Mystic Blue" which was is a beautiful home in a wonderful location, you can view it here: https://estespark.skyrun.com/properties/38-mystic-blue - no need for us to post photos as theirs are great and a true representation of the home.
Since town was so crowded we don’t have a bunch of restaurant and food pictures to show you… we went to a few places that were close to the house and otherwise made food and ate at the house or on the trails.
The real focus of the trip was hiking and we found some magnificent hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Daniel completed all parts of every hike listed…
Lake hikes (Nymph-Dream-Emerald) from Bear Lake
Bear Lake is an excellent base for a number of hikes. On our first day of hiking we hiked about 2 miles from Bear Lake to Emerald Lake (about 4-miles round trip). The hike is absolutely beautiful, however it was extremely windy the day of our hike and when we finished the hike we opted to call it a day.
Lake hikes (Mills Lake & The Loch) from Glacier Gorge
Wow… it’s hard to put the magnificence of these hikes into words. We were blessed with an amazing day with blue sky, full sun, little wind, and moderate temperatures. We hiked to Mill’s Lake and The Loch. The round trip distance to go to both lakes is about 7.5 miles. The first half is uphill and the second half is downhill. We highly recommend going to both Mill’s Lake and The Lock. They are both absolutely beautiful, but quite different.
A Snowy Morning at Bear Lake and Hike up Deer Mountain
A big cold front blew in during the night and we woke up to about 4 inches of snow and more to come on our last full day! Quite a contrast to the 65 degree sunny weather the day before! We didn’t let it stop us…
We spent the morning exploring Bear Lake and the surrounding area. We were all alone and it was amazing to experience the snowfall and serenity of the lake.
There weren’t many people in the park and the Elk were enjoying less crowds! We definitely saw more elk than the other days combined!
Mid-morning the snow stopped. We went back to the house to dry off and set off for one last hike. We’d spent most of our time around the Bear Lake area (Glacier Gorge is very close to Bear Lake), and wanted to hike in a different area so we headed to Deer Mountain. Just as we pulled up, a hiker completed his hike… a gift to us because we followed his footprints in the snow for the entire hike.
It was a real treat to experience the hike in the snow and with no crowds! We saw 6 people and about 10 elk in the entire round-trip 6-mile hike.
Wrapping it up
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most impressive parks we’ve ever visited. We only scratched the surface of what’s available and are already thinking about when we’ll return!
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