Estes Park. A town nestled a mere few miles from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. The idyllic photographic setting. Snow peaked mountains rising from the edge of town to take your breath away. The beauty surreal. Everything promising good times and happy memories.
I fulfilled most of my dreams for this trip. Ice cream the first night at Flavors of the Rockies. Waking up early to try see the sunrise. Browsing the shops on Elkhorn Avenue in the morning sun, with an iced coffee from Kind Coffee (yuuum) in hand. Breakfast pickup from Top Notch Bakery and Cafe. The banana bread French toast is a dream. Trying the fabulous rave worthy ice cream from Haley’s Ice Cream and the award winning pie from You Need Pie. Pizza lunch from Antonio’s Real New York Pizza. Snagging the last four donuts from Donut Haus (gotta pre order or be there immediately at opening!) A sunset walk at Lake Estes, complete with a mama duck and her ducklings who swam alongside us while we walked. Sliding down the giant rainbow slide at Fun City. Seeing elk hanging out around town. Finding myself a Souvenir hoodie. Hiking a couple miles in Rocky Mountain National Park.
But no trip to a place like this, especially with five kids, is complete without some anxieties and not planning ahead issues. The curvy mountain road leading from Loveland to Estes Park, with rain pouring down, huge puddles washing out areas of the road. Coolant hose in the car sprouting a leak. A motel pool without shallow ends for small children, but my small children wanted to just jump on in! I really just dislike pools with kids period. I’m fine with lakes. The Fun City slides were amazing once you were going down them, but if you’re a little skittish of heights, like I am, it’s a bit nerve wracking walking up to the top of the slides. Then hiking with all the kids up a narrow dirt/rock path to see the beautiful mountain lakes. We got 1/2 mile to the first lake, Nymph, and then heard thunder. Much as it was my deepest desire to catch some sunset photos at Dream or Emerald Lake, we decided to head back down as being out there in a thunderstorm with kids is not the best situation. But I did get a few photos before the rain started! Bear Lake is the one with sunshine, Nymph Lake is the cloudy lily pad one.:)
And it was very busy! Which I did imagine it would be, considering it’s summer and it’s a place that’s easier to enjoy in summer. But trying to drive around Elkhorn Avenue by the shops is a bit of a mess in the afternoon hours. Our morning we spent browsing there was perfect as not many people were around yet. So if you’re not a fan of crowds, do the stuff early and spend the afternoon relaxing while everyone else is out! Then head back out in the evening for ice cream and dessert. 👌🏻
Also, if you decide to go and are having trouble finding lodging in Estes Park, call! Online it was showing no availability with kids and pet friendly rooms, but I called and got one on the second place I tried! And I’d spent so many hours searching online.
I didn’t realize that Rocky Mountain National Park was requiring reserved timed entry passes until I was checking in to the motel and they told me. I did manage to snag one of the last few after they’d released Thursdays batch the evening before. Oh and then after we’d visited the park, I learned from overhearing a conversation, that if you got to the park between 5 and 9 am, you don’t need entry passes. Which really bothered me because I’d wanted to go early but thought we couldn’t. Haha. So yes, lesson learned. Plan ahead. Check things out.
Overall, this trip was one for the books! And as it’s only a ten hour drive from me, I can’t wait to go back again. Next time, hike fully up to Emerald Lake. Drive the Trail Ridge Road. Get in the park at the crack of dawn! Pre order from Donut Haus, and we’ll be good to go!:)
Now the kids and I are getting ready to head to my family’s cabin in Michigan next week! One adventure to the next.