How could you go wrong, staying in a gateway community to Rocky Mountain National Park? Impossible.
All would be well when you arrive in Estes Park, Colorado, but I can share some discoveries to make the trip even richer. Tried them out in July because middle of the winter might be a different story.
This is about the city stay; delving into America’s ninth oldest national park takes you next door, celebrating the Park’s centennial through Sept. 4, 2015.
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One story at a time. Estes Park the town first.
Cubbyholes to chat or simply gaze
That creates tiny outdoor patios to enjoy a bite to eat like the poppy seed with almond bread I chose one early morning at Inkwell and Brew. Maybe eight people could loll about among the flowers, loving the early sun sparkling on the river.
This is a stationery store inside: exquisite paper textures and colors indicating somebody still writes letters. Take the kids inside because owner Kevin Reed gets the proportions right in the section with tables, chairs, crayons and papers for children to relish.
Individual, owner passion fuels every shop I explored. No cookie-cutter designs. No big box chains.
I recommend Estes Park even if you don’t think of yourself as a shopper but if you do—this mercantile path of easy twists and turns might seem as heavenly as the National Park.
Fine, and fun, dining
When lunch is exquisite and you learn the proprietor’s wife owns the restaurant across the courtyard, could be a safe bet to plan dinner there.
Poppy’s Pizza and Grill enticed me first with the view: river, aspen trees, flowers and then the descriptions: pestos of sundried tomato or basil or garlic and olive oil. Egg and dairy free crust. Gluten-free pizzas.
I ordered my first-ever smoked trout pizza.
Guess what? The dressing on my artistic raspberry walnut salad was poppy seed.
Ask to meet owner Rob Pieper, congenial, easy chatter and a certified beer taster. Ask too for his small bites desserts so you can taste at least three.
Julie Pieper is in charge at Mama Rose’s where she’s the certified wine taster but I strayed to the outskirts at night and didn’t experience her style.
Green Jeep Tours
This bouncy, open-air ride got me into the backcountry with insider commentary by Pete Lasho and answers to all the questions teeming within me. Take the kids because this makes sense of their classroom history lessons about homesteading in the west.
Green Jeeps will also take you to Rocky Mountain National Park but I chose their lower-level tour, only 7,500 – 8,500 elevation! That’s impressive considering I live just a bit above sea level.
Hat or visor advised; this Colorado sun can be bright. A bottle of water and granola bars are provided for the 2-3 hour jaunt. Take jacket because every 100 feet of altitude the temperature can drop five to 10 degrees.
Highlights of Green Jeep Tours
- Stone church named Saint ot systems interconnected
- Wild Basin Area, quiet access into
- Malo Center, construction inspired in 1916 by shooting star on exact spot. Doors open Wednesday – Sunday, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
- Abundance of aspen trees, ro
- national park and secluded lodge
- Snowy peaks and a sense of launching vigorous hikes
- Vast open land and and long views
- Eagle Plume’s gallery with a rich collection of American Indian fine crafts, art, jewelry and artifacts
- .Allenspark tiny community with fine dining restaurant named Fawn Brook Inn and the Austrian chef and Dutch property manager married couple, plus Meadow Mountain Café serving breakfast and brunch, and summer theater outdoor performances
- Tinier town named Ferncliff for sale if you have $2 ½ millionRead more about Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park and the neighboring communities to visit here.