Critique my Colorado trip plan!

So a little over a year ago, I was lucky enough to spend 2 weeks in the Golden area for training for work. I didn’t have a ton of free time during the week, but I was able to hike a couple trails after work. The intervening weekend, I did a whirlwind tour with a meandering drive to Colorado Springs on Saturday, and a day at RMNP on Sunday.

I absolutely loved it and have been looking forward to going back.

Well, my wife and I didn’t really have a honeymoon, so we figured we’d take a trip for our 5-year-aversary, which is coming up next spring. We were going to go someplace ocean-y, but I would rather go back to the mountains, and she’s never been so she wants to see them.

We plan on spending 6 nights, and I’ve come up with a tentative itinerary that I think lets us see and do what we want. I’d love to hear opinions from locals or frequent visitors if I’m on the right track.

We are looking at one of the first weeks in June, which I understand is a little bit before the bulk of the tourist season, not that I expect it to not be busy in some places.

Day 1: Drive to Colorado Springs from Kansas City.
Night 1: CO Springs
Day 2: Hike Manitou Incline, maybe a little bit of the Barr Trail. Garden of the Gods.
Night 2: CO Springs
Day 3: Drive towards Leadville, doing a hike on the way. I think I’d like to hike part of the Leadville Trail 100 course…Hope Pass, maybe. Or Crystal Lake. Hang out in Leadville and ‘re-hydrate’
Night 3: Air BnB or something in Leadville.
Day 4: Drive to/near west side of RMNP. Short hike etc.
Night 4: Maybe Grand Lake Lodge? Anybody stayed and have input?
Day 5: Do east side of RMNP all day, drive to Boulder
Night 5: Either Estes Park, or somewhere between RNMP and Boulder, or in Boulder
Day 6: Chill day. Check out the Celestial Seasonings plant and Fat Tire brewery. Head down to see Red Rocks. Probably not catch a show there since the next day will be driving back.
Night 6: Somewhere Denverish.
Day 7: Drive home.

Open to destination, lodging, food etc. suggestions. I figure that we probably should make reservations if we’re going to be in/near RMNP or Estes Park pretty soon. I assume they get filed up pretty fast. Air BnB type places are a possibility any night.

I made a loop to see everything we want to see, but I could re-arrange or reverse it if it makes more sense.

I’ve done many of the legs of your journey myself and they are all doable in a day with plenty of time to sightsee.

One thing to consider is Leadville is at 10,000 feet and Colorado Springs is at 6. If you could stay at a place in between them on the second day the acclimation might not be so hard. Plus you would have another night at 8 thousand something feet to build up for RMNP. Then again, I wouldn’t do that myself because while I can drive for 24 hours straight, once I get somewhere I want to stay there.

New Belgium Brewing (who brews Fat Tire) is up in Fort Collins. Are you sure you don’t mean Avery Brewing, which looks to be very close to the Celestial Seasonings plant? Not that Fort Collins is all that far, but it’s not really between Estes and Boulder.

Hey that’s an excellent idea. I will indeed look for something in between!

Ok I’m glad you said something. I think I maybe intended for that night to be in Ft. Collins and then hit Boulder on the way down but didn’t put that in my notes when I was planning.

I second Ludovic’s warning about going straight to Leadville. We live in Boulder, and 10,000 feet is still a little challenging for hiking. Also, there may still be snow in early June, so prepare for that.

The Skirted Heifer is a really good burger place in downtown CO Springs–no atmosphere, order-at-the-counter, but excellent food.

Near CO Springs (up past Manitou Springs, really) are the Florissant Fossil Beds. Very cool place, with truly impressive petrified redwood stumps all over. Great place, if you like that kind of stuff.

Ft. Collins is great, and may be ever so slightly less traffic jammed since CSU should be out by then (I think–check the academic calendar). We have found there to be slightly more encounters with weed smoke clouds there than in Boulder, but we don’t spend much time near the CU campus :).

When the time gets closer, PM me about food and drink recs in Boulder and Denver. I can think of too many to list here. Well, maybe a couple off the top of my head. In Lyons (between Estes Park and Boulder), there’s a great distillery called Spirit Hound. They make excellent New American-style gin and some whiskey and liqueuers. If you make it to Pearl St in Boulder, do not miss Piece, Love and Chocolate at 8th and Pearl (West of the pedestrian part of the Mall). It is expensive for the chocolates ($2-$3 per piece), but many of them are made with local beers and spirits, and they are so damn good. The baked goods are also insanely delicious and not quite so insanely pricey, relatively speaking. The Dushanbe Tea House near Pearl St and the Chatauqua Dining Hall (at Chatauqua Park) are both great places to eat, but mostly for the locations–the same people run the kitchens at both places, and the food is good but not special. The buildings are spectacular, though.

Have fun! We’ve lived in Colorado for 25 years, and we love it.

I say we plan an SD drink-together around this trip.

If you are gluten-free check out Coquette’s in the Springs. Best GF bakery I have ever found (their bread looks and acts like real bread) and in their restaurant everything is GF including their pot pie and fish & chips.

Going through Estes Park expect a TON of traffic. There are two routes out of town and both are beautiful. US36 is the southern route through Lyons and follows the Front Range straight to Boulder. If you take that route I highly recommend eating at the Greenbriar Inn. IMO US34 is a much prettier drive but it takes you north to Loveland.

Also, Coors Brewery is going to start charging for tours. I don’t know if that has gone into effect yet.
I would have recommended the Pikes Peak Cog Railway but it has closed - probably permanantly.

If you’re going to be in Colorado Springs, consider taking the cog railway up Pike’s Peak.

You can drive it - but from what I’ve heard of the drive, you really, really don’t want to! :eek:

That’s about the time of year we went, in 1985 - I think we actually got there in late May, so it might be a bit warmer in June! I do recall that it was freezing (literally - it was 32F at the top) while it was in the 70s in town. My husband had planned on wearing shorts and a T-shirt for the jaunt. He was glad that he listened to me :D.

RMNP is lovely. There’s a hike that’s fairly near the entrance we went in (driving from Fort Collins) that wasn’t too tough; shame I can’t remember the name.

Basically no one makes the equipment they need to maintain it.

There is one near Drake that we and the dogs love. Short hike down to a river but fairly steep so a good balance between easy and strenuous.
According to our hiking book there are a ton of trails by the east entrance. Maybe Gem Lake Trail?

#1 and most important advice: If you’re going to be in the High Country in June, and that includes CoS and Boulder, Do. Not. Neglect. Sun-screen.

Places to stay in CoS: Antlers (corner of Colorado Blvd. and Cascade Ave). Old Town Guest House (B&B) on Colorado Blvd.

Place to stay in Boulder: Boulder Broker Inn.

Places to eat: Buckhorn Exchange near downtown Denver. Lots of places on Pearl Street in Boulder. In my opinion there’s nothing worth mentioning in CoS, but YMMV.

Take a couple of hours in downtown CoS to tour the Pioneer Museum, if you’re into that kind of thing. It’s a few blocks south of Antlers, on Tejon Street.

If you’re already planning on Leadville, Boulder, RMNP, and Estes Park try to carve this out: Drive Boulder Canyon Drive from downtown Boulder west to Nederland, then Eldora Road to Mt. Eldora Resort. From there go back to Nederland and north to Ward and Raymond, east to Lyons, and south back to Boulder. On that route you’ll be very close to the continental divide a short distance west of the Peak-to-Peak Highway.

The Broadmoor is a lovely (and expensive) place to stay in Colorado Springs. The Cheyenne Mountain REsort is about half that price and also lovely. They both have pampering options if you’d like to indulge yourself before exerting yourselves in the mountains. Probably a good idea to advance book for either of them, also for Leadville.

The Antlers Hotel is in downtown Colorado Springs. Both the Broadmoor and Cheyenne Mtn. are kind of their own places–in town but on lots of acreage.

Note that Leadville doesn’t have a ton of hotels, and as I recall what they do have are not huge. But watch out because if you book online a lot of places say “Leadville” that are actually miles away.

If I were going to spend a night in Estes Park I would splurge and stay at the Stanley Hotel, but there are tons of nice places in Estes.


We rode the Mount Washington cog railway last year and enjoyed it. I wonder if its days are numbered too.

Nope, they just built new diesel locomotives in their own shop and are set for decades.

Emerald Lake in RMNP is a nice little hike and won’t kill ya if you’re a flatlander. We flew in from NYC and did it the next day (neither me, my wife, or two 9yo daughters were at the pinnacle of fitness). I’m just not sure how open it will be in June.

New Belgium brews many fine beers in addition to the nondescript lager Flat (sic) Tire.:smiley:

Adding my thoughts on altitude issues:

Kansas City elevation is around 1000’. CO Springs a trifle over 6000’. Leadville ~10,000’. Hope Pass around 12,500’.

You and your wife will need to be in uncommonly good shape to comfortably handle this much altitude change in such a short time. Ascending over 11,000’ in a couple of days is enough to provoke altitude sickness in vulnerable individuals.

I live at 11-2 and have had guests experience problems. Often, altitude changes will affect your sleep. Makes you restless at night. Other symptoms are often flu like.

You can, and I would recommend, buying some canned oxygen. Most grocery/liquor stores at altitude sell it now. It’s not meant to use full time, but a hit now and then seems to help (it’s in an aluminum can, it’s not liquid, so it’s light. The size of a big water bottle). Pick up a can with your beer.

Two nights in CO Spngs. first is excellent. Many people fly into DIA, rent a car and come straight up. That’s inviting trouble.

Don’t mean to discourage you AT ALL. Many people have zero problems other than needing to dial back activity a bit.

Red Rocks is amazing. Glad to see it on your list.

Yeah, I have a feeling both of these places are going to make the itinerary. Few things wife likes more than a good burger or chocolate :smiley:

I would absolutely be down with tossing down some locally brewed delights on one of our last nights!

Wife is GF, so we will stop in that bakery for something or other.

I took the route up and back through Lyons last year. If I recall that’s where I stopped at a cool little pinball museum.

Definitely a possibility, or one of the farther-flung ones. I hiked nice loop from below Bierstadt up and around Bear Lake last time. I wanted to venture off some of the trails that jetted off but didn’t have time. Saw several obviously more experienced hikers coming down with poles and crampons strapped to their packs. We might do our research and see about preparing for something like that.

Well, we are in decent shape and will be much more so by the trip. Wife is a beast anyway, and I should be peaking for my goal race next year about that time. Still, that might help us walk up hills but won’t do anything for the potential altitude sickness.

Apart from adding days or cutting a stop out, I’m not sure we can improve much on stay in CO Springs, the halfway up to Leadville, then Leadville.

I didn’t know about the oxygen bottles, I will definitely grab a couple to keep handy.

I didn’t get to actually go in when I was there last year, there was if I recall a Doobie Brothers concert that night. Did do a couple of the peripheral trails, and the trail on the ridge across the road. That was actually a pretty cool hike, the view from there to either direction is beautiful!

Thanks so far! I think we’ll end up making reservations over the weekend. I just went poking around for some of the locations in/around Estes Park, and many are already booked up for nights in the middle of the week we’ll be there! :eek:

Yes, they do, but Fat Tire is an ale :slight_smile: There are many other good breweries to check out in FC if the OP is interested. A few blocks from NB is Odell, which is right next door to Snowbank Brewery (formerly Ft. Collins Brewing). Equinox downtown is really good and it’s just a couple blocks from a German style brewery called Prost, which I think is based out of Denver. I also liked the offerings at Maxline and Intersect. Plus many others.

Huh. You are correct. The one time I tried a Flat Tire I remember it being very sweet/malty and thought it was a lager. I haven’t had it since. I’m a big fan of New Belgium beers in general, though.