I’m leaving Friday for two weeks in the rockies. I will be based in Boulder, should I hit Rocky Mountain National Park? That is one of the few parks in the area I have not been to, I was wondering if the tourist population up that way was really high this time of year, or would places like Yellowstone and other higher traffic national parks get all the people. I’ll be right in Boulder, I don’t know how many dopers are from Colorado, Enipla (sp?) is up there somewhere.
Other places to see in Colorado? I’ll be on a retreat for a large portion of the trip, communing with nature that kind of thing, but I will also have a lot of free time.
I’d definitely recommend a trip to to RMNP. Trail Ridge Road is the highest paved road in the country (that goes someplace rather than loops back on itself) and driving it for the views is well worth the time. There’s lots of hiking if you’re into that - the paths behind Bear Lake are very pretty and not very strenuous.
Stop often for the views and don’t play with the elk.
From Boulder, just follow US-36 to Estes Park. If you’re going out at dusk, the area around sheep lake is known for Big Horn sheep. They’re rare so pulling over and sitting quietly (if you have the time) may help. Returning via highway 7 is a nice drive, too (even going as far as to include Nederland if you don’t mind that additional miles).
Unfortunately, school is out so visitors are on the rise but it’s not as bad as Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, or (I hear) Yosemite.
Also, since you’ll be in Boulder, I recommend lunch at the Dushanbe Tea House, a stroll along the Pearl Street Mall, and a tour of the Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory (on a weekday if you can, it’s free and they’ll be in production). Also, my favorite store in Boulder is McGuckin’s Hardware, which is the most impressive and comprehensive hardware store I’ve ever seen.
If you’re interested in coming down to Denver, there are a lot of cool things to do here too. Let me know if you want suggestions.
I’m in the Boulder area. I would most definately make the trip to RMNP. Besides the natural beauty of the landscape, the ammount of wildlife you see is breathtaking. Elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose in some of the more remote spots, marmot and ptarmigan up high, etc. The only cougar I’ve ever seen was crossing Hwy. 7 between Boulder and Estes Park.
I agree with Belrix, the Bear Lake trail is easy and beautiful. The further up you go, the trail gets less crowded and the scenery gets more spectacular. Try to make it at least to Emerald lake and bring a camera. Keep in mind that there is still a lot of snow up there, much moreso than normal. Trail Ridge Road just opened a week or two ago and has already had to close at least once due to weather.
Boulder is a great place to be based, especially this time of year. I don’t know how much you’ll get to experience creature comforts based upon your description of the trip, but Boulder is a great food town. You can go to the Saturday farmer’s market for a good cross section view of Boulderites, or you can visit the Whole Foods on 29th and Pearl and watch all the Olympians (from all countries) getting ready to go to Beijing.
If you feel like leaving the Front Range, there’s lots of stuff to see down in the Four Corners area - SW Colo, where I am. There’s lots of snow in the high country, so hiking is a little limited just now, but it will probably melt out soon.
My GF’s dad just got back from a business trip in Colorado. He made a stop at RMNP one day and told us that if we ever go to Colorado that we have to go to the park even if we do nothing else. So, yeah, I say go for it!
RMNP is well worth the trip from Boulder. As others have said, its about an hour to Estes Park, which is the gateway into RMNP.
Estes Park will likely be crowded if you hit it on a Friday or weekend. However, a trip to the Stanley Hotel http://www.stanleyhotel.com/ is worth it. Inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining. You have to pay a few bucks to get in, but they give you a token that can be used at the bar for a discount equal to what it costs to get in (at least they used to do that as recently as 2 years ago).
Yes, go there, it’s great. Yes, take a jacket. (Personally I take a parka, but I’m a cold-natured sort.) Last summer we saw a bear–not too close, on the other side of a creek, looked like he might have been fishing.
The Stanley has a nice tour and the last time I was there, in March, ate at the restaurant–nice meal, not too pricy. But I think the tour was $10.
Estes Park is very scenic and is a favorite day getaway for us (we live in Denver).
I’ll add my voice to the chorus: RMNP is likely to be moderately crowded, but is absolutely worth a visit. As is the case in most parks, if you’re willing to park your car and walk 15 minutes along almost any trail, you’ll leave 95% of the crowd behind.
Also consider close-to-Boulder attractions such as Boulder Canyon (immediately west of town), the Flatirons, and Eldorado Canyon (about 8 miles south).