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7 day itinerary including RMNP - with teen and 8 yo

DC
Level Contributor
16 posts
5 reviews
7 day itinerary including RMNP - with teen and 8 yo

I've never been to Colorado and would really appreciate suggestions to help make the most of every day of this trip for a nature loving mom and 2 boys - 14 and 8. We are flying into Denver on a Monday morning in mid August and renting a car, have 6-7 days on the ground and take a later afternoon flight home.

About us: we like nature. Nature centers. Easy hikes with picnic lunches (2 miles max). We will be winded by altitude since we are east coasters. Don't need "activities" just simple pleasures of gorgeous outdoors. Seeing animals is a major plus. Trying to catch crawfish or frogs or small fish with a net-our speed. Mom loves wildflowers. Teen loves photography and vlogging.

Ideally I'd like to have 2-3 "home bases" where we could stay for 2 nights rather than packing and moving every day. I'd also like to show the boys several types of biomes. Most excited about the alpine/Tundra personally but think the mountain/lake is lovely and then considering some red sandstone/cliff Indian villages and some hotsprings.

I know that's a tall order so I need help vetting it:

Day 1 - arrive Denver 9 am and drive to Estes park as home base. Or Boulder? Not sure which to do. Staying in boulder would add an hour to RMNP. Sounds like staying closer to the park may be smarter. Any motel/hotel/cabin ideas appreciated. Visit park in the afternoon To get oriented and do an easy hike to start acclimating to altitude. Any suggestions for an easy intro to RMNP? Bear lake?

Day 2 RMNP-TRR: Want to see alpine areas and boys would get a kick out of cold in the summer, marmots, elk, sheep, etc. do some small hikes along the way. Bring picnic lunch and hang out all day in the park.

Day 3 - maybe one last morning in the park? Drive to garden of the gods. See it in afternoon. Overnight in Colorado Springs.

Day 4 - check out manitou springs cliff dwellings maybe pikes peak?

Day 5 - either head south to great sand dunes NP (not sure how wild fires would affect this possibility by mid August) and spend day 6 there and drive back to Denver on day 7

OR

Day 5 Loop back from Colorado Springs to mount Princeton hot springs- stop by Florissant on the way there? Chill late afternoon in hot springs.

Day 6 do something near mt Princeton? Hike? Not sure if this is an affordable place to stay for more than a night.

Day 7 return to Denver for 4 pm flight

Thank you!!!

14 replies to this topic
Eagle, Colorado
Level Contributor
1,340 posts
1. Re: 7 day itinerary including RMNP - with teen and 8 yo

I like your option 2. In August the dunes can be Hot and time on them will be limited to early morning and evening. You could make a loop. On your last day in RMNP do the trail ridge road and stay in grand lake. Then head west on 40 south on 9 to summit county then over Hoosier pass to 24. This goes to Buena vista near mt. Princeton. Stay a night there then finish your trip in Colorado springs. Gives you a beautiful drive avoiding the city traffic on 25. You will go by florissant on the way from BV to Colorado springs.

Edited: 07 July 2018, 13:42
Fort Collins, CO
Level Contributor
554 posts
75 reviews
2. Re: 7 day itinerary including RMNP - with teen and 8 yo

I would definitely choose Estes Park over Boulder. You need to get a very early start to find parking in the summer because of the massive crowds. https:/…planahead.htm You probably need to get on finding lodging in Estes ASAP.

Some great short hikes would be Bear Lake to Dream Lake (continue on to Emerald Lake if you’re up for it) and Alberta Falls. Mid August might be a bit late for wildflowers but there will likely be some up on TRR. I love the Ute Pass Trail across the road from Alpine Visitors Center for some great views. You don’t have to go far to see them.

DC
Level Contributor
16 posts
5 reviews
3. Re: 7 day itinerary including RMNP - with teen and 8 yo

Thank you for the driving tip. I am not entirely wedded to the second half of our trip. Was also looking at maroon bells or other ideas

that have us staying over by aspen/vail/Breckinridge area rather than looping over to Colorado Springs which I am mainly doing for GoGods. Is GOG worth it? I added the cliff dwellings as a nice kid side trip. Pikes peak isn't exciting me after seeing pics of RMNP but maybe I am missing something.

DC
Level Contributor
16 posts
5 reviews
4. Re: 7 day itinerary including RMNP - with teen and 8 yo

Thank you for the hike ideas!!!

Eagle, Colorado
Level Contributor
1,340 posts
5. Re: 7 day itinerary including RMNP - with teen and 8 yo

If you like red rock gog is worth it. But you could do the same loop but head to Glenwood aspen on 70.hot springs in Glenwood. Then over independence pass back to Colorado springs or Denver depending on time.

Windsor, Colorado
Destination Expert
for Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park
Level Contributor
12,952 posts
136 reviews
6. Re: 7 day itinerary including RMNP - with teen and 8 yo

Day 1 - From DIA, drive to Boulder, through Boulder Canyon, see recently reopened Boulder Falls, join the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway at Nederland, stop for the walk around RMNP Lily Lake and up Lily Ridge if the altitude is not bothering you (assuming you can find parking) on the way into Estes Park.

Here is the route and I have AVOIDED the E-470 toll road.

https://goo.gl/maps/dy7CdC2Sjj82

Trail information

https://dayhikesneardenver.com/boulder-falls/

https:/…lilyLakeTrails.php

Once you reach Estes Park and have checked into your hotel, go in the Fall River Entrance to RMNP and make the short trip to the Alluvial Fan for Horseshoe Falls. The view of the falls is better from the east parking lot trail but the boulder climbing is better from the west parking lot trail. This area is a kid and teen magnet. Be prepared to spend a couple of hours here.

Here is the route.

https://goo.gl/maps/D2tQZfgw39v

Trail/area info

https:/…

Day 2 - for details about both driving and exploring Trail Ridge Road or the Old Fall River Road/Trail Ridge Road combination including information on short trails along the way, see this topic.

https:/…85710632

If you decide to drive Old Fall River Road, stops include the pulloff at the base of Chasm Falls, Chasm Falls trail and Marmot Point trail.

https:/…

https:/…

Day 3 - get an early start and plan to hike in the Bear Lake area. If you decide to go to Colorado Springs this day, Garden of Gods is prettier and cooler closer to sunset. Since I-25 can be congested and is not overly scenic, take this route from Estes Park to Garden of the Gods.

https://goo.gl/maps/YkhpCCLbd6m

Roswell, Georgia
Level Contributor
104 posts
162 reviews
7. Re: 7 day itinerary including RMNP - with teen and 8 yo

We just returned from a week in Colorado, part of our time was spent in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain national Park. The details are here https:/… including direct links to the places we visited. It was a wonderful time and the weather, especially in the park at the higher altitude, was fabulous! Enjoy

DC
Level Contributor
16 posts
5 reviews
8. Re: 7 day itinerary including RMNP - with teen and 8 yo

Thank you for the detailed itinerary suggestions! That is really helpful! I am really looking forward to RMNP. Figure we can spend 3 days there easily.

I plan to drive up to the alpine visitor center while we are there. But not sure if on out last day I should drive the length of it, cross to the west side, and then head down through breckenridge and then head west or go to Princeton for the hot springs and head to GOGs.

I am sold on RMNP. Just can't wrap my head around what to do with the second half of my trip. Would really like to have a home base. Booked 2 nights in Salidas thinking one of those would be a hot spring day and another would be ???

And then we head to Colorado Springs. Only reason we are going there is for GOGs tho and not sure it's the best way to spend the second half of our week.

Dublin, Ohio
Destination Expert
for Mexico City
Level Contributor
1,181 posts
125 reviews
9. Re: 7 day itinerary including RMNP - with teen and 8 yo

Salida is wonderful, I think it is a great choice. You could do the hot springs from there, raft on the Arkansas, Mountain bike, hike...

Windsor, Colorado
Destination Expert
for Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park
Level Contributor
12,952 posts
136 reviews
10. Re: 7 day itinerary including RMNP - with teen and 8 yo

If you want to maximize the scenery on the way from Estes Park to Salida, this is the route which includes Trail Ridge Road, Berthoud Pass, Loveland Pass, part of the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway and the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway.

https://goo.gl/maps/KWabkKR3gsS2

If you just want the quickest route, that would be this one which has some nice scenery - not on as grand a scale.

https://goo.gl/maps/5FoDWcuoeWC2

Edited: 14 July 2018, 23:22
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