After two full and fun days of exploring the wonders of RMNP, we thought it might be time to take a pause and see what all the community of Estes Park has to offer. Like any other town located just outside the gates of a national park, Estes Park is a tourist town. There are T-shirt stores, candy stores and souvenir shops covering every block of downtown, and all traffic is funneled through the downtown shopping district. However, there are also some very nice, quiet and relaxing areas to spend an afternoon, and that is exactly what we did. We started with a walk along the river trail, which is a very nice, clean and scenic walk along the Big Thompson River through the heart of the old town. The sky was blue, the Aspen leaves were yellow, gold and orange and the water was flowing down small cascades.
A short walk took us to the studio of Images of Rocky Mountain National Park. This is one of Jennifer’s favorite photographers and the studio lived up to all the expectations. We even walked away with a print of fall colors on Bear Lake. By now Craig was getting hungry, and when that happens, all plans divert to a place to eat. We managed to snag a table at Poppy’s Pizza and Grill with a seat outside along the river trail. The pizza was great and they even had local beers.
After lunch we made a trip to see the historic Stanley Hotel, one of the original tourist hotels in Estes Park. It was built and owned by F.O. Stanley, the inventor and owner of Stanley-designed steam cars. On our way home we were even treated to an elk herd on the local golf course. Not sure how you would score a shot into a hazard like that.
If you visit Rocky Mountain National Park, you will learn it is known for all the elk herds. We have really enjoyed looking for and watching these majestic animals in the wild. So we decided to finish out the day with some elk watching in Moraine Valley in the Park. It was a gorgeous evening and we saw 4 different herds interacting. We watched two bulls fight over does in their herds and watched the herds move across the valley. A perfect finish to another beautiful day.
After a day of rest, we decided that for our last full day here, we would take on one more hike. This time it was up north to the Twin Owls trail. The forecast was for rain in the afternoon and a cool morning, so we waited until it warmed up some and headed out for a short hike. We could not have been more wrong. Turns out that the temperatures were about 10 degrees warmer than forecast and our short hike turned into a steep 4.5 miles! Once we got on the trail, we decided that we needed to continue on to Gem Lake. Gem Lake is a small land-bound lake up at 8900′. The Aspen groves were shimmering in gold and orange, the sky was deep blue and the rain stayed away. After our “short” hike, we headed back into the park for a picnic lunch and one more evening of elk watching.
As we look back on our four days here at Rocky Mountain National Park, we think we did out best to “do it all”. We had a great time! Now it is off to Breckenridge for more fall colors and crisp Colorado fall weather.