Monday, August 1, 2016

Exploring The Local: Big Thompson Canyon and Estes Park

The elk at Estes Park walk at will and have been known to shut down the main drag

 So some of you may remember that I talked about a beach trip later this summer, and called it a vacation. That vacation has since been delayed until October. It's so beautiful in Colorado and hot in Texas that I figured I would save the road tripping for when I would appreciate it most.

As I've been planning the rest of my summer and fall, I realized something though.  Travel can be almost anything. It doesn't have to be international, nor does it need to be for weeks on end. Travel is exploring and experiencing what is (mainly) new. I expect that if I went to this new cabin at the beach every summer, then it would be a vacation in it truest sense, but the fact that I am mainly sitting and relaxing as opposed to climbing mountains or ruins does not make it any less valuable in terms of experience.

Don't get me wrong, I've done some serious travel with the proverbial capital T in my life. I've also taken many, many trips close to home (wherever that was at the time) and enjoyed those trips just as much.

Summer in Colorado is dry and hot, and there is much to see and do, even if you are a less than athletic type as I am. In fact, one of the things I've been doing is making a list of day trips, two day trips and three day trips, with a plan to take one every week whenever possible. Trips to Jackson Hole and Montana require three days.

This past weekend, we took a quick one day trip to Estes Park. I know that some of my blogging friends and readers have experienced Estes Park, and enjoyed it. However, when most people visit this resort town, they enter head on, seeing the view below (which is beautiful, to be sure). 

the traditional, post card entrance to Estes, courtesy of the town website.
The better drive though, is to travel further north going towards Wyoming and drive through the Big Thompson Canyon. This road takes about an hour, and winds through the canyons and cliffs along the river. Along the drive there are elk and other wildlife, tons of folks knee high in the river fishing (at this time of year), and small cabins and tour sites all along both sides of the canyon. Unfortunately, no one else had a camera and I was the driver, so the canyon pictures are not mine.

driving along the river

The back side of these cabins sit back from the road. I could imagine sitting here for a week just enjoying that balcony.

Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

We especially wanted to take this drive since the canyon will close from October to summer of 2017- the canyon was damaged in the floods of 2013, while it has mainly returned to normal, there is some work to be done.   Beautiful as the canyon is now, with not to be missed views, it was not always so. Exactly forty years ago today (which was also Colorado's centennial), 12 inches of rain fell in about three and a half hours in the upper canyon. The dam (small as it was) was breached. Later that evening, a wall of twenty feet of water came down the canyon to where folks were in cabins and camping. 143 people died, and bodies were never found. It was a long recovery, homes were completely destroyed. These days thankfully, the canyon is safe and back to it's normal beauty.

As well as Estes park, the canyon also leads to Rocky Mountain National park-and hiking, camping, horseback riding, picnicking, rafting and more!  On this trip though (and after our two hour scenic drive) we spent the next few ours in beautiful downtown Estes Park. As did lots of other people. Surprisingly, there was nothing "going on" on this particular weekend (Estes has parks and fairs and festivals at least every other weekend for half a year). Since we had brought a canine family member with us, it worked out well.

The river winding through town, lots of big dogs running in the water
A quick stop to look at the yard art, I love the dog with flopping ear on left

When you leave the big dog at home, and allow the little princess to eat on the patio

Being as it's a very dog friendly town, we had lunch out on the patio on the river-walk. We then explored art galleries, various craft and other unique stores (with more than one tourist shop in between), checked out the yard art and listened to street musicians. I somehow managed not to buy any Colorado Taffy or fudge, thank heavens.  Hours later, we were all exhausted and ready to come down the hill to home (taking another route that goes along the front range and Boulder).

Today, I'm back relaxing and enjoying the patio and a slow day in the heat of the summer. Next week, Ill be heading to Dallas and Hill Country for a week or so, but I'm looking forward to another day trip or so when I come back-perhaps a long weekend in Jackson Hole?


  1. We are traveling to a National Park towards the end of the month. There is nothing better than being some place away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

    God bless.

  2. I was in Estes Park and the Park a few years ago in September and the weather was so perfect. Around every corner was a gorgeous vista. Sounds like your trip was very enjoyable. Love the cabins over the river!

  3. I and my then 12 year-old daughter visited Estes Park in 2012. Loved the drive up from Loveland - so many beautiful views - and we saw lots and lots of elk, and bighorn sheep by the road on the way down (they were filthy, but recognizable). She and I strolled through town, and visited the Stanley Hotel and had a lovely day. We followed the news of the 2013 flooding with much sadness, but it appears not too much damage was done. I was living in Denver in 1976 when the horrible flood occurred. A man I knew was camping there that weekend; he was never found.

    There are so many lovely summer day trips that can be made from Denver - I have wonderful memories of picnics and hiking up in the mountains.


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