Aug 13, 2021

Colorful Colorado Roadtrip

Today I am bringing my experience and recommendations from our recent Colorado Road Trip. Since pandemic we have been locked down in homes, and I am craving for vacation big time. As vaccine reach is out now, we thought it is safe to vacation however with social distancing in place and with out getting on to flights. Colorado and Tennessee are about same distance from Texas, since Colorado is on our vacation list from long time and summer is the best to explore activities in Colorado (also we are not cold weather liking type family). We have made plans to make a Colorado Road Trip as our vacation destination for Summer 2021, and one of our friends family also joined this fun ride, that made a fun blasted road trip. Okay, you too can ride with us now by reading this post!  :-)

St Mary Mount Glacier, Idaho Springs, CO

Colorado is about 10 to 11 hours drive from Dallas, Texas, though it can be covered in single stretch drive, we have decided to take a break in between so that the drive could be relaxing and enjoyable for kids. That made us to set the duration of this trip to 8 day and 7 night trip (Sat-Sat) 2 days for travel 5 days of stay + activities during the trip. Since we thought it's not safe to venture out in hotels yet, we have decided to stay in vacation rentals and opted for AirBnB. First we have booked houses in Colorado Springs and Idaho Springs (mountain cabin) that are close to cover the major attractions and must have scenic places in Colorado. We have listed out the main attractions to visit but we were flexible enough to adjust as needed. All the parks in Colorado are nice, their admission ticket is valid for 7 days for in and out. Based on our list only couple of parks requires early admission, based on the weather forecast we have bought tickets early to Estes Park - Rocky Mountain Attraction. Other attractions are mostly free entrance or you can buy tickets after going there. 

Hop on, Ride with us!

Following are the must attractions we wanted to cover in this trip:

  1. Pikes Peak Summit - Colorado Springs
  2. Royal Gorge Bridge Park - Zip Line Activity - Colorado Springs
  3. Garden of Gods - Colorado Springs
  4. Seven Falls - Colorado Springs
  5. Sanddunes National Park - Alamosa
  6. Red Rocks - Amphitheater, Idaho Springs
  7. Rocky's Mountains - Estes Park 

Estes park required to buy Admission Ticket early, that is the only one we booked early on certain date. All other activities we have decided to buy at the place to go with the flow. Pikes Peak, Garden of Gods are free admission, Seven Falls requires tickets to buy at the park. Royal Gorge and Zip line tickets you can plan buy tickets early. We have decided not to buy these tickets early, as the weather forecast indicated chances of rain, duration of trip. We have been chasing the rain through out our trip, but Weather has cooperated very well, we escaped rain and able to cover all the attractions with out getting wet. 

Hint: Always check weather forecast before you make activity plans, since weather in Colorado changes drastically, it may rain on top of mountains, but at the foothills it might be sunny. So don't disappoint if you see rain in forecast, adjust your plans accordingly and be prepared to have some gear for rainy weather. (umbrellas, dry fit shirts etc)

Day 1- Dallas to Amarillo TX

On Day 1 we have started at Noon from Frisco, TX and drove to Amarillo, TX about 5. 5 hours drive. We have reached Amarillo by evening and covered the Cadillac Ranch near by attraction and checked-in to our rental home. 

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo TX

Day 2 - Amarillo to Sand Dunes, Alamosa, CO

On Day 2 we have started from Amarillo to Colorado Springs about 6 hours drive. Originally we were not sure what to cover either Seven Falls or Garden of Gods once we reach Colorado Springs. But as we made stop over at Trinidad, we have seen directions to Alamosa and realized Sand Dunes Park is closer to where we stopped over. So we detoured and went to Sand Dunes National Park, and that was a great change of plan, later it made all other activities fall in place saving a day for us. :-)

Great Sand Dunes National Park is  a very unique experience, where you get to hike the Sand Dunes that are 800- 900 ft high above sea levels. But seeing the Sand Dunes just like in Desert, in the middle of Lush Green Spanish Mountains with snow tops, is totally amazing. 

We reached our rental home at Colorado Springs by night 8:00 PM and we ate home made meal for dinner and crashed to bed. 

Day3 - Royal Gorge + Seven Falls - Colorado Springs

On Day 3 we have planned Royal Gorge Bridge park, where there are several activities housed, including the ZipLine Activity that I didn't want to miss. And weather showed up as sunny and no rain, hence we picked this activity for this day. We ate breakfast early and got out of the home by 9:00 AM, and park was 1 hour from our rental house. The driving in Colorado Springs is very beautiful where ever you drive, surrounded by beautiful mountain backdrops.  

We have reached to Royal Gorge Park, the Canyon Views, architecture of the Bridge, River down below are stunning. We have walked the Bridge, finished Zip Line Activity first, it started drizzling so the Gandola(tram) ride was stopped, so ate Lunch, by then the Tram started operating, Yay, we finished Tram Activity and there are few more activities for kids also over there. We did some souvenir shopping, by late afternoon we were done with activities and we headed back to Seven Falls attraction, which is a public park (which was listed to be Open until 6 PM). 

Representing my State at Royal Gorge Bridge

As we reached to Seven Falls Parking lot, we came to know that actually there is a Bus Service offered by park, that takes you inside the Seven Falls Park, and the bus service will be closed by 4:00 PM, though the park is open until 6:00 PM, and you can not drive to park directly. We barely made it in time to the parking lot, we were told that there is slim chance that we could get on the bus, as there was already lot of crowd on that day,  still we stood in line with the hope that we may get onto the last bus, and that was the best decision. We were able to get on to the last bus, and made it to Seven Falls, it is pretty nice park for an evening stroll with the Canyon Wall Backdrops, view of Seven Falls. There are stairs to climb to every fold of the Seven Falls ( stair climbing is pretty hard), either you take stairs and go near to seven falls and touch it or relax in their rocking chairs and enjoy the view of Seven Falls with the Canyon Backdrops. Park will be closed by 7 PM, as we started walking back to the Bus stop, it started raining, Park Staff is nice enough to offer Umbrellas to visitors. I am surprised at this service, may be they are used to it as Rain is pretty common on these mountains and looks like everyone is always prepared. 

Overall Day 3 was pretty adventurous with all the activities and thrilling with the mystery whether we can make to Seven Falls or not. We ate dinner at home and crashed to bed.

Day 4 - Pikes Peak + Garden of Gods - Colorado Springs

On Day 4 we planned Pikes Peak, where mostly it is driving to top of the mountains and getting lost in the beautiful view of Mountains, and that relaxation and resting was needed for kids and family, after 2 active and adventurous days. 

We ate breakfast were out of the home by 9:00 AM, we drove to Pikes Peak, stopped at few look out drives. You can drive up to 16 miles on the Mountains on your own, from there for 3 miles there is a Bus Service, you have to park your car and need to hop on to the Bus that takes you to the Peak of the Mountain. ( heard you can drive all the way to the top on your own, may be they changed that due to Pandemic or to control the traffic or to limit the crowd on top of mountain. 

It is super cold on top of the Mountain (14000 ft), you need winter clothing just for that part, so it is wise to pack a hoodie with pockets, that helps to cover your ears and hands to keep you warm. We did some climbing at the peak and wandered in the middle of the clouds, caught some beautiful views of mountains and foot hills. Pikes Peak is called America's Top Mountain.  We ate Lunch at the Cafe on top of the mountain at Summit ( new visitor center that opened this year May 2021), they made the cafe very environmental friendly all reusable cutlery/plates (avoiding plastic) and I loved it. You see that a lot in Colorado, as they want to keep it clean and green to preserve this mountain beauty. 

Lost in the Beautiful Views

We started driving back, and saw lot of traffic to uphill was controlled, good thing we went super early as we didn't had to face any of these traffic delays. We headed to Garden of God Park, where there are Red Rock Canyons standing in the middle of lush greenery. They are in Colorado Springs, it self very close to our rental home. The Garden of Gods Park is Open and free Admission (due to some one's donation, they made the admission to park is free). This activity is good for the whole family, you can stroll around these Canyons and climb some canyons too to catch the beautiful surrounding views. We spotted some of the must see Kissing Camels, Balancing Rock, Single Seeded Juniper Tree etc. You can cover this park by Bike Ride too where you can rent bikes.(that is saved for later trip may be).

We are so satisfied and relaxed as Day 4 is not as strenuous as Day 2 and 3. Tomorrow we have to head back to Idaho Springs,  saying bye to this rental house. So we ate dinner at home, slept early.


Day 5 - Red Rocks +  St Mary Mount Glacier - Idaho Springs

On Day 5 we started early to enjoy the trail at this house, we went running on the natural trail (our rental house has easy access to trail from the backyard that's pretty convenient), explored some views there, packed bags and vacated the house. We are on the way to our Mountain Cabin, looking forward for that stay.  

View from the Walking Trail 

We have decided to cover the Red Rocks Amphitheater on the way to Idaho Springs. Idaho Springs is popular for Gold Rush era. Since at the Cabin, there won't be any shop/gas with in 30 mile range, we shopped few groceries for dinner and filled gas and headed to Mountains. And we reached the Cabin it looked amazing, located in the midst of mountains, so cozy and comforting, with all the modern amenities. 

Red Rocks Amphitheater

Originally we didn't have any activity planned we wanted to relax and enjoy the mountain cabin, but the owner of the rental house suggested about St Mary Mount Glacier that is very close to our cabin. So we wanted to check it out, and that's the best decision we made. There is a 1 mile rocky path to reach this Glacier, And also it was raining at that time, so we took our umbrellas and started climbing, on the way several times we contemplated is it worth climbing? On the way we spotted Rushing Falls, looks like the snow on mountains melts and rushes down as Falls during the summer season, it is pretty beautiful sight,  that made us motivated to finish this climb to reach the Glacier. Once we reached there, the rain stopped and it was sunny and the view of St Mary Mount Glacier and the lake was stunning, very peaceful and relaxing. If you have planned well, you can bring some food and make a picnic here and stay for long time. Noticed in Colorado the days were long, with lot of day light ( until 9 pm and early sunrise by 6 am) in summer. 

St Mary Mount Glacier

It was late by the time we reached cabin, we ate early and crashed to bed as next day is early start to Rockys. 

Next day is to Rockys, 2 days early, we realized that Este Park entrance admission that took was timed entry and we picked at Noon slot, which was a bummer because if we go at noon, the day won't be enough to cover rest of the Rockys, and the drive to Rockys from Cabin itself is 2 hours. But we came to know that if you go to Park before 9:00 AM, it is open to public not timed entry. Glad we checked all of this couple of days before and fixed the plan to hit Rockys as early morning as we could. 

Day 6 - Rockys + Estes Park

Kids kept alarms and woke us up by 5 AM (we have prepared them enough to wake up early i guess), we were ready, packed some breakfast on the go and out by 7 AM, drove to Rockys, reached Este Park by 8:50 AM, right on time for free entry. Through out the drive we have seen the glimpse of Rocky's beauty from distant. The drive to Rockys itself is so beautiful, these are so Big, Huge and Wide Spread mountain range that I am sure why these are Inspiration to many Artists. We covered all the look-out drives, checked out beautiful mountain sights, learned about Tundra Regions and discovered some hidden Lake Beauties. We drove up the mountain until Alphine Peak, and took a hike via stairs (at 12000 ft) where you get to see the 360 view of Rockys. We drove back, it started raining heavily, we wanted to check out Bear Lake which requires special admission, so we couldn't make it. You need whole 3 days to cover just Rocky National Park and all the beautiful lakes, where they capture these Giant Mountains through their reflections. 

Rocky Mountains

Alpine Peak

Tundra Region

Lake Irene

Stanley Hotel @ Lake Estes

We ate at Estes Park ( funny we thought it's a park, it is the town name at foot hill of Rockys), checkout the attractions Stanley Hotel, Estes lake. We drove back to Cabin via Peak to Peak  Scenic Byway via  Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest, the route was amazing surrounded with beautiful mountain range. 

We reached cabin before the sunset, we ate early, relaxed with Board Games, some movies and gupshup ( chatting) and enjoyed the mountain views from cozy cabin. 

Day 7 - Idaho Springs to Canyon, TX

Our returned journey started from today, we have gave bid farewell to our cabin and headed back to Canyon Tx as it was 7 hours drive. We took breaks in between, stopped at Trinidad the historic town at the border to New Mexico and Colorado. We have passed through New Mexico, where Capulin Volcanic National Monument was spotted ( from here you can see 4 states, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas), and finally reached Canyon TX. As the name says you can find few Canyons in this town which unusual for the flat land Texas. 

Trinidad, CO

Capulin Volcano National Monument, NM

Beautiful Sunset, Canyon, TX

Day 8 - Canyon to Dallas, TX

We started driving back to Home, on the way we planned to stop at popular Punjabi Dhaba for lunch, so we started driving early, reached the Dhaba by 1:00 ate and enjoyed the Dhaba Lunch here, from there we drove another 1 hour to reach home by 4:00 PM. Aha, Home Sweet Home. 

As all the houses we rented are equipped with Washer and Dryer, we have completed most of our laundry at rental homes, returned home with clean clothes, means no major loads of Laundries after the vacation. Aha I call that strategy, thanks to Hubs for planning the houses perfectly. 

Overall, this is the best roadtrip we had with many surprises but no compromises in enjoying the beauty of Colorado that is going to be cherished memory for years. 

Few Important things:

1. Don't skimp on packing Shoes (2 to 3 pairs) (I packed, Running Shoes , slip-on Walking Shoes and Wedge Flipflops, House shoes)

2. Hats, Glasses, Sunscreens are must and Umbrellas (you never know when it rains, it is wise to pack in the car)

3. Pack 2 Sweaters or Cold weather gear (gloves/hoodies or mufflers to cover ears). On Pikes Peak and Rocky's in the morning times (before noon) it was super cold (due to alpine and tundra region weather)

4. Pack  Motion Sickness medicine (Dramamine) since it's a road trip and drive on mountains can give you motion sickness. Better to take it to avoid the worst and enjoy the beauty of mountains. 

I have planned menus and comforting foods for all the days, so that it's easy on our tummies letting us do all the possible activities with out missing much fun. We ate Breakfast and Dinner at home, grabbed quick lunches on the way or at activity. All the Food for Travel and Menu Planning can be found here. 

Hope you have enjoyed this travelog, a detour from food and recipes, 

Stay Happy and Keep Smiling until we meet here again!


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