Jordan and I love Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Sure, Estes is a tourist town, but it’s a fun little spot, and we try to get up there several times a year. We like to go in the summer, of course… but so does everyone else. For the last few years, we’ve ventured there in November or December, and the town is almost a completely different place. No traffic. No reservations needed at restaurants. No rude tourists. Just the locals and a few straggling tourists like us.
A few weeks ago, we talked about how disappointed we were that we hadn’t made it to Rocky this fall, and how we probably weren’t going to have time. But then we decided that if we wanted to go, we had to make the time. We blocked out this weekend and made a hotel reservation, and last Friday after work, we headed up into the hills. A light snowstorm came along with us, so the drive up the canyon was slow, but we eventually made it up, checked into our hotel (Murphy’s Resort: highly recommend) and grabbed some dinner (Estes Park Brewery: meh) before heading back to our room and crashing for the night.
The next morning, we woke up to the sound of wind howling outside the window … but we also woke up to this:
After checking the forecast for Bear Lake (one of the most popular spots in the park) and seeing that it would have a wind chill of -17, we opted out of our hike/snowshoe plan, as we didn’t have appropriate gear for those temps. I headed out for a quick, cold, and beautiful 4-mile run around Lake Estes, during which I kicked myself several times for leaving my buff neatly folded in the drawer at home.
After a hot shower and a hotel breakfast, we headed to the Holiday Market that just happened to be going on this weekend. We found some treasures (mostly tea… we have a tea addiction), then wandered around town for a while, were we bought some more tea at Dragonleaf Tea, where we also found a sign that made us feel better about the aforementioned addiction:
After we’d wandered a bit, we decided that it was warm enough now to drive up into the park and see if we could find some snow to tromp.
We stopped at Sprague Lake to eat our PBJs (in the car, because brr), then layered up and braved a very short walk around the lake. The wind was whipping, but the lake was beautiful.
Even though we were cold, we had fun stomping through the snow. We really felt like wimps when we saw a couple getting wedding pictures taken. Yes, in her wedding dress. BRRR.
We finished our little snow tromp and chose to drive around in the warm car for a bit, stopping several times for photos of the beautiful scenery, even though we knew our iPhones could never do justice to the glory of the mountains.
After a few more pictures, we cruised back into town to check out the tree-lighting ceremony. The actual lighting wasn’t set to start for over an hour, and the festivities were mostly kid-related, so we went wine tasting instead. Well, Jordan tasted. I drank wassail because it’s okay to feel festive before Thanksgiving when you’re in the mountains (at least that’s my rule).
After wine tasting, we went back to the hotel to relax and clean up for dinner at the Rock Inn Mountain Tavern. It’s one of our favorite places in Estes: good food, live music, and great atmosphere. We had a lovely little date night and were back to the room, in bed with our books, by nine. Wild party animals, we are.
Sunday morning, I went for another little jaunt around Lake Estes (Sundays are usually my rest day, but I couldn’t resist one last run in one of my favorite places). Then we packed up, had breakfast, and went to Kind Coffee (another great little place) for some coffee-drinking and river-watching before heading back down the canyon toward home.
This was one of the best weekends we’ve had in a long time: no stress, no crowds, no to-do lists, just some much-needed quality time together and stunning scenery. Now it’s back to work for all of two days, then back (the other direction) over the mountains for Thanksgiving.
What’s your favorite local (to you) getaway spot?
What are your Thanksgiving plans? My whole family will be together for the first time in… I can’t even remember how long. I cannot wait.