Our next stop was in Golden, CO in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at the Clear Creek RV Park. This city run park is another hidden treasure! It is right in the middle of town next to Clear Creek and within a short walk to the main street in town with lots of restaurants, entertainment, & museums.
One of our main reasons to stop here was to visit the Rocky Mountain National Park. We had stopped at the Colorado Welcome Center on our way into town and found out that they now have a timed entry system and that requires you to make reservations to get into the park. We went out to the coach and immediately got onto Reservation.gov and found we would have to wait till after the Memorial Day weekend before we could get into the park, so we booked our slot for the first Tuesday afternoon after the holiday.
We spent the holiday weekend enjoying walking the downtown area, seeing the kayakers and rapid riders on Clear Creek White Water Park, visiting the Miner’s Museum, and driving the Lariat Loop, a scenic drive around the area.
We visited the Triceratops Trail hiking the short trail and seeing the fossils and dinosaur prints.
We then drove on to the Lookout Mountain Nature Preserve to get a real hike wandering the preserve. Late in the afternoon we returned to Golden and walked into town for dinner at the Old Capital Grill.
The next day we continued around the Lariat Loop with the first stop at the Mother Cabrini Shrine. Mother Cabrini was a Catholic nun who ran girl’s orphanages all over the world. She bought this property to be a summer camp to get the girls out of Denver for a bit of fresh air. The shrine was built after her death. And yep, we climbed all 375 steps to the top!
We drove on around the Loop to the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater. These rock formations were amazing, and we climbed up the trail as far as the altitude and heat would let us go. As we have gotten older, we find that the altitude changes have a bigger impact on our bodies! After the hike we drove into Morrison, CO and had an excellent lunch at the Red Rocks Grill. Unfortunately, it started to rain pretty heavily so we headed back to Golden and were unable to finish the rest of the scenic loop.
It rained for the next couple of days, so we took care of the weekly chores and recovered from all the high-altitude hiking in preparation for our day in the national park.
What an incredible day we had too! Since we had a 1 pm entry time we decided to take the morning and drive up to Estes Park, the town just outside the park entrance. We spent the morning walking around town, shopping, & then had a very nice lunch at Claire’s Restaurant and Bar. We had been told that the Fall River Entrance to the park usually had the least amount of traffic so just before 1 o’clock we headed to the visitor center to get maps and info. After entering the park, we drove Hwy 34 to Sheep Lakes Meadow. We saw big horn sheep and elk, but the ranger informed us we had just missed the moose by about a half hour! Grrr…. I keep missing them! She told us to come back at dusk as the animals usually return in the evenings. After the meadow we drove up to Horseshoe Falls which with the spring rains and snow melt were spectacular!
The ranger also told us that the Trail Ridge Road, the highway to the sky, had just been opened for the season an hour before we arrived, so we headed to the top of the Rockies! There were outstanding views at every turn out, lots of animals to see including elk, marmots, mule deer, and even a coyote who wandered into one of the parking lots. The weather was amazing as well. We went from sunny and warm at the meadow to high winds and blowing sleet and snow on the ridge. Plus, it was the first time I had ever seen tundra!
We drove the Ridge Road till we got almost all the way around the park to the Colorado River Trailhead. We took a hike on the trail then decided to head back to the meadow to have a picnic dinner and await the moose arrival. No moose but we did see an amazing rainbow!
After dinner we realized we were a bit early for dusk and we found out that even though our entry time did not include the Bear Lake Road (it is limited because it is so popular), we could go there after 6pm as they open the road up to all traffic. Thinking we had plenty of time we decided to head up to the lake. Though it was a short drive from the meadow unfortunately, they were doing road work on the connecting road and by the time we had parked and hiked out to the lake, and we were heading back to the meadow they had CLOSED the road for overnight construction!!! We would have to drive all the way around the southern part of the park to get back to the meadow and by that time it would have been dark so once again NO moose!! I guess I will just have to wait till our trip to Alaska next summer!
I do have to say that the Rocky Mountain National Park is one of my favorite stops we have made since we have been on the road. At first, I was disappointed in the timed entry system as I had to wait to get into the park, but I must say it was awesome as the traffic in the park was greatly reduced and made our visit so much more enjoyable. This system allows the park to limit the impact of the tourists on the environment and animals as well as making it a better experience for the visitors. If you travel to the west, it should be a definite stop but plan ahead so you can get your reservations on the day and time you want them.
Next up we head back to Wyoming!