The next stop on our little Colorado tour was kind of a roadside attraction stop to fill some time on our way towards Rocky Mountain Park- a few hours in a funny little amusement park in Glenwood Springs. We really went so we could ride the scenic gondola up to the top of the hills, and walk through a few cave areas. This was the least okay I felt with people social distancing thus far, despite the park requiring people to wear masks and limiting group sizes on the cave tours. We didn’t go on any of the rides they had but still… if there’s one place you’re really breathing the same air as strangers it’s in a cave. But we kept our distance, wore masks, and almost bathed in hand sanitizer so here’s hoping.

This old west mining themed park had some fun photo ops, nice views over the canyon, and the caves were cool but nothing to write home about- I’ve definitely been spoiled between Mammoth and Luray in the past few years. It was a fun way to spend a little while though, and after the park we had lunch by the river and spotted rafters going by which looked like a lot of fun. We skipped the hot springs but did drive by the site where Doc Hollywood was killed, and on the way spotted yet another Hawaii license plate, so in just under 24 hours we now only need 3 more states. Come on Delaware, Rhode Island and West Virginia! I was far too amused, as usual, by the signs for the town of “No Name” because I am children.

We stayed the night in Fraser to be well staged for our next morning’s timed pass into Rocky Mountain National Park over Trail Ridge Road. We arrived a little early and used the time to walk up to Adams Falls by Grand Lake before heading into the park checkpoint. As we came through I had to hop out and take a photo since we had done the same thing when at the lake in early April. What a change! Last time we were there the park was closed, the lake was frozen, there was snow on the ground, and a Covid drive through down the road from where we parked for the falls. Crazy.

We had no trouble getting a timed entry pass online about 2 days out from our arrival, and I’ve got to say I really enjoyed the restricted capacity. I’ve only been to RMNP once before but it was way more crowded, trafficky, and full of cars pulled over in dumb places for lack of parking. This was so nice in comparison. We stopped off to do a little walk in the valley by a creek with stunning views of the mountains, and at a historic site of an old ranch before stopping for lunch at a little lake halfway up Trail Ridge Road. We stopped off at the Alpine Visitor Center in hopes of climbing up to a ridge where we’d last visited a few years back in a sleet storm on an otherwise sunny October day, but it was closed from snowfall or something. Oh well. Further along we spotted some elk, and stopped off at a pull off where everyone oohed and aahed over a marmot who chose a scenic home for sure.

Our final stop in the park was over to Bear Lake, where we had zero luck searching for new license plates despite full parking lots, but did spend the afternoon hiking out to a series of four beautiful lakes which got progressively prettier and emptier as we hiked up. Bear Lake was large, Nymph Lake had lovely water lilies, Dream Lake offered calm reflections, and finally Emerald Lake paid off with the dramatic cliffs just across the way. Plus this was one of the few places in the park Kevin hadn’t explored on previous visits, so a fun way to end!

We ended the evening with a tasty Mexican dinner in Estes Park, a walk along the creek through town, and a drive by sighting of the hotel from the Shining before heading back to Golden where we began. I could never have plotted this course to see so much of what makes this state pretty special. Just today I was perusing a road travel book my Uncle Carl gave me and realized that without planning we hit most of all three recommended loops. Well done, CO tour guide! It was a great two week tour.

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