Colorado South with stops along the way

Traveling in an RV searching for winter warmth

Clouds over the front range of Colorado

First view of the Rockies over the Front Range © Steve Keller | Dreamstime.com

This trip will start from Colorado’s St. Vrain State Park, near Longmont on I-25, the major north-south highway from Cheyenne, Wyoming to New Mexico. If you have driven down from Nebraska on I-80 then I-76, turn off near Hudson at CO-52W.  Go 18 miles to I-25. Merge onto it heading north until exit 240 (towards Longmont). Head west on CO-119W and take your first right after the gas station. It’s a well-hidden and not well marked driveway; but it’s there!

We chose this area for the ease of staying in one campground for a few weeks yet being able to take short trips by car to several surrounding attractions without having to break camp frequently. It was satisfactory, but not spectacular. The sites are on the Front Range, within sight of I-25 and handy to all the services that implies. Each site has a protected picnic table and grill placed for relative privacy. The campground has another section with trees and a pond, but no potable water, electrical, or garbage service. If I were to be there for only a short time, that would be my choice.

Colorado has a daily fee at its State Parks as well as a one-year pass. If your stay will be more than ten days, the annual pass may be better. This pass will only admit the original registered car. They have many discount passes, but they are available only to Colorado residents who are disabled or fall under income guidelines. See St.Vrain Campground for complete current information regarding passengers and “walk-in” fees.

Longmont, CO
Within 50 miles of Longmont, the following attractions are among those available: Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park, Boulder and Golden, Colorado Google map of the area

Downtown Estes Park Shopping

Trendy shops and chic restaurants - that's Estes Park; Photos: Estes CVB

Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes

You will definitely want to go by car if you plan to take the incredible drive to the summit.  Mountain driving is hard on any brakes, but particularly RV’s.

Enter the park from the town of Estes Park – a fashionable village full of boutiques, restaurants, gift shops and elk, yes, huge elk ambling around on city streets. For a priceless video of the town and the elk have a look at this “Crazy and Wild” YouTube presentation. It’s about elk in the fall rut, but it shows nothing you wouldn’t want your children to see.

Hikers may want to spend more days right in Estes Park at one of the complete or rustic RV campgrounds near the National Park.

llama-2

Guided hikes with llamas instead of backpacks Credit: Kirks Mountain Adventures

For those who crave adventure, check out Kirk’s Mountain Adventure website.  Whether by horseback or by foot (with a llama to carry your load?) you will see spectacular scenery not visible to the less energetic guests.

Be sure to stop at the visitor station. “A tableau explains how the design was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright and espouses his devotion to natural forms, materials, and colors.” They offer short informative movies, great geological data, and of course books, cards and treasures to remind you of your trip. When you reach the summit, there is a place to eat and catch your breath. The air is thin; lightheadedness is rampant; so rest awhile and enjoy the spectacular views.

Then back to Longmont via a fun-to-drive road

Leave Estes Park on CO-66/US-36. Follow this route for about 21 miles, then to quote our log, “We came home via Colorado Rt. 7 and 72, along the eastern base of the Rockies, ending up in Boulder. This is also called the Peak to Peak Scenic Bywav, and to our way of thinking, should not be missed.”

Beyond Ward and Nederland take CO-119 East. This section is known as Boulder Canyon Drive. “It was the most exciting part of the whole day, not because it was spectacular like the National Park, but because we come upon it so unexpectedly and were completely embraced by it. Look up, look down; breath-taking rocks all around, punctuated by roaring streams and outcroppings of straggly, yet beautiful wild-flowers.  As I picked my way down to the edge of the cascade, Cor sat in the car, poised with binoculars, all the better to find some rock climbers high on the cliffs.  Empty cars filled every pull-out, so he was sure he’d find at least one rapeller, but no luck today. An aside: I Googled “rapeller” to check the spelling.  One of the synonyms listed is “jackass.”

Geese at St. Vrain Park

"Hey boys! You're not in Canada, you understand?" by Gail Hunter

The first Colorado adventure day over, we returned to our space on its goose-filled pond, settled down with our evening “pop” and reminisced over the new sights and sounds we’d experienced. Dinner finished, we settled back to watch the glorious sunset defining the silhouette of the peaks framed by the picture window at the front of our home.

August sunset at Rockies

...and so to sleep 'til another day. by Gail Hunter

Impressed by Boulder Canyon Drive? Take a break from the RV routine and treat yourself to a night or two at the magnificent Alps Boulder Canyon Inn. Look for Internet Specials – including a nine-course meal complete with selected wines, plus others of course. Other accommodations are also available in Estes Park. These can be found in the Estes Park link.

Resources:

St. Vrain State Park – find current Park Pass information and site map
Estes Park Convention and Visitors Bureau – Family Fun
Estes Park – Campgrounds and RV Parks
Crazy and Wild Elk in fall rut – a YouTube video
Rocky Mountain National Park
Kirks Mountain Adventures
Google Map of area
Updating GPS maps (Garmin; others, go to company website)
The Alps Boulder Canyon Inn http://www.alpsinn.com/index.htm
Other Striped Pot articles by Gail Hunter

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