I have been meaning to blog about my Colorado trip for a long time but something or the other always kept coming up, and this kept being pushed to the back burner. Armed with determination today, I decided I just had to sit down for a couple of hours and just type. One of the things that I love about blogging is the fact that it lets you relive your memories, for me it’s one recipe or one trip at a time!
Back to the trip now! Colorado was our first roadtrip in America and I absolutely loved it. The in-laws were visiting from India and hence a family vacation was on the cards. After much deliberation we decided that after Australia no beach would be able wow us, so let’s head to the mountains. The Rockies in Colorado had been on the wishlist of places to see in US. It was a 14.5hr drive from Austin but we decided to just do it. The round trip was around 2000miles but worth every bit of it. The thing about road trips in America is that they are really easy to do and are the best way to see the country. The highway system is pretty well connected with ample of pitstops on the way. The journey from Austin to Denver is partly on the historical Route 66, and it’s fun to see all signs announcing it like a big exciting attraction. And there is also the famed Cadillac Ranch enroute in Amarillo.
With multiple drivers you can stretch all the way to Denver in a day but if you have the luxury of time do a pitstop at Amarillo or Lubbock. It is much less stressful and you can arrive in Denver refreshed the next day. Our itinerary was as follows Austin -> Amarillo ->Denver via Colorado Springs -> Breckenridge -> Estes Park -> Santa Fe -> Lubbock -> Austin.
We spent around 2-3 days each in Estes Park and Breckenridge. The rest of the cities were one day stops and we utilised the evenings and the next day morning for sight-seeing etc. We didn’t end up driving more than 6-8hrs a day and within Colorado it was never more than 2-4hrs in day, as both Estes Park and Breckenridge are close to Denver. This gave us plenty of time to just relax and soak in the fresh mountain air, go on long ambling hikes, and just chill on a hammock by the river lazily leafing through the pages of a book.
We visited around end of May, when it was still spring and the mountains had snow on them. The sad part: a lot hikes were closed as a result, the happy part: playing in snow :). As happens on all our vacations even this one was heavily centered around food. Significant amounts of time was spent on Yelp & Tripadvisor finding the quaintest little local cafe which everyone loved! Hipsters at heart that we are, there was no way in hell that we could get our morning cuppa joe from Starbucks! It had to be a hidden cafe, quirky artwork on walls was an added bonus. Being so focussed on food has it’s perks, and a good research ensured that we never had to eat at McDonalds or Pizza Hut wherever we went.
The mile high city is fun with the maximum number of craft breweries in the country. So if you love yourself some beer you might want to check out the beer festival. We were there for one night and decided to stay in downtown at the Hyatt Regency. The hotel itself was super comfortable and centrally located with all the cool bars, restaurants, cafes and markets within walking distance. Besides the legalised green stuff, Denver’s does have a pretty cool art scene too. The buildings in Denver are one of a kind with modern architecture sensibilities and it’s fun to walk around the city absorbing that.
On our way in we stopped at Colorado Springs which is an hour away from Denver. If you have the time I highly recommend spending a day here and exploring all that it has to offer. The Garden of Gods is pretty spectacular but crazily crowded on holidays and chances are you would be stuck in traffic trying to see this natural wonder. Then there is also the famed Red Rock Amphitheatre, an outdoor music venue surrounded by, yes, red rocks! It looks quite majestic and is worth a detour on your way out. It is quite a steep climb up so get your walking shoes on or you could park at the upper level, but then, where is the fun in that!
Breckenridge: Breckenridge is a Ski-town that is alive in winters, but the spring and summer time lend it a lazy feel which is fun too. There are a lot of trails you can hike and be rewarded with spectacular views on the end, or you could rent a bike and go cruising along the river. The mountains come alive in the summers and the views are simply breathtaking whichever direction you turn to. Or you could also just enjoy the quaint little town, sitting by the town center where there is a stream flowing through. Just grab yourself a coffee and a bagel from Clint’s or choose from their array of wonderful desserts or homemade ice-cream and amble on to enjoy the sunshine. It is addictive I can tell ya! The town center street is lined with colorful little shops and cafes which make it look like it’s straight out of a fairytale.
We stayed at Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge, and it was great. It was minutes from all the restaurants and other points of interest. They have an outdoor heated pool and always have some activities going on for the house guests which can be fun. The room itself is cosy enough and had spectacular views of the mountains. They had mini kitchens as well which helped when we wanted to just take it easy and have lunch in.
Estes is the basecamp for all adventures in the Rocky Mountain National Park. The rockies are beautiful and words don’t do them any justice. You can get a day pass for $20 or a 7 day pass for $30 per car, so if you plan on going more than once, I highly recommend the 7day pass.
There are a lot of accommodation options in Estes Park, but we wanted to take things up a notch while still keeping it budget friendly. Stonebrooks Resort was the perfect answer, it is a collection of standalone cottages each with its own personal hot-tub and in-room jacuzzi. The fall river flows in the back and you know it’s time to count your blessings, when you get to unwind at the end of a long hike, sitting in your hot-tub, sipping a glass of wine, gazing at the stars, listening to the sounds of nature. Lots of eating options in Estes as well, but we ended up barbecuing on both nights and just enjoying a quiet night in.
We hiked the Deer Mountain trail which is a 6mile loop and is a good climb. The Bear Lake Trailhead is a short trail around the bear lake, and has spectacular views. Since, the snow had not yet melted almost all of the Bear Lake trail was on snow, which was fun but slippery. It is an easy trail and even my in-laws came along for this one and enjoyed it. The Deer Mountain Trail had snow only in the last 20 minutes of the climb, and by then it was an almost flat land, so a little easier to maneuver. I also, want to highlight here that I am not a skilled climber, but have a decent fitness level, and hence I found these hikes manageable. Do consult an expert before you undertake any of these hikes though.
Santa Fe is like no other city. Home to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the city screams art on every corner. Colorful spanish style architecture, bohemian jewellery and eclectic collectible art pieces, Santa Fe seduces you into its beautiful web. It’s a mecca of counterculture and you can see artists and boho hipsters walking around with their easels and flowy dresses. And Santa Fe knows its food! I had some of the best African food here at the Jambo Cafe, and one of the most hearty mexican breakfast at Pantry. Only had one day here but I know I want to come back for more. I feel like I didn’t get the chance to breathe the city in, didn’t have the chance to get soaked into the hypnosis of bright colors and abstract artifacts, and didn’t get the chance to get lost in the works of art, that call at you from every corner.
We broke our journey at Amarillo on the way to Denver, and at Lubbock on our way back. We tried to reduce time on road as much as possible and kept the drive times in Colorado to not be more than 3-4hrs a day with pitstops included. The longest stretch was from Estes Park to Santa Fe, and most of the landscape in New Mexico is unchanging with miles and miles of nothingness. So do pack well in terms of fuel, food and water before you head out as it could be a few hours before you come to a pitstop. So long until the next road trip!