A Week in Estes Park

Per Frolik family tradition, every summer my family does at least one trip to a national park. This year, it was returning favorites Estes and Rocky Mountain National Park during June.

June 16th – We arrived in Denver and drove down to Estes, Colorado. The drive was about an hour and a half and quite scenic. The closer we got to Estes, the better the mountain views and cliff faces were. At Estes, the first thing we did was visit Inkwell and Brew; a local coffee shop and card store associated with MacDonald’s bookstore. It is a favorite location for its excellent beverages, tasty pastries, and comfortable seating areas. The second floor, in fact, functions as a reading room. We then checked into a rental cabin near the downtown Riverwalk. For dinner that night, we went to the Cascades restaurant of the Stanley Hotel, where The Shining was filmed.

June 17th– As we acclimated to the higher elevation (Estes sits at over 7,500 feet), we took time to explore the vibrant town area. It seems as if almost every other shop in Estes sells ice cream or candy. The Taffy Place though, boasts the distinction of being the only place, in Estes itself that makes actual salt-water taffy.  (It’s delicious!) We also walked the Estes Park Lake trail (3.8 miles). It’s a pleasant and scenic route that offers panoramic views around the valley. Along the way, we spotted elk at the local golf course and flocks of geese with their goslings. That night we dined at Claire’s.

June 18th – There is a shuttle service from the Estes Park Visitor Center that drives visitors into the Rocky Mountain National Park, the drop off at Glacier Basin Campground where there are shuttle buses to various trailheads. Using this system, we were able to hike the Cub Lake trail. This is a six-mile looped trail with lovely views. We spotted deer, chipmunks begging for food, and elk does with elk calves who still had their spots! That evening, dinner at Mama Rosa’s restaurant by the river.

June 19th.– This time we took the shuttle to Glacier Basin Gorge and hiked to Wind River on the East glacier trail, then returned on same trial to hike down to the Glacier Basin Campground. These particular trails are very popular for horse riders and we came across three different riding companies along the way. Marmot sightings! Later that afternoon, we visited MacDonald’s Bookstore. That night we ate at Ed’s Cantina.  

June 20th – We hike from the shuttle stop to the Fern Lake trailhead, (elevation 8165 feet) and then hike up past the Pool, the Fern Falls, and finally to Fern Lake!  Up at Fern Lake (elevation 9500 feet) there were still quantities of snow drifts to be found by the Ranger Pilot cabin. The views were spectacular. All in all, it was nine miles of hiking. That night we celebrated with a pizza dinner at Bob and Tony’s downtown.

June 21st – Rained all day in Estes and it actually snowed at some of the higher elevations so hiking wasn’t in the cards. Fortunately, there is no shortage of other activities in Estes. Visited the excellent Affinity Massage and Wellness Center for a 60 minute session to help muscles after strenuous hiking. Then it was off to Inkwell and Brew to curl up with a good book and a cup of cocoa. That afternoon, we did some shopping in the local stores.  That night we ate once again at Claire’s. 

June 22nd – That weekend there was a Scandinavian festival taking place in the main town square. We drove up to Trail Ridge Road to gape at the spectacular mountain views where there was now a fresh layer of snow.  Back in town we visited the Cliffhanger Used Book Store, to donate books we had finished on the trip and resupply ourselves with new ones. The Cliffhanger is a non-profit that benefits the Estes Public Library.  They charge 25% of cover price except for those volumes which are in the bargain racks in the back room. For our final night, we once more ate at Cascades Restaurant, which boasts an authentic Stanley Steamer in the lobby, multiple wood burning fireplaces, and numerous other vintage items.  That night, instead of the cabin, we stay at Murphy’s Family Resort, a pet friendly place, with numerous games and activities available as well as complimentary fire pits.

June 23rd – We make a final pilgrimage to Inkwell and Brew before we drive to Denver Airport and fly home.

Top Bigstock photo: River and mountains in Estes, Colorado.

About Winnefred Ann Frolik (154 Articles)
Winnefred Ann Frolik (Winnie for short) was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She completed the International Baccleareate program at Schenley High School and then attended the University of Pittsburgh where she completed a double major in English Literature and Creative Writing. After graduation she spent a number of years working in the non-profit sector and it was during that phase in her life she moved to D.C.  Winnie co-wrote a book on women in the U.S. Senate with Billy Herzig.  She enrolled in a baking program in culinary school and worked in food services for a while. She currently works in personal services while writing for Woman Around Town and doing other freelance writing projects including feeble personal attempts at fiction. Her brother is a reporter in Dayton, Ohio so clearly there are strong writing genes in the family.  She lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with two demanding cats.