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Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado, bundle up and beat the crowds

If you want to avoid the sky high prices and crowds of Aspen and Boulder, but still want to get your Colorado winter mountain fix, the Rocky Mountains National Park is an inexpensive winter wonderland.

Estes park is around a 1.5 hour drive from Denver International airport, a 15 minute drive from the entrance to the national park and offers a great range of hotels and lodges. We opted for McGregor Mountain Lodge, which has spectacular views of the surrounding peaks, Sundance Mountain and the Continental divide all from your very own cabin, complete with log fire. It is probably the most welcome I have ever felt away from home -is there anything better than coming back to warm cookies and hot homemade apple cider after a day snowshoeing?!

It is also frequented by beautiful Elks who can come right up to your windows in the morning to greet you. How about that for a wakeup call!

Lots of visitors tend to skip the national park in the winter months, opting to explore the mountains in the summer months when the weather is warmer. This is GREAT for three main reasons:

  1. Hotel prices are cheaper,
  2. Flights are cheaper (we got Thursday – Monday flights for $49 return from Chicago) and most importantly;
  3. The trails in the park are empty, which means you really feel as though you are getting a unique and personal experience

Whilst Trail Ridge Road is closed in the winter months due to snowfall, there are still plenty of trails and snowshoeing adventures to be had.  At the warming house, just outside of downtown Estes Park and on the way to the national park entrance, you can hire walking poles, snow shoes and crampons to help you get to grips with the wintery hiking routes in the park, and trust me if you’ve not brought your own you will need them!

I recommend the trails up to the Loch and Emerald lake for the most rewarding and stunning views the park has to offer.  The natural beauty will quite literally take your breath away, that is if the hike and wind don’t do it first! Prepare yourself for frozen waterfalls, blizzards, awe-inspiring peaks, waist deep snow drifts and 60mph gusts!

With the snow covering the ground, you might be forgiven for thinking that wildlife is likely to be a little thin on the ground, but it’s just a case of being patient and keeping your eyes open.  The Blue Jays are hard to miss with their beautiful plumage and there are great herds of elk which wander the valleys in the Rockies and in Estes park. And maybe, just maybe, could you be lucky enough to see a sasquatch?

All in all, there is nothing quite like the frosty paradise of the Rocky Mountains. Bundle up, beat the crowds and prepare to be blown away by the natural beauty of Colorado.

Rocky Mountains National Park by Zoe Austin
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