WELCOME TO COLORFUL COLORADO
During the last four years of traveling full time we’ve spent almost six months in Colorado, but those six months were mostly spent snowboarding in Breckenridge. For the amount of time we’ve spent in the state, we still haven’t seen much of it. We are so excited to see more of the Centennial State while we wait for Thing 4 to finish baking!
Nestled under the trees, we chose a campground just outside of Loveland for a temporary home base to explore the surrounding area.
The calming water of a shallow creek ran behind our site.
Just up the road from our campground was an open space, Devil’s Backbone.
Devil’s Backbone is a 12-mile trail system open to hikers, bikers, runners, and horseback riders. It’s a great place for wildlife viewing. Thing 1 even saw a rattlesnake after hearing it rattle off to the side of the trail. It’s the first time any of us had come across one and, surprisingly, it didn’t shake me up as bad as I thought it would.
The focal point of Devil’s Backbone is the long outcrop of rock jutting out of the earth.
Back at the campsite we spotted some more wildlife, a tiny toad.
Our two older boys have different interests. One of them prefers being outdoors in nature and the other prefers exploring urban areas. We try to find a balance by visiting both, so we headed north from Loveland to the city of Ft. Collins for an afternoon of exploration.
Ft. Collins is a vibrant city, and home to Colorado State University. Originally a military outpost founded in 1864, Ft. Collins has grown to be the fourth most populated city in Colorado.
Ft. Collins has even been named one of the best places to live in America by Money Magazine. It’s easy to see why people are drawn to Colorado, with its welcoming atmosphere, charming downtown, many shops and restaurants, plenty of culture, and, of course, the outdoor activities.
Another day, we headed southeast from our campground to the city of Boulder. Boulder has a colorful history from the cowboys of the old west to the hippies of the late 60s. Boulder is still a lively city today with something for everyone and like, Ft. Collins, home to a large university, University of Colorado Boulder.
A section of Boulder’s downtown, the Pearl Street Mall is a popular pedestrian mall stretching four blocks.
Filled with unique shops, restaurants, children’s play equipment, and street performers, Pearl Street is alive with energy and a great place to spend an afternoon.
If outdoor activities are more your thing, Boulder is surrounded by thousands of acres of recreational space including the Flatirons.
We chose a shorter hike after talking to some locals and headed up the trail.
It was a little hazy, but we got a pretty good view of the Flatirons, and on our way down, a great view of the town itself.
Not too far from Boulder is another charming town, Louisville.
The downtown is small but quaint with shops and restaurants. It’s worth a stop if you are in the area.
A friend suggested we check out the Rabbit Hole for cool vintage finds.
The highlight of our stay in the area was heading up into the mountains to explore Rocky Mountain National Park. The park, established in 1915, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year!
We spent the majority of the day driving Trail Ridge Road passing through meadows and forests as we climbed into the alpine tundra.
A few hours later, we reached the Alpine Visitor Center. At nearly 12,000 feet it’s the highest visitor center of its kind in the national park system. Inside the visitor center we learned about the flora and fauna that live in the Rocky Mountain National Park.
Later we climbed the Alpine Ridge Trail, which is a short but fairly steep trail that leads to gorgeous vistas of the surrounding alpine tundra.
Fading vegetation, pockets of snow, and alpine lakes covered the surrounding mountains. Life in the alpine tundra is harsh with thin soil, strong winds, and bitter cold. Animals must adapt to these extreme conditions or else they will perish. Many animals head to lower elevations come winter.
Although the sky was a bit hazy, the views were still spectacular. In the distance we saw marmots scuttling across the rocks preparing for their winter hibernation.
At the summit we were 12,005 feet above sea level.
After eating a packed lunch at the visitor center, we continued on Trail Ridge Road stopping at vista points along the way.
While the upper elevation of Rocky Mountain National Park is sparse alpine tundra, you’ll find thick pine forests and meadows at lower elevations.
A favorite spot for visitors is Bear Lake. In fact, it’s so popular that the park encourages visitors to ride one of the free shuttles to the lake.
Bear Lake quickly became a favorite spot of ours too!
The trail itself is short and accessible to almost anyone and the views are spectacular.
There are many trails of varying lengths that lead to other lakes in the area.
We followed another trail to the smaller Nymph Lake.
Exploring the many wonders of Rocky Mountain National Park, it’s easy to see why it has been a protected space for 100 years! We are already looking forward to going back. It’s the kind of place that would be fun to return to time and time again, and always find something new or simply be awed by the beauty at every turn.
On our way down the mountain we decided to stop at Estes Park for a short visit.
Estes Park is a popular mountain town with all the typical tourist attractions, mixed with a great deal of charm. The main street was lined with restaurants and quaint shops.
We windowed shopped and then decided to end the day at a local ice cream shop. Of course, you know us!
I’d say our time in Colorado has gotten off to a great start and we are looking forward to sharing more of the beautiful state with you!
What national park do you love to visit? Do you have any recommendations for places to see in Colorado?