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Living in Colorado provides us with many opportunities for fun and beautiful road trips. There is no end to the places we can go for a daycation, so we hit the road pretty often when the weather is nice. Since it is only about a 90-minute drive for us, one of our favorite places to visit is Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. The ride is almost as beautiful as the destination and there is so much to see and do once we get there.
We recently purchased a new (to us) MINI Cooper Countryman and we have been itching to take it on a proper Colorado road trip. A drive to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park was the perfect trip for a hot July day. I’d love to show you some of our favorite places to stop.
Estes Park is the perfect place to visit in the summer because it is often up to 15 degrees cooler than it is in the Denver area. On the day we visited, it was 90+ degrees at our house so we were happy to have some relief from the heat, especially in such a beautiful place. It was so nice, the crowded streets didn’t even bother me!
There is so much to do in Estes Park that you would need at least a long weekend to do everything you’d like. There is mini golf, museums, adventure parks, fishing, tours, horseback riding, rafting, and so much more! Downtown Estes Park is a great place to take a stroll, do some shopping, grab a bite to eat at the many restaurants and small eateries, or stop for an ice cream cone. If you visit Estes Park in the fall you will see huge elk walking around the outskirts of town which makes for a fun and unique photo opp.
Being the Stephen King fan that I am, we had to make at stop at the Stanley Hotel. This hotel is the inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in the book, The Shining. As the story goes, Stephen King and his wife stayed at the hotel back in 1973 and were the only guests that night, though he didn’t feel as though they were alone. Rumor has it that the Stanley Hotel is haunted.
You may have seen the Stanley Hotel featured on several ghost hunting programs or maybe you remember it from Dumb and Dumber. Remember the hotel where Harry and Lloyd stayed in Aspen? The exterior shots were filmed at the Stanley Hotel.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is a vacation destination on its own. There is so much to see and do; it’s impossible to fit it all into one day. We have been up there twice and still haven’t come close to seeing the whole park.
There is something for everyone here: a nice ride on the mountain roads, more scenery than you can shake a stick at, perfect hiking trails for any level, lakes, wildlife, even some snow!
There are plenty of places in Rocky Mountain National Park to pull over and take in the view. We always pack a cooler with some snacks and drinks so we parked the MINI at this pull off and had a snack in this gorgeous spot. Perfect for a bite to eat and a trail walk.
There are several lakes in the park; some being easier to access than others. Some of the lakes can only be visited by hiking deep into the mountains, which isn’t very easy to do at over 9,500 feet of elevation. The air is pretty thin up here!
Since we are traveling with kids, one of our favorite lakes to visit is Sprague Lake. It is a nice, easy, flat half mile walk around the lake. With picnic tables and small hibachi style barbecues, it is also a great place to stop for a picnic.
Where else can you sit by the lake for some self-reflection and also have a snowball fight in July?
Bear Lake is another easy walk if you’re visiting with kids or not feeling up to hiking further up the mountain. There are several other lakes in this area of the park, but Bear Lake is the easiest to access. The hike around the lake is a little longer than Sprague Lake but still flat and easy to do with kids.
Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ
After spending the day hiking in the mountains, I bet you’ll be pretty hungry. There are a lot of great places for a bite to eat in Estes Park, but Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ is our favorite. This time, I got a big fat Reuben sandwich, but we also love their brisket and barbecue pork. Also, be sure to get the fried pickles!
Of course, no road trip is complete without an oil change. We get our oil changed at the Walmart Auto Center because it is convenient and affordable. While getting our oil changed we can kill two birds with one stone by also shopping for our road trip snacks.
Our MINI Cooper requires the Power and Performance oil change with Pennzoil Platinum®: Full Synthetic Motor Oil with PurePlus™ Technology, but we also bring our Santa Fe here. It has about 85,000 miles so we choose the high mileage oil change for vehicles over 75,000 miles. Pennzoil® High Mileage Vehicle® motor oil is our choice for helping to clean out any sludge while reducing leaks and oil consumption in our higher mileage vehicle.
Conveniently, Walmart Auto Center‘s High Mileage oil changes are on Rollback from $39.88 to just $35.88 from June 15 – September 28. Now is the perfect time to get that oil change that you are overdue for!