a VirtualTourist member
Estes Park and the National Park have been recommended as a great vacation. I am from the gulf coast and I am uneasy about driving in the mountains on winding roads. Can anyone tell me what the road would be like from Denver to Estes Park, say using Hwy 36? decb
From Denver take I-25 North then Hwy 36 to Estes Park and then onto Rocky Mountain NP. The drive from Denver to Estes Park isn't very difficult, perhaps once you get on Hwy 36 from I-25 before reaching Estes Park there is a section of mountain driving, but it's nothing compared to the real mountaneous driving in Rocky Mountain NP. For someone who doesn't drive mountain roads very often, it might be somewhat scary, but the advice my dad gives me is to follow the center line on the road. If you're getting too slow and cars are piling up behind you, you could always find a spot on the shoulder or a turn out spot and let the cars behind you pass. It's a very beautiful park and I hope the mountain driving won't deter you from visiting.
Only when you start to get above the trees in the actual national park do you start to get concerned about the road. There are a few twists on US-36 once you get into Lyons, but by and large there is an easy grip on the steering wheel until you start to leave the forest in the park. There are places where you can look down and. . .well, you'll see it when you get there. If you stop at Forest Canyon Overlook toward the highest point in the road, you'll know what I and everyone else mean by "treeline." Please remember though that hundreds of thousands of drivers take the road every year and the road is hardly responsible for the majority of the park's mishaps (which is generally mountain climbing or exposure). If you are visiting in September, Estes Park will be overrun with elks. They tramp on the sidewalks right along with mankind. You'll turn to say "honey look at this sculpture" and an elk will answer you instead. I've seen them in groups of three or four clop up the main road in town, or herd in gangs of 25-35 and literally crush down chainlink fences or graze on someone's lawn. Signs will say "watch for wildlife on ALL ROADS in Estes Park."
I live not too far from Estes, and I might make the suggestion that you go even deeper into the mountains to one of the ski towns to get a better feel of the Rockies. There are plenty of major highway roads that go up to places like Steamboat or Breckenridge that you don't need to be concerned about at all, straight out of Denver....Estes is nice, but you can see and do all of it in virtually a day. There's a main street with mostly tourist shops, whereas in the other towns you have a little more variety and you can do everything from hiking, tubing, biking, etc. In my opinion of course, you would LOVE the scenery if you took that extra hour of driving..its well worth it, esp. since the hotels/motels in Estes are pretty pricey anyway...
Thanks for all the great advice. I am looking forward to my trip to the mountains. Decb