Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park: Rocky Mountain High

Before arriving to our next destination, we stopped at the World Famous Red Rocks Amphitheater. I first learned about Red Rocks from a really good, under-rated Netflix show called Sweet Tooth. Season two is coming out soon so go check it out.

Red Rocks Amphitheater hosts the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. Probably the most recognizable inductee is none other that John Denver.

I was feeling a bit under the weather on this stop so we didn’t get to do much hiking but the area is stunning and I’d love to see an actual show here some day.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Estes Park is the main gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park and, since RMNP was the second most visited national park last year (almost 4.5 million visitors), the streets were busier than an ant farm after the rain! However, if you are into sweets, there’s an ice cream or candy store just about every third shop.

I still wasn’t feeling 100% so we missed out on some amazing hiking opportunities in RMNP but we did get to take in some beautiful scenery.

Rocky Mountain NP now requires timed entrances that must be purchased online early. You could definitely feel the crowds as you drive or walk around this park.

We took a short stroll around the beautiful Bear Lake and a hike up to Alberta Falls. Both were easy hikes on well marked and well maintained trails. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take Rizzo as dogs are not allowed outside of the parking lot areas in the National Parks.

The next day, we took on the highest continuously paved road in the country, Trail Ridge Road. This road connects Estes Park on the East side of Rocky Mountain NP with Grand Lake on the West side. It crosses the continental divide and comes within 10 miles of the start of the Colorado River.

There was plenty of wildlife to be seen in the park.

The Rocky Mountains cross through three main ecosystems as you get higher in elevation; the montane, subalpine and alpine. Not only does the air get thinner, but the weather gets COLDER!

We made it almost all the way through the park to Holzworth Historic Site.

Originally, the 1917 settlement of German immigrants John and Sofia Holzwarth. John had been operating a saloon business in Denver. They chose to take advantage of the Homestead Act after World War I broke out and prohibition came to Colorado. Shortly after, they turned the property into a trout fishing retreat called Holzworth Trout Lodge, later called Never Summer Ranch.

The family charged guests $2 a day and provided meals that Sophia (Mama) prepared on the Admiral Blue stove, purchased for $40.

As Jeff points out, the map we found highlighting the location and start of the Colorado River needs to be updated though because Lake Mead doesn’t have NEARLY that much water in it today.

The Stanley Hotel

But, the highlight of Estes Park, for me at least, was getting to see The Stanley Hotel.

In case you aren’t well versed in this particular piece of pop culture, The Stanley Hotel was the inspiration for Stephen King’s bestselling book, The Shining. As the story goes, King and his wife had been living in Boulder, CO and needed a weekend get away to overcome some writer’s block. He had just published his first blockbuster, Carrie.

The Kings decided to travel to Estes Park and stay at The Stanley Hotel for the night. Because the hotel was closing for the season the very next day, King and his wife were the only occupants in the entire hotel. They stayed in room 217.

Room 217

After dinner in the dining room, which they had entirely to themselves, King’s wife, Tabitha, turned in for the night. King opted to walk around the empty hotel, eventually coming to the bar and meeting a bartender named Grady.

That night, King had a very vivid dream that became the back bone to his next book, The Shining. This book consisted of a lot of elements of King’s actual life including dealing with writer’s block, alcoholism and even some anger towards his children.

If the pictures of the front of the hotel do not look familiar to you as a movie fan, that’s because the Stanley Kubrick/Jack Nicholas version of The Shining filmed the exterior scenes at a hotel on Mount Hood, Oregon. King, though, hated the Stanley Kubrick version and had a miniseries version made for ABC TV in 1997. That version was closer to the story line from the book and filming took place at The Stanley Hotel.

Our tour of the hotel included a few key locations where filming took place as well as the brand new The Shining room with replica room 217 (237 in the Stanley Kubrick version). The room included the classic Kubrick version green bathroom and even one of the original Jack Nickolas axes!

Alas, I’d be remiss (and Jeff would be disappointed) if I didn’t include mention that The Stanley Hotel was also the filming location of Dumb & Dumber’s “Danbury Hotel” scenes. But then, that movie is NOT my taste!

Stay tuned for our next destination and more fun!