Venue: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado Duration: 1 or 2 days Best time to visit: Pretty much all around the year. Accommodation: Estes Park or cabins around the national park. Denver or cities nearby could be a good option as well.
It was a last-minute trip. We did not have a list of things to do for the long weekend and had decided to go with the flow. The itinerary is as below. You have to make reservations to enter the national park and can only enter during those hours. The link to make reservations is here -> https://www.recreation.gov/timed-entry/10086910.
Day 1: A few must-visit places – Estes Park: This place is slightly outside the national park. It is a busier area with beautiful lakes, breathtaking views, and loads of restaurants and shopping areas. Moraine Park: This spot is on your way to the Bear lake corridor. Moraine Park offers abundant wildlife and breathtaking views of the snow-clad mountains. Bear Lake: This one is a short 0.8 miles walk in the park. The lakes were still frozen and added to the beauty. Dream Lake & Emerald Lake: The trail starts from the Bear Lake trail. It can get trickier due to the snow. Trail Ridge Road: This drive offers gorgeous views of the mountains. The views from the overlook spots are stunning. The Forest Canyon overlook has panoramic views of Hayden Gorge, Gorge lakes, Longs Peak, and Stones Peak. Alpine visitor center: It is the highest visitor center in the US. The alpine ridge trail is an easy, 0.6-mile hike that takes us to the panoramic views of the entire national park. Alberta Falls: This is one of the popular waterfalls in the park. This 1.7 miles trip takes around 1-1.5 hours. It could take longer due to snow.
Day 2: The second day was reserved for the Royal Gorge Route Railway trip, Garden of Gods, and Pike’s Peak. You can book the rides here –> https://www.royalgorgeroute.com/. This spectacular 2-hour train ride takes through the Colorado Rockies and tracks the river along the way. The open coaches guarantee you a ‘Chhaiyya Chhaiyya’ feel. We could not do Garden of the Gods and Pike’s peak due to hailstorms but they are must-visit spots. We ended up celebrating our friends’ engagement instead.
More things to do in Colorado: Colorado has varied landscapes. You could ski, snow-shoe in Aspen, hike in the Rockies, do kayaking and river-rafting in Canon city, or enjoy a hot-air balloon flight in Lafayette. If you feel adventurous you could do ziplining, via Ferrata, take an aerial gondola, or ride the world’s scariest sky coaster. Visit this website for more –> https://www.colorado.com/. A few pictures from the trip –
Venue: Zion National Park, Utah Duration: 1 or 2 days Best time to visit: Summer and early autumn Accommodation: I recommend that you stay at the lodges inside of the national park. We stayed at Page, AZ. If you plan to visit Bryce Canyon as well, I would recommend staying at BnB/hotels right outside/between the two national parks. Entrance Fees: $35
This day trip was impromptu. The original plan was Las Vegas, NV –> Page, AZ –> Horseshoe bend, AZ –> Lake Powell, AZ –> Monument Valley, AZ. We did not realize that the way to Page would go via Utah. After entering Utah we checked the maps for proximity to Zion national park (out of curiosity). We were only 30 miles away. So, all roads led to Zion.
Zion national park looks very different in summer vs winter. In summers you have to take the NPS shuttle to go around. In winter, you can use your car. We left Vegas after check-out and had lost a significant amount of daylight already. Our time in Zion was going to be limited. We decided to drive down the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and limit it to one hike for the day.
The Zion Canyon Scenic drive begins at the Zion visitor center and ends at the Temple of Sinawawa (The Narrows). Popular hikes/points like Angels Landing and Observation point are along the scenic drive. The drive looked very different in the winter. Hundreds walked along the scenic road instead of driving. The fall colors looked magnificent. There was a chill in the air. Wildlife roamed free on the roads and obstructed traffic for the most part. It was lovely! We drove to the Temple of Sinawawa and hiked to the Narrows. After sunset, we returned with phone torches on.
Though we could not cover Zion extensively on this trip, here are a few must-visit places – Canyon Overlook Trail: This 1-mile round trip hike offers one of the best views of the canyon. Riverside Trail: This 2.2 miles roundtrip is a beautiful walk alongside the Virginia river. Angels Landing: It is the most popular and thrilling hike that might require training. A section of the hike requires chain-assisted rock climbing! Weeping Rock: It is a short hike with a mostly paved way. As the name suggests, it is a huge rock dripping with water. Emerald Pool Trail: This 1.5-3 miles hike connects the lower and upper Emerald pools. Hidden Canyon Trail: This strenuous 3-mile hike is similar to Angels landing with steep trails and chain-assisted climbing. Observation Point: This 8-mile long strenuous hike offers jaw-dropping views of Zion national park. The Narrows: I’ve had a chance to hike the narrows in the summer. This trail goes through the river into the red canyon. The water gets deeper as you proceed. You can use a pair of shorts to do this hike or rent the equipment.
I recommend staying inside the national park if possible. That would save a lot of daylight. Catching the sunrise and sunset would make the trip perfect.
We left for Page, AZ, soon after the hike. As it turned darker, the moonlight reflected off the snow. We stopped in the middle of nowhere for some stargazing. We reached Page for dinner. A few pictures from the day –