To kick off the start of our twenty-ninth year on earth, Chris + I took a trip to Colorado (our dream state) for a week long road trip adventure. We are two days apart, and our birthdays both fall at the very end of March. Being that we were way overdue for a trip, we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than to take a trip to (dreamy) Colorado together. When you spend most of your time in a busy city like NYC, it is imperative that you take time to connect with nature, and yourselves + simply get lost for a while.
After weeks and weeks of planning and re-planning, we had finally decided what our route would be: Denver, Boulder, Estes Park, + Buena Vista. Being that we were going to be traveling at a tricky time of year, I was worried we weren’t going to be able to see as many of the sights due to seasonal roads and weather conditions.. but boy was I wrong! Chris + I were able to experience what felt like all four seasons during our trip. We spent a full week enjoying some of the best that Colorado state has to offer, all while cruising through mountain ranges on beautiful windy roads, with lots of warm sunshine + snowy winter wonderlands. Colorado is the ultimate place for anyone to visit who enjoys the outdoors. If you love rock climbing, hiking, biking, water rafting, winter sports, fishing, or any other kind of outdoor activity, you can find it in Colorado.
Day 1: Downtown Denver
On day one, we decided to explore the city on foot a bit. We flew it late the night before, so we were ready to start our day, bright and early. Chris had a few travel points to use, so we stayed at the Sheraton Downtown. It was nothing fancy, but a good deal + a place to rest our head for the night. We started our morning by walking to get ourselves some breakfast + hot coffee at a cute shop called Novo Coffee. My latte was great, the staff was super friendly + it was a convenient, cozy spot to fill up on coffee while we figured out our next move.
After breakfast, we walked checked out the Capitol Building + some of the architecture in town. It was cool to check out a bit of the city’s history, but maybe not the best place we could have been exploring. There were a few interesting characters roaming the streets where we were, so we decided to head back towards where we came from. We checked out a few local shops, took a few photos of our ventures, + finished the day with a really great dinner at Stout Street Social. It was for sure more of a touristy restaurant, but the beer selection was great + the food was exactly what we were in the mood for. I highly recommend the Ahi Tuna Tower, Mussels + Fries, and the Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos. On the walk back to our hotel, we took a pit stop at the Appaloosa Grill for a night cap (or two!) Needless to say, we ended the night happy with bellies full of beers, ciders + dinner for four, eaten by two.
Day 2: Boulder Canyon
The next morning, we woke up super early + made our way to Boulder. We were hoping to catch the sunrise from up high on our way to Boulder, but unfortunately many of the trailheads were closed due to heavy rain fall + muddy roads so we enjoyed it from our truck as we continued to head north. The road from Denver to Boulder is pretty direct, its only a forty minute or so ride, and you can catch great views of the Flatirons. Once we made it to the city of Boulder, we parked our car + headed on foot to Settler’s Park. Settler’s Park is located right at the edge of town and It was a short, easy hike. At the top of the hill, there are great views of town + even some red rocks you are able to climb about on. It was a quiet morning, and we quickly felt the warmth from the sun grow as the day continued to unfold. The later in the morning it got, the more fellow hikers began to pop up too, so I suggest checking out this trail head early in the morning for the best experience.
After a nice hike + some quiet relaxation at the top of town, we made our way back into town and had ourselves a great little breakfast at a long-time local spot, Dot’s Diner. They had great omelets, your standard diner food + it hit the spot. From Dot’s, we made our way into the busier part of Boulder, and took a stroll down Pearl Street. Pearl Street is definitely the ultimate tourist center in town, but worth checking out. It was a Sunday morning, so many people were hanging out in town, playing music + doing some sunday shopping. There were a lot of great shops in town, and great restaurants. Almost everywhere you go is dog friendly. There was even a bit of a celebration going on while we were there, and people around us were dressed as fairies + hobbits!
It was nice to check out town for a while, but we were ready to make our way to our Airbnb for the night. At the end of Boulder, it becomes Boulder Canyon. A beautiful canyon full of people rock climbing, fly fishing, hammock napping.. what I was really hoping to see! Only 17 minutes up the road was the cabin we were staying at, and it was located right alongside the creek. Our cozy cabin was as picturesque as it can get. We had our own fireplace, a full kitchen and even our own fire pit alongside the creek to enjoy after dinner. There were great markets in Boulder, so we stocked up on lots of yummy ingredients to make our next few meals during our stay. Warm fires + starry night skies.. doesn’t get much better than that!
Day 3 + 4: Estes Park
After having ourselves a homemade cabin style breakfast, we packed up the car and continued our journey UP. We were Estes Park bound, and so excited to check out the Rocky Mountain National Park + all of its surrounding areas. From Boulder Canyon to Estes Park is about an hour and forty-five minute drive, and we knew we wanted to take our time and enjoy the sights along the way. Passing through mountain towns like Nederland, every switchback in the road was another incredible view. The closer we got to RMNP, the bigger the mountain ranges became.
Many people make their way to the park year round, and many of them travel along Trail Ridge Road. This is something we really wanted to do, but unfortunately because of weather conditions, they keep the road closed until summer season. Luckily, Bear Lake Rd. is kept open almost all year round and will still lead the way to some pretty spectacular sites. We made pit stops at Sprague Lake, Bear Lake, + made it halfway (we think!) on foot to Emerald Lake. Snow covered the ground by a few inches, + the sets of footprints trailing off each and every way made it hard to tell what was and wasn’t a lake at all! We stayed at The Appenzell Inn while in town, which was cozy, affordable and centrally located to everything we wanted to do.
For Day 4 I had set reservations for us to go horseback riding at Sombrero Ranch, but when we woke up to a hefty blanket of snow on the ground, I wasn’t sure if they were still going to be able to take us out or not. But much to our suprise, we were able to go out for our two-hour ride and it was hands down one of the best experiences of our lives. Our guide, Slim, was really funny + shared with us lots of stories and definitely lots of laughs. It snowed on us the entire ride, and was the most beautiful scenery for horseback riding I have ever experienced in my life. The snow was so heavy you couldn’t even see the Rocky Mountains that surrounded us. While in Estes, we also checked out a few gem + stone shops, had lunch at the Wapiti Pub, The Grubsteak Restaurant (great local spots to grab some beers + a hot meal), and enjoyed a few drinks at the bar at the famous Stanley Hotel. The Stanley Hotel was definitely another highlight of the trip. It is the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining after the unexplained experiences during his stay there.
Day 5: Buena Vista
On the drive from Estes Park to Buena Vista, we made our way through a lot of little mountain towns, citys full of casinos, + even made a pit stop in the popular mountain town, Breckenridge. We walked around town and checked out the local shops, and had ourselves some lunch at the Breckenridge Brewery. The brewery was full of hungry snowboarders + skiers, due to the unexpected snow fall the entire day before. You could tell that everyone in town was pretty happy to get some last minute fresh powder, and end the season with a bang.
Upon arriving in Buena Vista, we were surprised at how new + perfect the town was. We already knew that the location we were staying at, Surf Chateau, was new + cozy (a dream) but the town itself was just as cool. It was as if someone decided to start a new town from scratch. Every bit of the esthetics of the town and the homes in it, was done with intention. The stained glass windows on one home would match the same windows in a local shop, and so on. It was really quiet in town, because their busy season is summer, so we were lucky to feel as if we had the town to ourselves. There were plenty others staying in the other rooms at the chateau, but we never once heard them or felt that we were located right in town at all. Surf Chateau is located right alongside the Arkansas River, and is lined with a great hiking trail that leads you to the perfect bridge to sit + watch the sunset, which is exactly what we did.
We grabbed dinner at The Asian Palette, a local sushi restaurant with great service and surprisingly fresh! There were a few other great options in town for dinner, but whatever you decide, be sure to have an early dinner as most places in town close by 8 or 9 o’clock. The rest of the night we spent relaxing in our cozy chataeu, listening to music, enjoying some local brews + laying cozy by the fireplace. We really loved the Surf Chataeu and are definitely going to be making a visit again there soon. In the morning we grabbed ourselves a light breakfast, and drove about 20 minutes outside of town to the hot springs. This was our first time ever hanging out in a Hot Spring, but definitely not our last. The ground was covered in snow, but we were nice and warm in the sun and hot water. What a great way to wind down + relax as we near the last couple days of our trip! There are a couple of locations to visit, but we really enjoyed the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. You can choose to stay there overnight, or you can just get yourself a day pass like we did.
Day 6 + 7: Denver
On our last few days of vacation, we stayed with Chris’ friend Ryan, who lives in a suburb about twenty-five minutes from downtown Denver. This was when we really got a feel for what it would be like to live in Colorado. We were able to check out a few local neighborhoods, local parks, and also saw a side of downtown we had yet to experience. Ryan showed us around town a lot, and took us to a few popular sites like the Red Rocks Amphitheater. We only got to see it during the day time (which was full of people exercising + enjoying the sun) but I can imagine its one pretty epic place to see any concert.
Chris + I also went to opening day for the Colorado Rockies. It was a huge occasion in town, leaving the streets covered in baseball fans and the color purple (the teams color!). The sun was shining, the crowds were cheering.. it was a beautiful day. They even had jets fly overhead to kick off the season and it was a pretty cool site to see. At night, we went out for dinner and drinks in The Arts District of Denver. It really reminded me of some of the trendy neighborhoods in Brooklyn. There were great restaurants, roof top decks and local bars that offered a great selection of local beers, wine + food. I could see myself having lots of fun in this part of town!
On our last day, we relaxed and hung around town.. dreading + preparing for our journey home. Colorado is one of the best places I have been to yet. After having lived in New York City, in the deserts of Arizona, and even on the beaches of Guam, I know that the mountains are where my heart truly escapes to. I found that everyone around me was very present, and making the most of their time (what a change from New York City!). I hope we are able to make our way back there soon, and explore the same terrain in the summer season. What I learned from my trip, is that no matter what time of year, there will always be trails to hike and fun to be had in Colorado. Who knows.. maybe one day I will get to call his magnificent state my home! I hope if you are reading this and planning a road trip yourself, you check out a few of the places we did. You won’t regret it. Until next time, CO… XOXO
Photos by Christopher Hurst