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Minimally Scary Mtn Drive Next Wknd -- Day Trip from Denver

Washington DC...
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Minimally Scary Mtn Drive Next Wknd -- Day Trip from Denver

Hello All. I've been clicking around in the forums and trying to find an answer to my question but also wanted to post here. I found this very helpful post (tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g143048-i3489-k498…) but had a few questions:

I really just want to drive and stop at scenic lookouts for photos -- I don't necessarily want to do a lot of hiking or other exploring on foot. Since we only have a day and I know we're not going to be out and about particularly early (probably mid- to late morning), would you recommend the first part of the trip described in the linked post (90 minutes with no stops from the Estes Park Visitors Center to the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station) or the second part (90 minutes with no stops for the Bear Lake route using the Beaver Meadows Entrance as the starting and ending point) if you had to choose one?

Is Estes Park about 90 minutes from Denver? Unless I'm misunderstanding, the linked post says 2-2.5 hours. I got 90 minutes from Google Maps. Is the drive from Denver to Estes Park easy?

The linked post mentions Fall River Road, which I assume is the same as Old Fall River Road, which I thought was closed in the winter and I've also read can be hair-raising (my boyfriend will probably be driving, and he's particularly nervous about mountain driving, so I'm trying to keep things on the less scary side). Is the scary and closed part of the road beyond the route described in the link?

For wimpy flatlanders who are afraid of mountain driving, would you recommend against Mount Evans? I realize part of the road is closed at this time of year, but it seems closer to Denver. However, if it's significantly scarier than the route in the linked post, I think it would be worth it to drive farther to RMNP. How scary is the part of the Mount Evans road that's open now?

What should we expect weather-wise in the park at this time of year? It looks like it's been warm in Denver, but I'm guessing in the mountains things can be quite different. Should we expect snowy and icy driving?

Thanks in advance and I apologize if I'm asking questions that have been asked a million times before! I live in DC, so I'm used to being on the receiving end. ;-)

Denver, CO
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1. Re: Minimally Scary Mtn Drive Next Wknd -- Day Trip from Denver

Neither the drive to Estes or Mount Evans are TOO scary, though they are definitely high up and occasionally twisty. 90 minutes from Denver to Estes is about right. Denver to Mt. Evans is a little bit longer, but not too much. The views you'll find in both places are spectacular!

Dubai, United Arab...
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2. Re: Minimally Scary Mtn Drive Next Wknd -- Day Trip from Denver

Isnt the road to Mt Evans closed now ?

Nederland, Colorado
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3. Re: Minimally Scary Mtn Drive Next Wknd -- Day Trip from Denver

Fall River Road and OLD Fall River Road are different roads. You will not be driving up Old Fall River Road - it doesn't open until the first week of July.

Aspen, Colorado
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4. Re: Minimally Scary Mtn Drive Next Wknd -- Day Trip from Denver

Mt Evans road opens May 25th

Windsor, Colorado
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5. Re: Minimally Scary Mtn Drive Next Wknd -- Day Trip from Denver

Hello dracisk, I am glad you found the itinerary. If you take the most scenic route from Denver to Estes Park (36 to Boulder, 119 through Boulder Canyon to Nederland, 72 to 7 to Estes Park - part of Peak to Peak Scenic Byway), it will take you 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Google sends you the less scenic shorter route.

I have been in Estes and RMNP every day this week. Temps were 20 degrees above normal - absolutely gorgeous weather and no icy roads. There is no significant snow in the forecast and unless that changes, the roads will be in great shape.

I would take the scenic route (2 to 2 1/2 hours) from Denver to RMNP and then follow the itinerary for Fall River Road (walk to the Alluvial Fan!!) and Trail Ridge Road and then back down through the Beaver Meadows Entrance on highway 36 (where it says in the itinerary "if you are ready for a lunch break"). If you have time, drive the lower part of Bear Lake Road. Bear Lake Road is undergoing construction and does not look its best right now. To appreciate Bear Lake Road fully, you need to walk around Bear Lake (very slippery right now) and Sprague Lake and you are not planning to do that.

You can do the itinerary as written through paragraph 8 or up to the paragraph that begins "Back in RMNP."

About Mt. Evans--Highway 5 also known as the Mount Evans Road is closed as texranger said until May 25. This is only part of the Mount Evans Scenic Byway. Highway 103 is also part of the scenic byway and it is open. This is a very pretty drive but in my opinion not nearly as beautiful as the Denver/Peak to Peak/RMNP itinerary.

Take the shorter Google route from Estes Park back to Denver.

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6. Re: Minimally Scary Mtn Drive Next Wknd -- Day Trip from Denver

When are you going?

You'll only be able to get to bear Lake at Mt. Evans at this time of year. Same thing with Estes Park.

When will you be there?

Windsor, Colorado
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7. Re: Minimally Scary Mtn Drive Next Wknd -- Day Trip from Denver

Monarch, dracisk tells you in the title of the post "Next Wknd." There is no Bear Lake at Mount Evans. The lake you are thinking of is Echo Lake. Bear Lake is in RMNP and no, it is not the only place to visit in RMNP in the winter or early spring. Dracisk will be fine with the itinerary he found and my suggestions in reply #5. The itinerary for a day trip to RMNP in the winter from Denver (for which dracisk gave the link) is in the Top Questions on the Rocky Mountain National Park forum.

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8. Re: Minimally Scary Mtn Drive Next Wknd -- Day Trip from Denver

If you have all day, then drive up to Echo Lake. Since you may not get an early start, after Echo Lake you could stop at Beau Jo's in Idaho Springs for lunchhttp://www.beaujos.com/pizza-locations/#idaho, then take the Peak to Peak HIghway tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60945-d10… to Estes Park. On the way back to Denver from Estes Park, stop in Boulder for Dinner.

Edited: 17 March 2012, 22:02
Washington DC...
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9. Re: Minimally Scary Mtn Drive Next Wknd -- Day Trip from Denver

Thank you all for your replies and especially to fv1989 for all the excellent information! I'm really looking forward to doing this drive!

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10. Re: Minimally Scary Mtn Drive Next Wknd -- Day Trip from Denver

I meant to do this sooner, but I just wanted to thank fv1989 for the great advice! We took the scenic route in your post from Denver to RMNP -- so beautiful!! -- and then did your itinerary through paragraph 8 as you suggested. We walked to the Alluvial Fan, which was really cool, and then did some other wandering around on foot in various other parts of the park. We liked it so much we went back the next day! The driving was not particularly treacherous at the end of March.

My only comment is that we missed the turn for 119 in Boulder the first day. Later we saw the sign for 119, but it's really small. Maybe in your post you could mention that 119 is Boulder Canyon Drive? If coming from Denver one would take a left on Boulder Canyon Drive to get to Nederland.

Thanks again for the great post and advice!