Our Colorado Vacation: Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Colorado Springs

I've been wanting our family to visit the Colorado mountains since 1997, but we kept having kids and the years kept disappearing. Finally, back in February, I decided this was the year we would finally take our Colorado vacation, even if it meant driving across the country. I said that it would either be the best vacation ever or a total disaster. I'm happy to report that it was AWESOME and we will definitely be doing it again. We began our 16-day adventure on June 3rd. I traveled by SUV with our kids (ages 19, 14, 8, 7, and 5). I knew a road trip of this magnitude would only be doable if we traveled at a leisurely pace and did fun things along the way (for example, Hamilton Pool Preserve and Palo Duro Canyon). Andy isn't a fan of road trips, plus this is the busiest time of year at his gallery. We agreed it wasn't a good time of year for him to be away from the gallery for two full weeks, so he flew to Colorado and we picked him up. This allowed the kids and I to visit family and friends along the way.

We arrived in Colorado on June 8th. We spent the first four days in Estes Park. Our rental house was only a few minutes from the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. My two brothers (Rich and Ben) and my brother's wife (Ran) stayed in the same house. Their dad (Richard) and his wife (Caroline) stayed nearby. I guess you could say it was a family reunion!

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. We explored the park June 9th, 10th, and 11th. I would definitely recommend weekdays, because it's much more crowded on the weekends. On June 9th, we hiked to Nymph Lake and Dream Lake. Half our group continued on to Emerald Lake, but Andy and I kept the little boys at Dream Lake so they could play in the snow.

Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
 our family in Rocky Mountain National Park

our family in Rocky Mountain National Park

 Nathan + Taylor (our two oldest kids)

Nathan + Taylor (our two oldest kids)

 our family

our family

 Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

 Jonah

Jonah

 Josiah + Andy 

Josiah + Andy 

On June 10th, we hiked to Bear Lake, Glacier Gorge, and Alberta Falls.

How do you like Andy's hiking clothes? Ha ha!
How do you like Andy's hiking clothes? Ha ha!
 Rocky Mountain National Park - Glacier Gorge

Rocky Mountain National Park - Glacier Gorge

 Jonah

Jonah

 Noah 

Noah 

 cute chipmunk

cute chipmunk

 Andy, Noah, Josiah, and my brother Ben

Andy, Noah, Josiah, and my brother Ben

 Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park

Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park

 Nathan

Nathan

 Richard, my brother Rich, my brother Ben, and me

Richard, my brother Rich, my brother Ben, and me

 elk in Estes Park

elk in Estes Park

After lunch on June 10th, we drove up Trail Ridge Road. If you've never done it, add it to your bucket list. The views are incredible!

 Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park (rainbow curve)

Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park (rainbow curve)

 our family on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park (rainbow curve overlook)

our family on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park (rainbow curve overlook)

 Trail Ridge Road - alpine tundra (the cars look tiny)

Trail Ridge Road - alpine tundra (the cars look tiny)

 Trail Ridge Road - alpine tundra (we were impressed by the snow)

Trail Ridge Road - alpine tundra (we were impressed by the snow)

Rocky Mountain National Park sunset over mountains
Rocky Mountain National Park sunset over mountains
 Taylor in Rocky Mountain National Park

Taylor in Rocky Mountain National Park

 Andy

Andy

 my brother Rich and his wife Ran Cui in Rocky Mountain National Park

my brother Rich and his wife Ran Cui in Rocky Mountain National Park

 Taylor and the elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

Taylor and the elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

On June 11th, despite the weekend crowds, we headed back up Trail Ridge Road in an attempt to find the perfect sledding spot. Sadly, we weren't able to find a good place for sledding. Either it wasn't steep enough, or there was a cliff at the end. We decided flying off a cliff would ruin our family vacation. Not worth the risk!

 Rocky Mountain National Park - Trail Ridge Road 

Rocky Mountain National Park - Trail Ridge Road 

On June 12th, we left Estes Park and headed south to Colorado Springs. As soon as we drove into town, we made a stop at Garden of the Gods.

 Garden of the Gods - Andy + me

Garden of the Gods - Andy + me

 visiting with friends: Blake, Brian, Melissa, Michael, + Michelle

visiting with friends: Blake, Brian, Melissa, Michael, + Michelle

One June 13th, we drove up Pikes Peak. I had considered taking the Pikes Peak Cog Railway so the boys could experience a train ride, but it was sold out. If this is something you want to do, I'd recommend reserving your spot way in advance.

Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak
 Pikes Peak (I almost had a heart attack driving up)

Pikes Peak (I almost had a heart attack driving up)

 Pikes Peak (I wasn't a fan of Nathan walking this close to the edge)

Pikes Peak (I wasn't a fan of Nathan walking this close to the edge)

Pikes Peak 2016
Pikes Peak 2016
Pikes Peak 1994
Pikes Peak 1994
 visiting with friends: Michelle, Michael, Jim, + Beth

visiting with friends: Michelle, Michael, Jim, + Beth

Andy flew home on June 14th, and the kids I made our way back to Florida via SUV. After stopping in Wichita Falls, Carthage, and New Orleans to visit family and friends, we finally got home the evening of June 18th. So, we survived our first major family road trip! Not only did we survive it, our Colorado vacation was even better than expected, and I'm already thinking about our next destination. For those of you who are inspired to do the same... Total cost of the road trip was $2371 (not including Andy's airfare). This included two nights in a hotel. Had our generous friends/family not offered us a free place to stay and fed our large family, the trip would've cost a lot more. So, $2371 for 16 days and 7 people is pretty affordable, if you ask me. Especially considering what a trip to Colorado would've cost had we all flown there and then rented a vehicle. Also, I put 4031 miles on my vehicle and took 1091 photos (not including iPhone photos). Long story short... A+ adventure, will definitely do it again, very enjoyable, would highly recommend, deep gratitude for the family and friends who made it possible.

Lori