It is impossible to describe in words or pictures just how beautiful, serene and majestic Rocky Mountain National Park is. In one viewpoint, you see enormous elk, endless evergreen trees, rows of bright yellow aspens, rollings hills and white capped mountain peaks. If heaven was a place on earth this would be a top contender. Even with a raging toddler and clumsy 5 year old walking the trails behind me, I can’t remember the last time I was so at peace. Fresh air, impeccable landscapes, and my favorite people – doesn’t get much better.
When: First Week in October
Where: Fall River Village Resort
Weather: Highs in the low 60’s, Lows in the 50’s
Wear: (see What to Wear – Colorado in October)
Ages: My son was 18 months and my daughter was 5 years old
- Day One
- Arrived around 5pm, checked into our condo, unpacked and picked up Antonio’s pizza
- Day Two
- Walked around Estes Park town, shopped, ate lunch
- Afternoon nap at condo
- Hiked Gem Lake Trail
- Day Three
- Jackson Stables Horseback Ride at YMCA of the Rockies
- Trail Ridge Road (during naptime, Easton slept in car)
- Pumpkins & Pilsners Festival
- Day Four
- Sprague Lake Hike
- Picnic Lunch
- Drive to Colorado Springs (Easton slept in car)
After debating between the YMCA of the Rockies and staying closer into town, we chose Fall River Village Resort and I am thankful we did. It was perfect! We stayed in Unit 150 and it was the perfect location – loved being on the ground floor, near the path to town, and right next to the fire pits and grills. The unit itself was impressive – updated, clean, huge kitchen, bunk beds for kids, fireplace in living room and two bathrooms. Plenty of space to spread out and relax. After the kids went to sleep, we would have a glass of wine on the porch or by the fireplace and relax – so thankful not to be in a hotel room!
We loved the outdoor space right outside our door. We stocked up on groceries at the Safeway (local grocery store 4 min away) the first night we were there for breakfast and grilling out. Two of the three nights we were there, we bought the “s’mores package” from the resort and some firewood The Safeway and went to town – so delicious. One night some deer came down the hill behind us and walked no more than 15ft away from us – it was unreal.
We walked to town each day for coffee, shopping or to grab a bite to eat. It was about a 5 minute walk along the sidewalk – very easy. Other amenities the resort had that we didn’t use were a hot tub and pool. The pool was closed, but we just didn’t get around to making it into the hot tub – so sad, I know. Next time! I will say we went to the YMCA for a horseback ride and while I cannot comment on the inside of the facilities, I did like how you felt more like you were “in the mountains”, and the playground and art center offered for kids onsite. However, being remote means being further away from town and restaurant options. While they do have a dining hall onsite, we ate lunch there after our ride and it reminded me of a high school cafeteria. I wouldn’t want to eat there everyday.
Would absolutely recommend a stay to Fall River Village Resort! Super helpful staff and great facilities and location. Big plus for kids – in addition to the fun bunk beds (not in every room so be sure you know which condos have them), they have high chairs and pack and plays available for a daily fee if needed. We opted to use neither, as we ate outside mostly while my son ran around, and used bed railings (which the resort provided!) for my son who slept in the queen bed with me (he can climb out of a pack and play now!).
The Town – Estes Park, CO
On the first morning in Estes Park, we grabbed the stroller and made the 5 minute walk into town from our condo. The air was crisp, the sun was shinning and the town was just starting to open up around 10am. We picked up some adorable keepsake Christmas ornaments at The Christmas Shoppe, found a few new toys to keep the kids entertained on the trip at The Toy Mountain, and grabbed some taffy and fudge at one of the many candy stores in town. We ate lunch at Local’s Grill… it wasn’t my favorite spot but it did the trick (I would pick something different next time). It was a nice way to spend the quiet morning and get acquainted with the town before we headed into RMNP.
Like many people who visit the Rockies, we wanted to experience it on horseback. While there are an abundant amount of stables in the area, it narrows it down to a few once you take kids in consideration. We chose Jackson Stables at the YMCA of the Rockies for two main reasons:
- One – it was one of two places we found that it would let us ride double with our 20 month old
- Two – it would let us ride double with our 5 year old. This was the only stable that would allow this that I found. My daughter has never ridden but a pony before and I wasn’t about to put her on a horse, by herself, with no experience. I am thankful they allow this as she loved it!
- Bonus, it was only 15 minutes away.
It was a simple 1 hour ride on a very easy path. Our horses were very tame and followed in line, making us do very little work. Would I have loved a little more action and more scenery of the park? Sure – but with my kids it was perfect and safe! They both were helmets and the horses were seasoned. My daughter loved seeing the wild turkeys and deer that would walk right by us.
I was worried my 20 month old wouldn’t sit still as he is a maniac boy, but he stayed put the entire time! Luckily, the stable was very accommodating and said if Easton didn’t like it within the first 5 minutes he could stay behind with my husband, do a short 20 minute pony ride and they wouldn’t charge us for the trail ride. So, with a no fail option it was worth a try! If you have young kids I would definitely recommend this ride for the ease, time frame and experience of the horses!
After our drive on Trail Ridge Road, which provided a decent nap for Easton and jaw dropping views for the rest of us, we drove back to our condo, switched camera batteries, grabbed the stroller and walked into town for the Pumpkins & Pilsners festival. I got extremely lucky that this event fell on the weekend we were there as it was a highlight of our trip. It was a perfect sunny day with 60/70 degree temps, a beer garden, pony rides, face painting, music, food trucks and activities for the kids. And it was free! (not the beer 🙂
We spent a good two hours here, just watching our kids have the time of their lives. I vividly remember me being arm in arm with my husband, listening to the local band while we sip on Colorado brewed beer with a postcard mountain view backdrop, while our kids jump from hay bale to hay bale, laughing hysterically. I was completely happy and relaxed, and I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend the evening with our kids.