The Fraser Valley is very near and dear to Heather's heart, having spent considerable time there in the summers, both as a child going to summer camp for two weeks at a time and as an adult working as a camp counselor. It didn't end at summers. Growing up an avid skier, Winter Park Resort was always a personal favourite. Small enough that it was easy to navigate, large enough that you never got bored and could easily escape congested areas. It provides the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, another place Heather has spend considerable time (especially the backcountry, going on backpacking trips as a camper and, eventually, leading them as a counselor). We hope you enjoy your time in this beautiful valley!
A breath-taking national park. If you are a hiker, make sure you hit the trails out here. Some of our personal favourites include Big Meadow (start at the Big Meadow Trailhead, a short distance from the Grand Lake entrance) and the North Inlet Trail (trailhead starts in the town of Grand Lake). If you are looking for a longer day hike, this is a perfect trail to head up! A few miles up, you will pass a string of alpine lakes. Spirit Lake is the furthest, reachable as a day hike as long as you are prepared for a full day of hiking. Beautiful!
Of course, those aren't the only options, just a few personal favourites.
Even if you aren't an avid hiker, Rocky Mountain National Park still has plenty to enjoy. A leisurely drive provides spectacular views. Be sure to take advantage of the scenic view pull-offs!
The park is also full of wildlife. We have often seen elk, deer, and moose during our drives through the park. Although more rare, you may also see a black bear! The elk herds usually spend most of their time during the summer in the higher alpine regions of the park (especially around the top of Trail Ridge Road), but will start to move to lower elevations as it gets later in the fall. You may even hear the elk bugling!
With the fall just starting, the aspens should be starting to turn. A beautiful sight!
Even though Winter Park Resort is most famous for it's winter offerings, they still have a variety of activities in the warmer months.
One of our favourites is the alpine slide! After you purchase a ticket, you will ride the ski lift up to the top of the mountain and ride the apline slide all the way down! You control the speed of your sled, so even if you're a little nervous about it, we encourage you to try. So much fun!
If you like mountain biking, you shouldn't miss biking around Winter Park Resort. You can purchase a pass which will get you and your bike onto the ski lifts and then you can explore all the trails on your way down.
There are also some activities, mainly aimed at kids and families, at the base of the mountain (human maze, various carnival games, etc)
Grand Lake is a cute mountain town just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. It sits on the shores of Colorado's largest natural lake, below Mount Baldy. If you want to enjoy some time out on the lake, you can rent a boat, pontoon, or a canoe (one of Heather's favourite things to do on days off from Camp Chief Ouray). There are a variety of stores all along the main street and several restaurants worth checking out (see our food section for specific recommendations!). The ice cream store is always a required stop! (try to ignore the creepy kids painted on the walls, though) Simply put, Grand Lake is a pleasant town to wander through.
This road connects Estes Park and Grand Lake. Trail Ridge Road is the highest paved road in the US. It is the most direct route to take to get to the Fraser Valley if you are coming from Fort Collins. While it's not the most direct route from Denver, it is an amazing drive and well worth the extra driving time if you have any to spare. Heather will use any excuse to drive over Trail Ridge Road! Be sure to stop at the top and take in the view! At this time of year, you will probably still see the massive elk herd that spends the summer in the high meadows near the road
If you do choose to drive over Trail Ridge Road, it's important to note that you will be entering Rocky Moutain National Park and there will be an entrance fee ($20 per car, good for 7 days). A great way to support our national parks!
aka...the Fort or FORT FUN! Heather might still be mildly obsessed and in love with this town. Home of Colorado State University and Heather's home for 5 years (had to stay an extra little while post-graduation to enjoy it without any school stress!). If you have the time to spend a day or two in the Fort, do it. Shop/eat in Old Town (Rasta Pasta! or Beau Jo's! or Coopersmith's! or Lucky Joe's! Or Walrus Ice Cream! or so many other choices!), wander around the Oval on campus, tour the breweries (keeping in mind that New Belgium Brewery is CLOSED on Mondays...but there is always Odell's, Fort Collins Brewery--and their fabulous pomegranate wheat beer...--, Equinox, and the list goes on!) Or just throw a frisbee around in City Park. This town is magical.
1517 Miner Street
Idaho Springs, CO 80452
The perfect place to stop for lunch on your way up to the Fraser Valley from Denver! While there are now several locations across Colorado, the original is located in Idaho Springs, just off of I-70 and a little ways before the exit to Winter Park/Fraser/Tabernash/Granby.
You can't check in until 4...what's your hurry? Enjoy some amazing mountain pizza! (we also highly recommend the Tommyknocker Maple Brown Ale to go with that mountain pie...)
If you continue driving west on Highway 40, past Granby and past the turn-off for Grand Lake, you will come to the town of Hot Sulfur Springs. It has, of course, hot sulfur springs! There is a little spa/resort that has piped in the natural hot springs into a variety of pools. The temperature of each pool is posted next to the name of the pool. Most pools are outdoors, but there are a few indoor options. This is a great place to go and relax! We prefer to go at night, where you can soak in the pools and enjoy the stars :-). It's even better in the middle of winter, but it's pleasant any time of year!
A word of warning, though...since they are natural hot springs (natural, sulfur hot springs), it does come with an odor (think about what Yellowstone smells like near all the geothermal features). For most people, it's a mild inconvenience (don't take the good towels!), but there are a few people who really can't handle that sulfur smell.