Historic Lodge near Rocky Mountain National Park
In 1914, University of Colorado football coach Enoch Josiah “Joe” Mills and his wife built a large, wooden lodge on Prospect Mountain in the Colorado Rockies. Named Crags Lodge for the mountains surrounding it, the inn counts Robert Frost among those who’ve checked in over the nearly 100 years it’s been in operation. Now called The Historic Crags Lodge and located in the heart of Estes Park, the hotel still charms visitors with its hospitality, as well as its unsurpassed views of the Rockies and the surrounding forest. Inside, you’ll find honey-colored wood floors and a fireplace surrounded by the building’s original furniture in the main living room.
Pinewood-decorated studio and one-bedroom units look out on the mountains surrounding the town of Estes Park below. Kitchenettes in one-bedroom units come equipped with a stovetop burner and a mini refrigerator. This deal includes a $25 dining credit at Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ & Taphouse, located about a mile down the road. There, you can fill up on St. Louis–style ribs, Texas-brisket sandwiches, and Kentucky-bourbon pecan pie. While you’re staying here, you’ll be minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park and within walking distance of the shops and restaurants of Estes Park.
Estes Park, Colorado: Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park
At an elevation of 7,522 feet, Estes Park is a small mountain town known as the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Along Elkhorn Avenue, the main drag of downtown Estes Park, you’ll find the usual souvenir, taffy, and ice-cream shops—but also local breweries and independent restaurants. The resort town also has a popular outdoor ice rink, open on weekends during the winter.
Each year, more than three million people head into Rocky Mountain National Park to access 300 miles of hiking trails and admire stunning mountain vistas. The park’s most popular hike is the half-mile loop around the flat terrain of Bear Lake, but the crowd thins out somewhat if you continue onto Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes. Park trails are often covered with snow, but you can strap on a pair of snowshoes and make the trek to the alpine lake at The Loch or the summit of Deer Mountain.
Weather permitting, consider taking one of region’s spectacular scenic drives. Trail Ridge Road bisects the park east to west, bringing travelers up to a maximum elevation of 12,000 feet above sea level. Trail Ridge Road offers a somewhat direct route to the western half of the park, where you’re most likely to see moose. Another option is the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, which wends past the Continental Divide, offering views of Longs Peak—the park’s highest summit, at 14,259 feet. Before you embark on any drive, be sure to check the road status report.