Estes Park Colorado - Road Trip: Rocky Mountain National Park's Other Side

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Road Trip: Rocky Mountain National Park's Other Side

I woke up early and checked the road reports.

Old Fall River Road was finally open!

It was nearly a month overdue.

Heavy spring snowfall had kept the gates closed.

I began my journey to Old Fall River Road.

There's nothing to be scared of, right?

It's a breathtakingly steep road with no guardrail.

The most intimidating factor is that it only goes one-way...up.

So...if something goes wrong, what do you do?

I decided to focus on the road in front of me.

It was one of the most beautiful drives I've ever experienced.

The road was smooth, free of debris, and easy to maneuver.

Sure, it was steep, but the view was worth every second.

Lush, green forest surrounded me. I had discovered Colorado's rainforest.

Before I knew it, I approached the Alpine Visitor Center at 11,796 feet.

I went west and descended into Kawuneeche Valley.

The valley floor was thriving with life.

Grassy fields flowed with plush shades of green.

I stopped to explore Holzwarth Historic Site, an old 1920s dude ranch.

German immigrants Sophia and John Holzwarth built Never Summer Ranch and invited friends to stay in the cabins, where they could fish, hunt, and horseback ride.

It was a short walk to the old settlement, and the trail crosses Colorado River, which begins its journey only 10 miles upstream.

Then I went to Coyote Valley Trail, just south of the old ranch.

Along the way, signs illustrate and describe the history of the valley and the wildlife it holds.

Unique animals like the river otter, osprey, and moose flourish in the valley's environment.

After the educational hikes, I drove further south to Grand Lake.

Downtown's rustic storefronts and creaky boardwalk took me right into the Wild West.

Gift shops, restaurants, and ice cream stores lined the street.

One of my favorite stores was the Art Center. It has a beautiful collection of ceramics and paintings by local artists—all modestly priced.

Between each block, you can sneak a glimpse of Grand Lake's bright blue water.

Yachts and sailboats soar across Grand Lake—the largest natural lake in Colorado.

I walked down to the beachside, which was filled smooth sand and picnic tables.

Kids were playing on the shore and jumping off the dock.

After an hour, it started to sprinkle so I continued my road trip.

Hot Sulphur Springs was about 40 minutes away.

Hot Sulphur Springs is one of Colorado's oldest hot spring resorts, so I had to check it out.

If you haven't experienced hot sulphur, it smells similar to eggs, but the minerals are great for your skin and bones.

At this hot springs you can use your ticket for re-entry until 10 pm that night.

Trail Ridge Road

Returning to Estes Park that evening on Trail Ridge Road was amazing.

Fewer cars were on the motorway, huge herds of enormous elk roamed the top of the divide, and I witnessed the most remarkable sunset.