Peak to Peak Highway
We knew we wanted to get out and start exploring as quickly as possible after moving to Colorado. I mean, this place is gorgeous and we couldn’t imagine wasting any time experiencing the beauty! But adjusting to the altitude – given that we went from sea level to a mile high – humbled us enough to know we might want to start our sightseeing with a little scenic drive and possibly a light (and flat) hike. So when our real estate agent recommended the Peak to Peak Highway, we started researching right away. (You can find information about the highway here.)
From Denver, we took I-70W to US-6E and then jumped onto CO-119 around Black Hawk. That’s the southern portion of the state’s oldest scenic byway. We then drove north and merged onto CO-72W in Nederland. From there, we turned onto CO-7W and made our way up to Estes Park which contains the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. All told, the Peak to Peak Highway is about 55 miles long, but we stopped often, so I think it took us about 3 hours to navigate.
Apparently the best time to go is in the Fall – which we did, but I believe we went about two weeks too late. We did get to see some beautiful Aspen trees (pictured below on the right), but the full autumn color was gone. It was still worth the drive though, and it was a perfect introduction to the Colorado landscape.
Just after we started on CO-119, we entered the Arapaho National Forest.
I can’t give you specific information about these photos. James just pulled over any time I started to “ooh” or “ahh”.
I feel reasonably certain I didn’t stand in the middle of the road for this. But maybe I did…
All the editing in the world could not remove the orange from our skin. But this is our first family photo in Colorado. So I love it!
Isn’t this a pretty town? Don’t ask me what town it is – I have no idea.
It’s crazy to see the mountains here after experiencing the ones in Hawaii. Even with the general landscape here being at least a mile above sea level, many of the summits are “14ers” which means that they waaaaaaay taller than anything we had on O’ahu.
The kids are totally fine when we’re just driving along. But you know they get annoyed when I drag them out of the car for a photo op. I love that they hide it mostly well!
So near where CO-72W met CO-7W, we reached a little map. It’s kind of strange that there is a sign halfway through the scenic byway (instead of being at the beginning or end). But it was interesting to read all about the area.
From just near that sign, we had a view of this mountain. Not sure if we ever figured out exactly what the mountain is though.
Pretty sure this is the same mountain – still no idea what it is. Even when I look on a map, I can’t quite tell. (I’m so full of useful information – you’re welcome!)
Along CO-7 in Allenspark, we came across this old church. We stopped, walked around, and checked the place out. I think it’s called Saint Malo’s Chapel on the Rock (or officially, Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel). While writing this post, I went searching for information online, and I found some absolutely incredible images of this place. So rest assured, these photos do not do the beauty of the historic building justice. It has a pretty interesting history, but I couldn’t find a comprehensive site I wanted to link. So if you’re curious, I suggest hitting up Google.
After exploring for a bit, we hopped back in the van and kept on heading north.
I was crazy excited when we came upon this little lake just south of Estes Park. We all desperately needed to get out and stretch our legs. This was the perfect place to do just that. Lily Lake is small, but the views are beautiful.
We got admonished from another hiker for getting off the trail. That’s not normally something we do, but our kids were antsy and my little climber apparently needed to do more than just walk. Oops.
Then we were back on the path and following all the rules.
Gah. Isn’t this gorgeous!
A picture of a girl (my girl) posing with a random pinecone.
And this photo is black and white because the color was horrific. But we’ll just call it an artistic decision.
You can’t see it in this photo, but there at the verrrry top of that rock formation were people using a slackline to walk back and forth. Um, no thanks.
Can you see it a bit better in this photo? (I can’t even remember where it took this shot, but it’s of the same rock formation.)
The path around the lake is not far at all, but it was such a perfect start to our adventures here!
After what felt like an eternity, we made it to Estes Park! This is the visitors’ center, and if you’re ever in the area – definitely stop. They have so much information available. And when we asked them whether or not there were any wild animal sightings recently, they told us to walk on over to the golf course. There just so happened to be an entire herd of elk hanging around. Can you imagine our excitement?!
On our way over, we crossed over a cute little bridge. I’m sure this view would be soooo gorgeous when the trees are full of autumn colors!
After a short little walk, there they were! TONS of them! This guy was within 15 feet of us, and he only seemed mildly annoyed by all of the onlookers.
When they said there was an entire herd, they were not kidding. It appeared that there was one bull (male) elk running the show. He was surrounded by all of the cows (females). Then, as seen above, there were smaller bulls closer to us – but they seemed to be separated from the rest of the herd.
This guy looks like he could use a bath and maybe a little less mange?
As we were getting ready to head out, this guy looked up as if to say “see ya later!”
All in all, I’d say this was a pretty great first Colorado experience! We got to drive through the mountains, walk around a lake, and see our first wild elk! Definitely a do-over kind of day.
Have you ever driven on the Peak to Peak Highway??