Last month, I spent a week with my family experiencing Denver, then Cheyenne, then a taste of Boulder and a few days in Colorado Springs. The Boulder portion of the trip was less than a day, but I couldn’t resist writing about this drive.
We left Cheyenne after a quick hotel breakfast (Staybridge Suites, very nice hotel) and retraced our steps towards Denver for awhile. After crossing the Colorado border, we changed course to head slightly west, towards Rocky Mountain State Park. It was about an hour’s detour, but it was worth so much more. Around Loveland, Colorado, we switched on to US-34 W.
We found ourselves at Estes Park, which is like one big summer camp. It’s filled with lakes, which are surrounded by cabins and resorts, and everywhere you look are the Rocky Mountains. There’s a gondola ride that you can take up the mountain for spectacular views if you’re not claustrophobic like me. Even if you don’t ride a gondola to the top, the view is still amazing even from a car window.
As a bonus, we found two road trip stops:
The Dam Store
Located in Loveland, CO, just as we started heading west towards Estes Park, we found “The Dam Store.” It sits near a dam, and it’s filled with jokes like “best dam(n) store” and such, as one might imagine. It’s basically a little gift shop located in what feels like the middle of nowhere. There’s even a little overlook so you can see for yourself what the damn is all about. In an effort to be just as random as the store, I bought my boyfriend a pair of socks that have pictures of little chicks and pictures of little magnets (get it?). I later learned that you can buy chick magnet socks on Amazon, but I’m still happy with my purchase.
Colorado Cherry Company
This perfectly adorable little pie shop/cafe has two locations. We saw the first one on US-34 driving towards Denver but drove past it before we realized, then saw the second one on US-36 as we continued our drive to Colorado Springs. We stopped at that one, unable to pass up a second opportunity. We indulged ourselves in fresh coffee and cherry pie, though their selections include an array of other pies, cookies, and baked goods. It has the feel of a small cafe/diner, almost like a truck stop but filled more with Estes Park tourists and possibly locals, though the area is certainly more of a vacationer’s spot as it’s breathtakingly beautiful but in the middle of nowhere, Rocky Mountains.
Downtown Boulder, CO – Pearl Street Mall
After our mountain detour, we detoured a bit more towards Boulder. We parked for a very low rate in a street lot downtown and walked around the Pearl Street Mall, which is like Boulder’s version of Denver’s 16th street mall. It’s an artsy, hipster-full neighborhood with lots of shops. A few gift shops, but mostly beautiful, overflowing home goods stores, art galleries, restaurants, and the type of book store you’d imagine. The book store and one home goods store in particular called Peppercorn were my favorite. The book store was three or four floors, I’m not sure, because each floor was separated into rooms and it all blended together a bit. They have probably every section you could hope for. I enjoyed it.
It was still a bit early when we were there, so we ate at a brunch place towards the less busy end of the Pearl Street Mall called “Snooze, an A.M. Eatery.” They have about 20 locations, all in Colorado, California, Arizona, and Texas. It’s a hipster’s paradise. They don’t sell brand-name sodas, and they have plenty of vegan options. I went for the grilled cheese/tomato soup combo, comfort food after a long morning of exploring. My mom and brother both enjoyed their pancake selections, and my dad said his Reuben on a pretzel roll was one of the best sandwiches he’s had. With our waiter’s recommendation, he added an egg over-medium to it. Messy but delicious.
Do I wish I had more time in Boulder? I mean, maybe. An extra night would’ve been nice, especially if it was winter/skiing season. If anything, I wish I could’ve spent a few days, a week, or a month at Estes Park. It’s mountain paradise up there.
Check out hotels.com for lodging within National Parks. Hotels.com is an affiliate partner, but that doesn’t mean I don’t support it. It’s my favorite way of finding cheap hotels.