Where to Stay in Rocky Mountain National Park
Looking for a lodge in the Rockies? We've got you covered
The first word of this national park might seem a little redundant. We mean, is there really any other kind of mountain? By nature, mountains are rocky. But we prefer to think of them as mountains where Rocky the fictional boxer might train: running up and down these bumpy formations instead of outdoor steps or wherever he was running. So that’s been established; these are mountains owned by Sylvester Stallone’s iconic character. Or not... in any case, they're known as the Rockies.
That’s enough fluff; onto the rocky stuff. This national park in Colorado is made up of all sorts of forests and alpine tundra (flat, desert-like areas), and is adorned by lakes, valleys and, you guessed it, mountains. The Trail Ridge Road and the Old Fall River Road are the main passages, meandering around the ridges and rivers, and providing views so darn good that you’re in danger of flying off the edge. Hey you, keep your eyes on the road. In any case, it’ll help if you know where you’re going, which is why we here at Plum Guide have put our expert heads together and come up with this this post on where to stay in Rocky Mountain National Park. Buckle up.
Let’s start with the obvious. When it comes to where to stay in Rocky Mountain National Park, you can't miss Estes Park, the main town at the base of the mountains. Perhaps it’s even a tad jealous that so many visitors drop in just to visit the bumpy topography next-door. There's plenty to do in Estes Park: the town even has an aerial tramway (don’t look down) that takes passengers right up to the peak of the Prospect Mountain. Once you’re up at the summit, it’s finally time to look down - especially with camera in hand - to snap photos of the valley where Estes Park lies. Reach the mountaintop at dawn or dusk to catch the sky, as it blisters crimson with desire (any Pulitzer Award judges reading this, please speak to our agent). You can also get a good look from the Lumpy Ridge.
Relax on the shore of Lake Estes and find a spot to sunbathe. Check out the behemoth Olympus Dam on the Big Thompson River. For something a little different, go visit the Stanley Hotel, whose big scary façade and interior inspired Stephen King to write The Shining.
In mountain huts
Speckled across the bucolic hinterland and remote tundra (where’s that Pulitzer, we’re waiting…) are secluded little mountain huts. In winter, you can cross-country ski to some of these isolated spots, where you’ll find a serene cabin far from the annoyances of city life. There’s no reason to ever go back; you’ll just stay in the hut, forget the kids and partner, and write that novel you’ve always wanted to start. Wait, this is starting to sound a little too similar to The Shining... are we still in the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park? Maybe best to just see this as a relaxing holiday, and not go all "here's Johnny". To be a bit less weird, maybe invite a bunch of friends down and play some games and go skiing. In summer, these huts are just as scenic and serene, and a great base to go hiking up and down the surrounding hills.
It’s like the French city, but better because it’s plural. It’s like multiple Lyons. Wow. In reality, it’s nothing like the French titan, but more of a secluded spot in the heart of a valley in the national park. They call it the Double Gateway to the Rockies, which seems like a bit of an F U to Estes Park. The Lyons doth protest too much, methinks (Pulitzer… ah forget it). It’s actually named as such because it stands at the confluence of two major highways that lead to different parks of the park.
But we're not here to write about highways. Stroll through the town centre and admire some of the 19th-century buildings that still stand today. Among them is the Lyons Redstone Museum, dating back to 1881 (the edifice, not the museum). It was initially a schoolhouse, and now contains exhibits displaying old relics from the town, such as a bank teller cage and a kitchen as it would have been in a bygone era. Study the black-and-white photos that serve as windows to the past and imagine picking up an ice cream in the old-world parlour.
Talk about ‘say what you see’. First, ‘The Rockies’ and then ‘Boulder’ - you can see where they got their naming inspiration from. Anyway, Boulder is a charming Colorado city in the midst of mountains. Frequent the elegant windows of its shops, framed by the snowy tips of the Rockies. Soak up the culture and pretend you know what you’re talking about in the art galleries. The streets here are lined with restaurants, shops and some of the area’s best nightlife hubs.
Looking for a quieter getaway when searching for where to stay in Rocky Mountain National Park? This place may sound like it’s a fortress, but it’s actually a pleasant college town packed with students and tree-lined avenues. Admire the 19th-century buildings and hit up the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery with your family.