6 Reasons Why You’ll Love Rocky Mountain National Park

This is part of my Girl’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park! Everything you need to know, from the best day hikes to the best places to eat. Check out all my posts by clicking here.

RMNP is an ideal getaway for girlfriends, couples, and families alike. Below are the six greatest reasons you need to put Rocky Mountain National Park on your travel bucket list. I hope you make as many happy memories here as I have over the years! This park is largely responsible for my love of the outdoors, and clearly, it has had an impact on me!

1. Great Fly Fishing

fishing (1)

Trout love the cold water and so abound here, plus there are dozens of guides who will provide equipment, expertise, and most importantly, will take that Instagram worthy shot of you holding your catch.

2. Incredible Wildlife

elk (2)

bighorn sheep (2)

Simply stated, Rocky Mountain wildlife are majestic. But even better than that, they are plentiful, and the chances of you seeing something in the wild are high, which makes for a thrilling trip.

3. Beautiful hikes and activities for all ages and skill levels


If you’re 2 years old or 92 years old, it does not matter here. There are ranger shows to excite young kids about their park experience. Tram rides into the mountains for people of all mobility levels. Rafting trips that go from mild to difficult and accommodate kids and adults alike. Beginner trails even a toddler could do. Intense trails for spirited teens and those in their prime will. And there’s plenty of ice cream–which is something everyone likes!

4. Conveniently located and easy to get to

A quick flight into Denver, and just a little over an hour and a half long scenic drive, and you’re there!


5. The best view in the park can be reached by car

alpine visitors center

This appeals to my lazy side. Trail Ridge Road, which traces the edge of the mountain and culminates at the Alpine Visitor’s Center at 11,ooo feet, has to be one of the most scenic drives in all of North America. You pass treeline, and reach alpine meadows where elk are frequently grazing. This drive is good for the soul!



6. Insanely beautiful views

Described by Aaricka as “another world,” Rocky Mountain National Park is truly a breathtaking place.

Dream Lake

And you don’t have to do something extraordinary to experience it.


I hope you have the chance to go once in your life and if not, feel free to live vicariously through these pictures. 🙂





The Awe Inspiring Wildlife of Rocky Mountain National Park

This is part of my Girl’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park! Everything you need to know, from the best day hikes to the best places to eat. Check out all my posts by clicking here.

I can’t write a week’s worth of posts about Rocky Mountain National Park and not include the wildlife!


Don’t forget about us, Whit!

Wildlife is, after all, one of the top highlights of the park. You can hike all day and see scenic vistas and pretty flowers, but nothing compares to seeing an elk or a bear in the wild, and Rocky Mountain National Park can almost always guarantee that.

bighorn sheep (1)

On a recent trip there, I stumbled across this elk lounging on the side of the road beside the entrance to the park.


Just hangin’ out!

A week later, my mother called me from Estes Park and said “There’s a black bear in the McDonald’s parking lot.”

I have never personally seen a bear in the park, which slightly disappoints me, but as my brother has pointed out, “The fact you haven’t come across a bear in the wild is a good thing, Whit.”


Other than bears, there are marmots…




Some of these…(what are they?)



elk (1)

elk (3)

…and trout!


As a child, it was thrilling to see any of these. Certainly the fact that these wildlife are not common in Texas makes the sight of them extra special for a kid who had only seen them in pictures.  I’ll never forget one morning while staying in a cabin at the base of the mountains, I opened my eyes and looked out the window beside my bed to see a huge elk staring at me through the window. I also remember seeing bighorn sheep, one of the animals the park is most known for, on the hillsides by the park entrance and being completely in awe.

The park has a great handout for kids that let’s them check off wildlife they see in exchange for a Junior Ranger badge.

As Aaricka said in her interview Monday, “Seeing the little marmot while we were having a picnic was probably my favorite thing that happened on our trip!”

Best Wildlife Viewing Time

“The best time to see animals is first thing in the morning (6:30am!)  It’s basically almost guaranteed that you will see something at that time!” — Liz, friend of WW

I hope you have many memorable wildlife sightings on your trip to the Rockies and get a glimpse of the majestic animals that call this region home.

(PS. Many thanks to Liz Curtis and her dad for sharing these National Geographic-worthy wildlife pics.)










How to Explore Estes Park Like a Local

This is part of my Girl’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park! Everything you need to know, from the best day hikes to the best places to eat. Check out all my posts by clicking here.

Unless you’re backpacking in the woods your entire trip, you’re going to need to know where to dine and shop while visiting Rocky Mountain National Park! And trust me…between town and the park there is plenty to keep you busy.

Here’s some guidance. If we’ve missed anything, feel free to shout it out in the comments!


Before you get to Estes Park, stop in Boulder, CO at Cedar & Hide Mercantile.

“People will want to know this store! They sell homegoods, candles, blankets, cutting boards, accessories, jewelry….everything.” — Ha, friend of Whit’s Wilderness

“It was amazing and we wanted to buy everything there.” — Aaricka, friend of Whit’s Wilderness

In town, walk along the main street, get ice cream, and check out the gallery, Images of Rocky Mountain National Park.

“We love simply walking along the main street with the cute shops full of local artwork and goodies.  Our favorite that we visit is Images of RMNP.” — Liz Curtis, friend of Whit’s Wilderness


  • Stanley Hotel

Named after Freelan Stanley, one of Estes Park’s settlers who helped turn it into a tourist destination, the Stanley Hotel is a central feature of the town of Estes Park.


A large white building in the center of town, it is hard to miss. Make time to go enjoy s’mores on its patio.



Or play corn hole on the lawn.



Whit’s Recommendation

  • Castle Mountain Lodge

This is where my family stayed growing up and it is right by the park entrance and right by a mountain stream. So many happy memories here!

Liz’s Recommendation

  • River Stone Condos

Ha & Aaricka’s Recommendation

  • Estes Park Condos


Liz’s Recommendations

  • Dunraven Inn

“Food wise, if you are looking for a more intimate setting, the Dunraven Inn is a local favorite.  It’s a delicious Italian place where you will be greeted with thousands of dollar bills when you walk in!  It can be fancy or casual, but make a reservation if you want to go!”

  • Rock Inn Mountain Tavern

“Another favorite is the Rock Inn Mountain Tavern – more casual dining with live music every Friday, but I think it’s most nights during the summer.  A lot of times it’s pick-up mountain blues type bands.  The Devils on Horseback are a must as an appetizer.”

  • Twin Owls Steakhouse

Although I have never been, my parents also enjoy the Twin Owls Steakhouse.  The property is beautiful with a great view.

  • Chicago’s Best

This pizza place is nestled on the main strip, easily missed, but easily the best pizza in town.

  • Glen Haven

Glen Haven is a little town about 20 minutes outside of Estes Park.  The General store in this tiny town has wonderful cinnamon rolls that are some of Stephen’s all-time favorite!

Ha & Aaricka’s Recommendations

  • Himalayan Curry

“Himalayan Curry is on a side road, not crowded, and really good. Aaricka had elk for the first time.” — Ha

“Ha had some too! It was a good place for sharing things.” — Aaricka

  • Antonio’s

“Antonio’s Wood Fired Pizzas is very small, great after a hike. It’s divvy and simple.” — Ha


  • Scratch Deli & Bakery

“I loved Scratch Deli & Bakery. I would suggest picking up a sandwich there and taking it with you into the park.” — Aaricka

  • Coffee on the Rocks

“Coffee on the Rocks was a local coffee shop we loved. The atmosphere is good. Sit by the pond and have morning coffee!” — Ha

Seasonal Events

  • The Highland’s Scottish Festival

“This takes place in town each September.  People come from all over the country to this festival, so it can get crowded, but it’s totally worth it!  In addition to hearing some awesome Celtic music and watching some impressive dancing, competitors compete in full blown jousting tournaments, hammer throws, stone putting and caber throwing (basically tossing a giant telephone pole end over end).  They also shoot off cannons into Lake Estes (don’t worry – the cannon balls actually float and are retrieved).  If you choose to bust out that Scottish Kilt you’ve always wanted to wear, now is the time! You won’t be the only one…” — Liz

Highland's festival

Last but not least, ice cream. I have a theory there are more ice cream shops per capita in Estes Park than there are any where else in the country. (Someone should do a study.) Nothing says “American Summer” like enjoying an ice cream cone amid the majestic Rockies…so be sure to grab a scoop! You’re on vacation after all.

Moral of the story: Come to Estes Park hungry! 🙂

Pinterest Graphic - Town Highlights Estes Park




What to Wear Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park

This is part of my Girl’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park! Everything you need to know, from the best day hikes to the best places to eat. Check out all my posts by clicking here.

Today I’m sharing advice for what women should wear on summer day hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Hope you find it helpful for your trip!


In general, this part of Colorado is toasty and sunny during the day, with highs reaching into the 90’s, and then at night a chill sweeps in. (Which feels lovely, and is perfect for s’mores at the Stanley Hotel, in my book.)

What to Wear

Whit’s Recommendation

Always always always take the rain jacket with you! It rains sporadically in the park. I also recommend taking the half zip in your daypack. Sometimes chilly weather can roll in, or you’ll want to picnic in the shade, and you’ll wish for it.

Liz’s Recommendation

  • “Always carry a light rain coat when you go hiking in the park!  The weather changes in an instant in the Rockies 😀  We got snowed on this past trip..”


Ha and Aaricka’s Recommendation

  • Ha: “We didn’t do any strenuous hiking so clothes weren’t really an issue. It was hotter than I expected, I had come with fleeces and boots and jeans and it ended up being really hot. I took off my fleece and put it back on about ten times. :)”


[Whit’s note: Ha and Aaricka hiked the trails mentioned in the previous post.]

  • Aaricka: “I think my fleece saved me. Anything that’s below 75 feels freezing, so that fleece I wore pretty much the entire time and it was nice. No wind could go through it. What I wanted to endorse was my Salomon Sense Pro Trail Running Shoes. I was really happy I brought these because they’re easy to pack, super flexible, have a lot of traction, and when we walked across the snow or mud it was no problem. They were perfect because we weren’t backpacking or doing anything off trail.”


[Whit’s note: Salomon brand trail running or hiking shoes are perfect for light Colorado day hikes!]

Ultimately, the main point here is layering!

Happy hiking ladies!

Pinterest graphic - what to wear





Three Gorgeous Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park

This is part of my Girl’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park! Everything you need to know, from the best day hikes to the best places to eat. Check out all my posts by clicking here.

On a recent trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, I saw hundreds of Americans and their families carrying on the summer tradition of hiking in the mountains. As a girl who has many fond childhood memories hiking this park and experiencing nature for the first time, I couldn’t help but be pleased to see new crops of kids getting those same experiences.  Today, I am sharing hiking trail advice courtesy of my friend Liz Curtis, a Texan and Rocky Mountain National Park expert. Liz just welcomed her first child, and guess where his first big vacation was?

Rocky Mountain National Park, of course!

Bear Lake

So, here’s a guide to three of the best trails in the park, courtesy of my dear friend Liz, pictured above. Enjoy!

For Beginners

  • Bear Lake and Alberta Falls

Liz: Get to the park early and park at the Bear Lake parking lot.  Hike around Bear lake, and then over to Alberta Falls!  Hint: On your way back from Alberta falls, hike to the Glacier Gorge parking area and take the bus back to Bear Lake to avoid a long, steep uphill hike!

Alberta Falls
Alberta Falls
Brandon snaps a selfie at Alberta Falls.


Bear Lake August
Bear Lake

Whitney’s note: Ditto. I hiked Alberta Falls trail two years ago with my family and saw folks of all ages and fitness levels all having fun and enjoying the scenery. Definitely a sense of community on this trail.

  • Fern Lake

Liz: Another favorite is Fern Lake.  We usually just hike to the falls, but the trail follows a river and goes through an impressive boulder yard.  Parking is limited, so get there early!

Fern Lake trail
Fern Lake Trail
fern lake boulders
Fern Lake Boulders

For Intermediates

  • Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake

Liz: Park at the Bear Lake Parking lot and hike up to Nymph lake, Dream Lake and then you’ll reach Emerald Lake.

Dream Lake
Dream Lake


Nymph Lake
Nymph Lake


Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake

For those Wanting a Challenge

  • Sky Pond

Liz: Sky Pond is the best hike we have ever done in RMNP!  It’s 9 miles round trip.  About a half mile until you reach the end, you will hit Timberline Falls, which you get to scramble up the side of before reaching Sky Pond.  There are a few gorgeous lakes along the way with trout aplenty, so bring your fly rod if you wish 🙂

sky pond (1)
Sky Pond Trail
sky pond (3)
Sky Pond

Other Important Sites (These are accessible by car!)

  • Alpine Visitor Center

Take the old Fall River road up.  It’s a shorter, steeper, windier drive, but not many people get to go on it!  Look for heard of elk in the tundra grasslands.  We also like to stop at the Lava Cliffs overlook.  If you look over the rock wall, there are always fat marmot and little Pika running around.  You can also hike up the tundra for some spectacular, unique views.  Be sure to have a wind breaker with you!

  • Rainbow Curve & Many Parks Curve

About halfway down, we love stopping at Rainbow Curve for a nice view of the park, and then a few more miles is Many Parks Curve. You can pretty much see all that encompasses RMNP (http://www.rmnp.com/RMNP-Areas-TrailRidge-ManyParksCurve.HTML), including Long’s Peak!

Wow, if Liz’s pictures don’t leave you longing for a trip to the Rockies, I don’t know what will!

Thanks, Liz, for sharing your wisdom, incredible photos, and darling family with us. Y’all are so cute.

Happy hiking, ladies!

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How to Go Fly Fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park

This is part of my Girl’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park! Everything you need to know, from the best day hikes to the best places to eat. Check out all my posts by clicking here.

Fly fishing is one of the most popular activities within Rocky Mountain National Park during the summer. I would definitely make time for this during your trip!


The cool water is refreshing on hot summer days and I’ve never found a fly fishing spot that wasn’t beautiful. Why not have a little A River Runs Through It moment on vacation?

fishing (1)

I would recommend getting a guide to take you. This is actually pretty affordable, and they know where to go to catch the best fish, plus, they provide all of the equipment you need. You don’t have to lift a finger.

For this topic I’ve called on my friend Liz Curtis, who fly fishes every year in Rocky Mountain National Park, for her thoughts. She says,

“We go fly fishing almost every time we go, and use Kirk’s Fly Shop.  It’s on the main square, and they guarantee a catch each time.  We have gone on a 5 minute drive down the canyon, and have driven into the park and hiked with our gear if you prefer that.  They are excellent teachers if you have never held a fly rod in your life.  There is a maximum of 3 fisherman to a guide, so there is plenty of one-on-one instruction.”


Obviously, she was successful!

One time I met a couple in the park that were on vacation to Rocky Mountain National Park as one of their first trips together, and they caught their limit. It looked like they were having a blast.


River Guides

What to Wear

  • Quick dry top
  • Quick dry pants
  • Water shoes such as Tevas or Salomon Techamphibians, or old tennis shoes
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses with croakies (you don’t want your glasses to fall off in the drink)
  • From Liz: “The water has always been pretty chilly, so I’d recommend a light pair of hiking pants to go under the waders in the summer, or a heavier pair of pants in the early spring or late fall.  Sometimes you are hip deep in water, and sometimes on ankle deep!”

How Much Time to Allow

  • 1/2 – 1 full day


  • From what I’ve read, trout don’t survive very long out of water, so once you catch one be ready to snap that Instagram picture quickly! That is, if you don’t plan on having it for dinner. 🙂 #gonefishin

And if you don’t go fishing, be sure to try trout at one of the restaurants in town. You won’t regret it.

Happy fishing, ladies!

fishing (2)

Pinterest graphic - fly fishing





A Girls Getaway to Rocky Mountain National Park

This is part of my Girl’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park! Everything you need to know, from the best day hikes to the best places to eat. Check out all my posts by clicking here.

Let’s be honest, the first thing that comes to mind when you think “Girl’s Trip” isn’t always a national park. But as Ha Nguyen and Aarika Marino point out–it should be. To kick off my Girl’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park, today I’m interviewing two of my girlfriends, Ha Nguyen and Aarika Marino, who recently took a trip there as a girls getaway!

In their own words,

“More girls should get outdoors. There’s something so peaceful about being out in nature with someone you love.”

(And I didn’t even pay them to say that!)


As a quick introduction, I met both ladies playing tennis in Austin. Aarika is now a designer for Under Armor Connected Fitness here in Austin, and Ha is a furniture designer who works at a fabric manufacturer in North Carolina. As designers, they both seek inspiration from nature and loved getting out to the Rockies.

What made you girls want to do a getaway to Rocky Mountain National Park over say NYC or San Francisco?

  • Ha: Aarika is a great travel buddy. She said she wanted to go to Colorado after seeing a documentary on the national parks and I was like ‘I’ll go to Colorado!’ She started planning and the next thing we knew…


  • Aarica: Ha and I are really good friends and we don’t see each other often anymore, so it was the perfect chance to do something together. We both have a passion for exploring and we both like the outdoors. It’s part of who we are, and as designers, we both look to nature for inspiration. Plus, Colorado is so close! Considering we had a short weekend and knew national parks were well structured, it seemed like a good last minute trip.

Did you grow up hiking? Was this your first hiking trip?

  • Ha: I didn’t grow up hiking. As a kid I was always outside, but my parents never took us to parks. I didn’t become outdoorsy until I went college in the Appalachian mountains, where all our free time was spent hiking to waterfalls and spending time outside.


  • Aarika: Being from Wisconsin, we don’t have serious hiking. I started to get more interested in it as a sport, more so than walking through a park. There’s a big difference. I went to Arizona State University, and geographically it was great for hiking. I was surrounded by people going on hikes on the weekends and so many places were accessible.

What activities or places in Rocky Mountain National Park did you absolutely not want to miss?

  • Aarika:  I knew we wanted to see Bear Lake. We hiked to Nymph Lake from there, then Dream Lake, then Emerald Lake. Nymph lake was so gratifying.

[Whit’s Note: More info on the specific trails they hiked coming this week.]

Nymph Lake
Dream Lake
Emerald Lake

Best trail snacks you took?

  • Ha: We bought spicy trail mix which was good with our apples and peaches because the flavors were spicy & sweet, then we had beef jerky which was amazing. We read that was good for you at high elevations.

What were the highlights of your trip?

  • Ha: One day we were sitting down having our snack and this this little marmot came out to visit. He was pretty cute. I’m pretty sure that was one of the best parts of the trip!
  • When we did Trail Ridge Road, we pulled over and started walking out onto the meadow. That was my favorite part of the trip. There were patches of snow and elk just hanging out, and it was like another world.


Aaricka on Trail Ridge Road
  • Aarika: I would say taking pictures of nature was a highlight for me. I love Ansel Adams and I’ve always really enjoyed photography and landscapes. What made for some cool pictures were the storm clouds rolling in near the Alpine Visitor Center.



  • Ha: We also liked walking the trail around Lake Estes in the middle of town. It is really pretty, and you can run or walk.


  • Aarika: I was grateful to have a fun, non-strenuous outdoor activity the day we got there. There were a lot of people fishing which made me want to fish!
Ha at Lake Estes
Ha at Lake Estes
  • Ha: Another thing we did that was really fun was go stargazing. Your ticket lasts until midnight so around 10:30 pm one evening, we went back into the park and sat on a bench. We brought popcorn and a blanket because it’s really cold at night. Here we are, two girls in the pitch dark, and we could hear things rustling in the leaves and bushes. I was freaked out.
  • Aaricka: It was really, really dark. The stars were incredible, though.

How many days were you there?

Ha: We arrived on late Friday night in Denver. The next day we drove to Estes Park. We flew out on Monday, the 4th of July.


Does it make you want to go on another hiking trip?

  • Aarika: I want to go hiking on my upcoming trip to Portland. Spend a day or two on the city and a day or two on the coast hiking and driving…
  • Ha: I really want to go to Big Sur. It would be cool to take my parents there, because since I’ve been hiking more and more, they now love being outside and doing long hikes with me.

Would you go back? Would you recommend this to others?

  • Ha: Yes of course! Its easy and well thought out, we didn’t plan too far in advance so it was kind of perfect because everything was laid out for you.
  • Aarika: Yes! We have a dream of having a vacation home there.


  • Ha: More girls need to do outdoor trips together.
  • Aarika: Totally. A lot of people don’t think about it as a first choice and I’m like, why not? There’s something so peaceful about being out in nature with someone you love.
  • Ha: I would choose the mountains over the beach any day.


Advice for others going on a similar trip?

  • If you’re just doing a weekend there, choose one or two hikes at most, plus Trail Ridge Road.
  • If you’re spending an entire day in the park, pack a picnic. We were getting hangry by the end, and we thought it was a good idea to bring lunch in a cooler so we could have been more relaxed in our visit.
  • Find a good travel buddy.
  • There is a lot of advice online and it can become overwhelming really fast, so do your research on the hikes before you go. One person’s perception of moderate is not the same for everybody!

All good advice! Thanks for sharing your lovely photographs and trip with us. Y’all are a cute duo.

FYI, readers: more tips from Aarika and Ha on where to hike, eat, and stay are coming later this week so stay tuned.















The Girl’s Complete Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park

This is part of my Girl’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park! Everything you need to know, from the best day hikes to the best places to eat. Check out all my posts by clicking here.

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of my favorite places to go on vacation, with friends, family, or significant others alike. It’s beautiful, easy to get to, and has activities for the whole family. Some of my earliest childhood memories of being outdoors and going hiking happened right here in this gorgeous park and it will forever hold a special place in my heart!

To give you everything you need to know to do this park right, I am sharing photos, stories, and guidance galore in the links below.

I hope you feel inspired to see the splendor of Rocky Mountain National park for yourself.

And if you have been there before, please give me a shout on social media or in the comments. I would love to hear from you!

Rocky MountainNationalPark








Field Fashion Friday: Inspired by Joy at Enchanted Rock!

You may have seen my interview with Joy Jauer about her sunrise hike to Enchanted Rock here. I loved her bright pullover that stood out so well among all of the natural colors behind her.


Nothing like a bright pop of coral to brighten up your pics! (I also found this to be true with Holly’s attire in Peru featured here.) Here are some versions of her attire:

For 3 Seasons and Layering: Merrell Soto 1/2 zip, REI.com, $51


Perfect paired with Stio Dulcet Pant, Stio.com, $150

stio pants

For Warm Weather: Arc’Teryx Motus Crew Shirt, REI.com, $44

Motus Crew

For Cold Weather: Arc’Teryx Atom LT Jacket, REI.com, $170


Arc’Teryx is an outstanding brand. I saw this jacket in store and it is SO CUTE. The pink guava color is so perfect. Bright but not too pink!

Happy hiking, ladies!


Giveaway: The Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko

I love to read, and I especially love to give books away here! It’s the mark of a good book if you want to share it with others. Today I’m giving away a copy of The Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko, which has earned permanent residence on the list of my favorite books of all time.

To read my review of this book click here.


Modeling the book today is Trooper Klenzendorf, a corgi hailing from Central Austin.

To win this book, answer the following question in the comments by 5pm Wednesday, July 13th.

Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? (If so, when? What did you think?)

No is a perfectly acceptable answer. I have never been.

Thanks for playing folks! Winner will be announced Thursday the 14th of July on my Facebook page! (So be sure to follow it!)