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.]
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.
- 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: 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.