Colorado Dream Vacation!

Red Rocks Park in Morrison, Colorado

We Finally Took Our Colorado Dream Vacation!

Tom and I took our Colorado Dream Vacation this year and had an amazing time! It was really nice to get away from the homestead to go on an adventure. Our trip took us to Denver, Golden, Red Rocks, and Estes Park, Colorado. I’m excited to share photos and even a video clip of our trip. πŸ™‚

Only our trip to Pictured Rocks in Michigan can compare as far as the beautiful scenery we experienced on our trip to Colorado.

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Iowa still looks a lot like home!

It can be difficult for homesteaders to get away from it all and go on a vacation. Our son was working and stayed behind to care for the animals and keep an eye on everything for us. So that alleviated our concerns about leaving the homestead.

Quite often we take a short day trip to a Botanical Garden or Japanese Garden instead of a long vacation. That is much easier to plan!

Crossing the Mississippi River

If you have a homestead but want to go on vacation, check out my friend Kathi’s post Can You Take a Vacation from Your Homestead…she has a lot of great tips! I’ve been the one farm sitting and staying home on many occasions, so this trip was a real treat!

World’s largest truck stop on I 80 in Iowa…we didn’t stop.

Making the Most of Our Colorado Dream Vacation…

We packed a lot of fun into a short trip and made the most of our Colorado dream vacation. Tom has had a trip to Red Rocks Park on his bucket list for years and I was looking forward to seeing the Rocky Mountains. The furthest west I had ever been was to eastern Iowa!

A herd of horses in Nebraska…I miss having horses sometimes.

The trip there took about a day and a half of driving. We intended to camp in Nebraska or Iowa but the heat was pretty intense (102 F at one point), so we opted to stay in hotels instead.

I think the plains are pretty!

We traveled west on route 80 along the southern part of Iowa and Nebraska. There is a lot of flat terrain with cornfields, but I found the scenery very pretty.

Horses in Colorado!

The northeast part of Colorado is beautiful in its own way. There are wide expanses of grasslands grazed by small herds of cattle and horses. I really enjoyed driving through the plains.

Cattle operation in Colorado.

It’s kind of funny that we were so far from home and I was taking pictures of horses and fields…like we have back home! File this under ‘things that homesteaders take photos of when they are on vacation.’ πŸ™‚

Driving into Denver on a Friday around noon was a little intense. We had our GPS on the dashboard, but we had a bit of trouble finding the parking for our hotel. Fortunately, after about 20 minutes of circling around, we made it and checked into our room. Whew!

State Capitol building in Denver, Colorado

Downtown Denver Destinations

Denver is a beautiful city and there are a ton of things to do in the downtown area. Tom and I walked all afternoon and visited the 16th Street Mall, State Capitol building, and the Denver Public Library.

We didn’t go into the Denver Art Museum, but it looks like a cool place to visit.

Public Library, Art Exhibit, and Free Info…

The library had a free art exhibit of work by local artists going back to the early 1900s on display in the hallways of the 7th floor. I enjoyed checking out the wide variety of paintings, drawings, sculpture, and even a cool handcrafted conference table.

Denver Public Library tower

The views from the 7th floor were pretty cool…I’m glad we checked it out!

View of the art museum from the 7th story of the library tower.

In the peak of the tower, the architecture is interesting…this is a conference room that was open to the public. At least, the door was open!

Looking up at the peak of the tower.

Back in the lobby, we found a copy of the local magazine ‘Westword’ which lists live music, exhibits, attractions, and other events. There were also some interesting articles about musicians…and it is free!

Live Music!

That evening we went to a local club called Live@Jacks to grab a bite to eat and catch a performance by the band, DOTSERO. They put on a great performance of modern jazz with some covers such as Superstition. I had a blast and even got out on the dance floor for a couple of songs…sorry, no video of that! πŸ™‚

Sculpture near the Capitol building

On Saturday morning we walked a little bit more, enjoyed a really nice complimentary breakfast at the hotel (Holiday Inn Express), and hit the road for the Golden, Colorado area. Visiting Denver was a great start to our Colorado dream vacation. πŸ™‚

Apex Park in Golden, Colorado

Golden, Colorado and Lookout Mountain

On the way to our next hotel, we stopped for a short hike at Apex Park to take some photos and enjoy the outdoors. I got my doggy fix for the morning by petting some canine hikers out with their families. πŸ™‚ There were quite a few mountain bikers out on the trails.

Another view of Apex Park.

We stayed at the Origins Hotel, the official inn of the Red Rock Amphitheater in the Golden area. Our room wasn’t ready yet because we arrived early, but the staff gave us some tips on local things to do and we went on another adventure while they finished tidying up.

This hotel was a big splurge for us. We usually camp on our trips, but it was hot, Colorado has a lot of bears, and we wanted to be comfy and not get eaten by bears…hence the pricy digs.

Looking up the slope as we drove up Lookout Mountain.

Lookout Mountain…Scenic and Kinda Steep πŸ™‚

A few miles away there is a scenic overlook and nature center on top of Lookout Mountain and we made our way there. Driving up the mountain there were a lot of homes with stables and pastures with horses and alpacas. I’m sure those homes are valued way over our price range! It was cool to see some different ‘homesteads’ on our trip.

View from the top of Lookout Mountain.

We passed by the Buffalo Bill’s Museum and gravesite (maybe next time, Bill) and headed right to the top of the mountain for the nature center and the Boettcher Mansion.

The Boettcher Mansion

The mansion was closed for a private event but the visitor center was open and had very picturesque grounds to explore.

The Nature Center on Lookout Mountain.

Inside was an exhibit sharing information to help keep hikers safe if they encounter dangerous wildlife like mountain lions and rattlesnakes. Fortunately, we didn’t meet up with any wildlife besides the birds.

View from Lookout Mountain.

Tom took a short hike to a scenic overlook and got some amazing photos of the mountains and valley.

I should have checked out the view despite my fear of heights…I mean, look at that!

My hip was acting up and I’m also afraid of heights (great place to go on vacation, Lisa…to the top of a mountain!) so I stayed behind and petted more doggos, lol.

Another view from Lookout Mountain.

Scenic Means Hairpin Turns and Steep Cliffs!

A very nice lady working at the visitor center told us we could go back down the mountain the way we came up (which was pretty tame) or we could turn right and see some spectacular views going down the mountain. We opted to turn right and the views were pretty amazing! Somehow we got off track and ended up on the Lariat Loop Scenic Byway. That’s when my fear of heights went off the scale!

A nice view looking up the mountain.

Yes, the views were amazing! I had a lot of trouble enjoying them, however, because I was busy hyperventilating and leaning in toward the middle of the road…like that would help keep us from toppling over the guardrail to certain death. Lol!

Tom had a good time making fun of me for telling him to slow down (he was going well below the 30 mph speed limit). I did get a few pictures of the view instead of my knees or the dashboard (because I couldn’t bring myself to look at what I was taking photos of!).

Can you see the hairpin turn ahead? This is about the time that I started freaking out!

Safe, At Last!

Of course, everything turned out fine and we made it safely down the mountain…after being passed by bicyclists, joggers, and maybe a few turtles. πŸ™‚ We punched in the hotel address so the GPS could guide us back to our room and a relaxing dinner…but it wanted to send us back over the mountain. I almost freaked out at that point. (Okay, I guess I did freak out a little bit! I vaguely remember saying something like ‘No freaking way I’m going back over that mountain! I think Tom was starting to get a little exasperated with me.)

It’s okay. I survived the experience and decided to embrace the adventure. I’m working on that! We did get back to the hotel to check into our lovely room and then had a very nice dinner at the family-run restaurant next door.

Red Rocks Park…a view looking across at Dinosaur Ridge.

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater is Stunning!

That evening we went to a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater and checked off one of Tom’s bucket list items. We paid for a shuttle from the hotel so we wouldn’t have to drive.

The Red Rocks Amphitheater with Dinosaur Ridge in the back.

For many years he has wanted to visit this iconic music venue. It is pretty amazing!

Huge rock formations at the park are really mind-boggling!

We’re big music fans and that evening was dedicated to seeing The String Cheese Incident and Keller Williams…a wonderful concert!

Tom wrote an article about our experience going to see shows at Red Rocks if you are a music fan or a travel bug and want to check it out. πŸ™‚

There are so many beautiful sites at the park that we had trouble taking just a few photos. πŸ™‚

On Sunday we headed back to Red Rocks Park to hike around the site, get photos, and check out the visitor center and museum.

Looking up at one of the large rock formations.

They have displays explaining the geology of the site and the history of the amphitheater.

One of the first musical groups to perform at the park.

I was pretty blown away to find out that musicians have been performing there since the early 1900s.

Crazy kids, lol πŸ™‚

I hope you will indulge me as I share scenes from our trip to Red Rocks Park!

You can just see Denver in the background behind the hills.

I’m glad we don’t use a film camera anymore because it would cost a fortune to develop all of the photos we took!

Looking up the mountain from the amphitheater.
Another beautiful rock formation.
The ridge with trees along the top is Dinosaur Ridge.

And Dinosaurs Too! (No…Not Me!)

We also stopped at a small museum and visitors center for The Friends of Dinosaur Ridge…another significant geological site across the road from Red Rocks. It was pretty interesting to read about the discovery of dinosaur fossils and fossilized dino footprints in the area. We didn’t have time to go on the tour of the site, however…maybe next time.

Another view of Dinosaur Ridge in the middle ground of this photo.

More Music!

In the evening we saw The String Cheese Incident and The Del McCoury Band...with a bluegrass performance that rocked the house. Have I mentioned that I’m a bluegrass fan?! We had a great time and were sad to have the Red Rocks concert experience come to a close…but we had another adventure the next day! πŸ™‚

View of the mountains coming into Estes Park.

Estes Park and Driving Through the Rockies…Wow!

Although we had been planning to take the most direct route home, away from the Rocky Mountains, I suggested we continue our adventure the next morning. We drove north through Boulder and headed to Estes Park, a tourist destination near the Rocky Mountain National Park. We were so glad we decided to go!

On our way to Estes Park.

Estes Park is awe-inspiring! The drive into the Rockies was amazing, but Estes Park knocked it out of the park!

Beautiful views traveling through the foothills of the Rockies!

As we got closer to Estes Park, the scenery was increasingly amazing!

Coming into Estes Park…scenic overlook.

We parked at the visitors center and took a couple of free shuttle buses around the area for great views of mountains, rivers, the valley, the Stanley Hotel (where Stephen King stayed and got the idea for his book The Shining), and the town of Estes Park.

So Much to See and so Little Time!

It was breathtaking and I want to go back and spend more time there someday. What a way to top off our Colorado dream vacation! We also didn’t have time to go to the Rock Mountain National Park and that could be a vacation all on its own!

There are a ton of things to do in the area. We didn’t even scratch the surface! There is a cable car you may take to the top of a mountain…not in my plans!

The area around Estes park offers world-class fly fishing, too. What a great way to spend time in nature and maybe even catch dinner or release the catch of the day after a photo op! We talked with a gentleman in Estes Park who was fishing right in town…it looked like a lot of fun!

I wish we could have spent several days there…but we had responsibilities at home.

We grabbed a bite to eat (sandwiches from our cooler) and got back on the road around noon that day. I suggested that we take the scenic route back east and boy, are we ever glad we did!

Video of our Rocky Mountain Road Trip πŸ™‚

Scenic doesn’t quite describe the views…I was almost speechless. Around every turn was a view even more gorgeous than the last. I was taking videos for Tom to watch because he had to concentrate on driving the winding mountain roads. It wasn’t as steep or treacherous as the Lariat Loop Byway, fortunately!

Pine Bluffs area

Heading Home Through Wyoming from Our Colorado Dream Vacation…

Although we could have shaved some miles off the trip home, we decided to take the highway north into Wyoming and then head east. I’m glad we did because we saw some herds of horses, rock bluffs, and interesting geologic formations along the way. The views of our western states are really amazing.

Pine Bluffs area in Eastern Wyoming

Five days really wasn’t enough time to see the Rocky Mountains and Colorado, so Tom and I hope to get back there for another visit someday. In fact, this trip really reinforced my desire to buy an RV and travel around the United States when we retire from writing someday. Don’t hold your breath though! We’ll have to save up if we want to be RV vagabonds. πŸ™‚

Have you traveled through Colorado or the Rocky Mountains? What is your dream vacation destination? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Shared on the Simple Homestead Hop, Farm Fresh Tuesdays, You’re the Star

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    • Lisa Lombardo
    • Lisa Lombardo

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