The Breckenridge Troll: How to Visit & What to Expect

There is an inexplicable allure surrounding trolls, particularly when they find solace amidst a forest’s embrace.

When in Breckenridge, Colorado, I highly recommend taking a few moments to visit the renowned Breckenridge Troll. Over the course of the past few years, this captivating sculpture has established itself as an iconic and must-see attraction in this charming ski town.

But before you venture into the forest to find this troll, be sure to check out all of the information below so that you’ll be able to make the most out of your visit.

What is the Breckenridge Troll?

The Breckenridge Troll, known as Isak Heartstone, is a 15-foot tall wooden sculpture located on the Trollstigen Trail in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Crafted by Danish artist Thomas Dambo in 2018 as a captivating addition to the annual Breckenridge International Festival of Arts (BIFA), this extraordinary sculpture is more than just an artwork — it has become an integral part of the city’s character.

Isak Heartstone embodies the very essence of sustainability and creativity with its construction coming from recycled wood from shingles and fallen trees.

Since its creation, the troll has captured the imagination of locals and visitors alike, intertwining itself with the fabric of the community.

In fact, the name “Heartstone” comes from three little girls who gave the artist a heart shaped rock as he was assembling the wooden giant (that rock soon found its way inside the sculpture).

Initially, when the Isak Heartstone sculpture was brought to life, it found its home on a trail situated behind the residential Wellington neighborhood, nestled near the dredge piles not far from the Country Boy Mine.

However, as the troll became very popular, it became clear that its location was too close to areas that weren’t ready for the attention and increase in visitors it would bring.

The increased popularity of the Isak Heartstone sculpture led to a significant rise in passenger traffic on the free shuttle bus which shuttled visitors from downtown Breckenridge to the neighborhood where the trail was located.

In fact, the number of passengers on the shuttle more than doubled compared to the previous year and it earned the nickname, the “Troll Trolley.”

Unfortunately, this surge in visitors also brought along some negative consequences. Residents living near the trail began to voice complaints regarding the growing nuisance caused by the excessive traffic, including issues such as illegal parking and littering.

The unintended side effects of the sculpture’s popularity created challenges for the local community, requiring solutions to mitigate the disturbances and preserve the harmony of the neighborhood.

With opinions clashing, debates broke out among those who supported keeping the troll where it was and those who thought it should be removed.

In response to the challenges faced by the increased popularity of the Isak Heartstone sculpture, a difficult choice was made to remove the troll from its original location until a more appropriate and suitable site could be found.

This decision, although necessary, sparked both outrage and creativity like this song below (that you should definitely listen to when making your journey to the troll).

After careful consideration and community involvement, a suitable location for the Isak Heartstone troll was finally discovered in the summer of 2019.

With the troll finding its new home, it quickly gained immense popularity and captured the hearts of locals and visitors alike, transforming into one of the most cherished and sought-after art installations in the region.

Since its relocation, the troll has become a beloved icon, attracting a multitude of admirers who appreciate its whimsical charm and artistic significance.

Breckenridge Troll
The once-controversial sculpture has now become a symbol of the ability to find a harmonious balance between art, nature, and the local surroundings.

How do you get to the Breckenridge Troll?

To get to the parking lot located at the trailhead for the Breckenridge Troll you can head to: 189 Boreas Pass Rd, Breckenridge, CO 80424.

I have to warn you though the parking situation is a little bit odd.

On the one hand, the Breckenridge website states there is “no Troll parking near Isak Heartstone.” Yet, there is a massive parking lot directly adjacent to the trailhead.

Presumably, all of these parking spaces are not for those looking to encounter Isak Heartstone.

This much was made clear when the only option we had to pay in this parking lot was to pay an exorbitant $35 which was obviously absurd for a ten minute hike.

It’s really strange that they would place such a popular attraction near a large parking lot that is not designed to at least partially cater to that attraction but that’s the situation you may be working with.

Breckenridge Troll pqarking

So what should you do?

Well, the city recommends that instead of parking your vehicle here, you can start at the downtown area and walk or bike your way over.

You can make your way from the Breckenridge Welcome Center (203 S. Main St) and it’ll be about a 15 minute walk. There is also the free shuttle bus that leaves from the Breckenridge Station (next to the BreckConnect Gondola).

Just keep in mind that if you’d like to bike over, you will have to park your bike at the trailhead since bikes are NOT allowed on the trail.

Breckenridge Troll trailhead

When you visit the troll, be sure you are aware of some of the rules which, while mostly common sense, have been summarized below:

  • Leave no trace: There is no waste collection along the trail, so use the provided trash receptacle at the trailhead and ensure you carry out any garbage you bring in.
  • Keep dogs on a leash: Be responsible and pick up after your furry friends, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s the law. Leashing dogs is required in Breckenridge.
  • Stick to the designated trail: Show respect for private property by staying on the marked trail and avoid taking shortcuts.
  • Bicycles are not permitted on the trail: Secure them at the trailhead.
  • Demonstrate respect: To ensure that Isak remains intact for all visitors to appreciate, admire him as a work of art and refrain from climbing on or damaging the sculpture.
  • Follow Breckenridge regulations: Respect the local community by adhering to guidelines and rules. Note that using drones for photography or videography is strictly prohibited.

Also be aware that you might encounter some wild animals while out here. Coyotes are known to make an appearance as are other large mammals so keep your eyes open and always try to maintain a good distance away from wildlife.

Our experience at the Breckenridge Troll

The journey starts with heading to the southeast corner of the Stephen C. West Ice Arena parking lot where you will find the trailhead to take you to the Breckenridge Troll.

You will know that you are on the right path because you will see the sign clearly showing “Trollstigen” and a troll.

In the summer, it’s an easy stroll but in the winter the trail is not maintained so you could be dealing with ice and some serious snow when you arrive. Remember, the elevation here is about 9,500 feet so!

Also, unless you are arriving early in the morning or later in the evening, you can expect there to be a steady flow of hikers.

Breckenridge Troll trailhead

While some people describe the trek to the troll as a “hike,” it’s more of a brief nature walk. In fact, it’s a very accessible route with a stone path taking you to the troll and a boardwalk taking you back.

From the trailhead, it only took me a couple of minutes to get to the troll going at a pretty moderate pace.

If you’re interested in making more of a hike out of this experience, consider doing one of the adjoining trails like the Little Mountain via Illinois Creek Trail.

Breckenridge Troll trail

Before I knew it, I was standing in front of this gentle giant, its soulful eyes peering down at me.

Breckenridge Troll

Personally, I think they did an excellent job with the placement of this piece of art.

It’s tucked just far enough in the woods to make it feel like you stumbled upon something hidden while also being very easy to reach for just about everyone.

Also, I love the fact that this giant troll is gripping a tree. It gives the sculpture a sense of strength and connection to the natural world that just adds to its wonder.

Breckenridge Troll

When you visit, make sure that you don’t climb up on the troll as this is an art installation (treat it like you would a museum exhibit).

But so take a moment to examine the amazing details of this piece of art. The carvings and wooden materials on this art piece are truly extraordinary.

And be sure to check out the plaque which might help you unlock the secret location of the 100th troll created by this artist. Although I have to warn you, you’ll have an international scavenger hunt on your hands if you go this route.

Breckenridge Troll

When you are ready to leave, there is a designated trail for you to return to the parking lot and it is clearly marked.

Breckenridge Troll trail

The return trail is just about as short as the trail you began on and is pretty scenic as it makes its way along a small creek. If you’re moving at a moderate pace, you could easily knock out this attraction in a total of 10 minutes.

Worth noting: the entire trail is not ADA accessible although if you had some assistance, it’s flat enough that you could probably make it work.

Breckenridge Troll trail

Final word

It doesn’t take very long to visit the Breckenridge Troll so I would recommend just about everyone to give this a visit.

The parking situation is still a little bit suspect but other than that, it’s a beautiful art installation and definitely one of the more unique and well executed art pieces you will find in nature.

It’s not clear how long the sculpture will be around so don’t wait too long to check it out! By the way, if you want to find out more troll locations, you can find those here.

Country Boy Mine Tour Review: An Authentic Mining Experience

If you’re ever in the Breckenridge area and seeking an opportunity to transport yourself back in time and immerse yourself in the rich mining history of the region, look no further than the Country Boy Mine Tour.

From exploring the shadowy depths of a mine tunnel to engaging in the time-honored practice of gold panning, there’s a lot to do at this historic mining site.

Below, I will tell you everything you need to know to fully prepare for your visit so that you’ll be able to just focus on having a great time.

What is the Country Boy Mine Tour?

The Country Boy Mine in Breckenridge, Colorado, is a historic mine turned tourist attraction. It offers visitors the opportunity to explore a real, former gold mine and learn about the region’s rich mining history.

The mine was originally founded in 1887 during the Colorado Gold Rush, when the area was teeming with prospectors in search of precious metals.

The Country Boy Mine was an active gold and silver mine that operated for several decades, contributing to the growth and development of Breckenridge as a mining town in the late 1880s.

Later on, the mine transitioned to producing large quantities of high grade lead and zinc for use in World War I and World War II.

Today, the Country Boy Mine provides guided tours that take visitors underground to experience what it was like to be a miner during the height of the mining industry.

Visitors can explore the mine shafts, see mining equipment, and learn about the techniques and challenges involved in extracting precious minerals from the earth.

In addition to the underground mine tour, the Country Boy Mine offers various other attractions and activities. These include gold panning, where visitors can try their hand at finding real gold flakes and a number of outdoor museum exhibits that showcase mining artifacts.

The Country Boy Mine is not only a place to learn about the mining industry but also a unique destination to experience the rugged and adventurous spirit of the Colorado mountains.

It offers visitors a glimpse into the lives of the miners who toiled underground in the pursuit of precious metals and is a reminder of how important the mining era was to the prosperity of the country.

Related: Georgetown Loop Railroad: Worth It? (Honest Review)

Country Boy Mine Tour

How to book a visit to the Country Boy Mine Tour

I’d highly recommend you to book your tickets online because sometimes they go fast.

A lot of the mining attractions shut down for the winter but the Country Boy Mine Tour is available year-round. In addition to the mining tour they also offer other activities like a scavenger hunt, gold panning, extreme sledding, and more.

Country Boy Mine Tour

How to get to the Country Boy Mine Tour

The Country Boy Mine is located at: 0542 French Gulch Road, Breckenridge 80424.

Breckenridge is about an hour and a half west of Denver and about 45 minutes west of Georgetown.

The mine itself is located just outside of the downtown area of Breckenridge and it should only take you about five minutes to get to when driving. As you approach on French Gulch Road, you’ll see the sign for the mine on the side of the road and it’s really hard to miss.

When visiting the area I also recommend checking out the Reiling Gold Dredge, one of nine dredges that operated in Summit County between 1898 and 1942. It’s just a few minutes down the road and accessible via a very short trail.

From 1898 to 1942, miners in the Breckenridge region employed massive dredges to meticulously search the gulches and river valleys, leaving no trace of gold unexplored.

From 1905 to 1922, two dredges operated in French Gulch: the Reliance and Reiling, and they were among the most profitable in Breckenridge, recovering an average of $1,000 in gold per week (approximately $100,000 in today’s dollars).

But the success did not last forever and on November 18, 1922, the Reiling sank in this pond where it remains today.

Reiling Gold Dredge

The massive rock piles it created are far-reaching and these did a lot of damage to the environment, lining the river valleys with long piles of gravel. The Reiling dredge created the rock piles you can see from this site which seem to span for miles toward the west.

Reiling Gold Dredge

This entire valley of French Gulch was a major gold mining area in the 19th century. In fact, it’s where in 1859, a miner named Tom Groves discovered a 13.5-pound piece of crystalline gold, which became known as “Tom’s Baby.”

Tom Groves was so proud of his discovery that he wrapped it in a baby blanket and carried it around town like a baby. Hence the name!

Tom’s Baby is still remembered today as one of the most famous pieces of gold ever found in Colorado and is still the biggest one ever found. 

Reiling Gold Dredge French Gulch

Our experience at the Country Boy Mine Tour

We booked a tour for 11 AM and showed up about 15 minutes early which is the recommended arrival time.

We checked in at the visitor center/gift shop, completed a waiver, and then all we had to do was wait around for a little while.

Country Boy Mine Tour

Killing time is very easy around here because there’s a lot to see and explore, including structures that recreate the old wild west days.

Country Boy Mine Tour
Country Boy Mine Tour

You can explore a variety of impressive machinery at this location, including air compressors and a robust piece of equipment known as the rocker shovel loader.

Discover the pivotal roles these machines played in the mining operations and unravel the secrets behind why they were so perfectly suited for those type of industrial operations.

Country Boy Mine Tour

In addition, be sure not to miss the chance to encounter the absolutely adorable miniature donkeys. Back in the day, these were used to navigate narrow tunnels and transport materials. But today, these lovable creatures add an extra touch of charm to the experience and are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.

Country Boy Mine Tour

Then there’s the 55-foot ore chute slide which you don’t want to miss. Take a plunge down the slide and feel the rush of excitement as you make your grand exit.

Country Boy Mine Tour

Just a week prior we had explored the Argo Mill in nearby Idaho Springs which takes you inside of a historic mill and allows you to walk a bit inside of the Argo Tunnel which was used to drain a lot of the mines in the area.

The tour was very interesting but did not actually take us inside of a mine so this tour offered us a distinct experience.

When it was time for the tour, we were greeted by a very charismatic and energetic tour guide who did a good job of keeping things interesting. You’ll get a short introduction with your tour guide and then it will be time to make your way inside the mine.

Country Boy Mine Tour
Country Boy Mine Tour

The first stop is the dry room where you will pick up your hard hat and also get a good overview of the mine’s design.

Country Boy Mine Tour

From the beginning, it was clear that the focus was on making the most of the experience for the kids so this is a very kid focused experience.

I do want to note that during the tour, there were a couple of instances where small children became a bit frightened and started crying, possibly due to the darkness, unfamiliar sounds, or just the slightly creepy nature of the mine.

However, the guide mentioned that this is not a widespread occurrence, so the majority of children will likely handle the experience well.

Country Boy Mine Tour

It’s also worth pointing out that inside of the mine, it’s very chilly, probably somewhere between the 40s and 50s.

You definitely want to bring a jacket or sweatshirt to keep you warm but they did have jackets on the wall which I’m assuming they issue for people who don’t come prepared.

You might also consider having an outer shell that’s water resistant because there was a steady drip-drip situation from the ceiling at times.

In this particular mine, the ceiling is not excessively low, so you never feel uncomfortably cramped like in those mines you might have seen on TV. Even as someone who experiences a bit of claustrophobia, I felt perfectly at ease.

Country Boy Mine Tour

The mine is relatively well lit so you don’t need to fix a headlamp to your helmet or carry around your own light torch.

With that said, you still want to keep an eye on where you’re stepping because some parts are a tad slippery and the ground is sometimes a little uneven. But overall, it’s not a problem, especially if you stay on the narrow tracks.

Country Boy Mine Tour

You make a couple of different stops along the way and during the stops you’ll be able to learn a lot about the infrastructure of the mine and some of the day to day challenges that miners faced dealing with things like explosives and loud noises.

During our tour, our guide maintained a G-rated narrative, so we didn’t delve into many explicit details. However, learning about the arduous working conditions always amplifies my admiration for the resilience and dedication of miners, both in the past and present.

One of the highlights of the Country Boy Mine tour is the opportunity to witness the widowmaker in action. The widowmaker, with its deafening metallic clanging and impressive hydraulic force, creates quite the display as it drills into the rock, showcasing the sheer power and intensity involved in the mining process. Just don’t forget to cover your ears!

Country Boy Mine Tour

When we finally reached our deepest point in the mine which was about 1,000 feet in, our guide decided to go old school and lit a candle after turning off the lights so that we could see just how miners back in the old days navigated these dark corridors.

It was at this point that we were given a talk on the enduring urban legends and folklore that miners have handed down through generations, ranging from avoiding extinguishing candles to avoiding the final shift. Given the constant peril they faced, one can understand their inclination for giving into a bit of superstition.

Country Boy Mine Tour

With our mine tour adventure complete, the time had come to bid farewell to the chilly depths of the mine and embrace the warmth of sunlight once again.

As you venture out of the mine, get ready to immerse your hands in the shimmering stream of possibility as you learn the age-old skill of separating precious gold from the surrounding sediment.

With expert guidance and a little practice, you’ll discover the thrill of uncovering glimmers of gold, making your visit even more unforgettable.

You’ll also have the opportunity to switch out your shoes for some rain boots and step into the shallow waters to try out the experience.

This felt a lot more authentic than the gold panning we did at the Argo Mill, as there’s a genuine sense of connection to the mining heritage as you roll up your sleeves and engage in the physical act of pulling out the earth yourself.

Country Boy Mine Tour

Furthermore, the location itself is a sight to behold, offering a breathtaking backdrop of majestic mountains that elevate the gold panning experience to new heights. The scenic beauty surrounding you adds an extra touch of wonder and serenity to the activity.

Country Boy Mine Tour

Final word

I’d highly recommend the Country Boy Mine Tour.

The only negative I have to say about the experience is how kid-centric it was. I totally understand why it’s that way and if you are visiting as a family it’s obviously a plus.

But if you are an adult with no children, the kid-centric, rated “G” experience may have you feeling a little out of place during the tour — at least I did compared to the Argo Mill experience.

Still, overall, it was a worthwhile experience being able to go so deep into a historic mine and learn a good deal about the mine.

Red Rocks Amphitheater: Ultimate Guide to Seats, Parking, & Having a Good Time

Red Rocks Amphitheatre is one of the most coveted venues for music lovers but when trying to plan your visit, you might have a ton of questions about the venue, its facilities, and the overall experience.

So below, I’ll give you an overview of what to expect at this iconic establishment.

I’ll give you some insight on preparing for your concert and making the most of it, including tips on choosing your seat, getting through security, parking, and everything else.

Introduction to Red Rocks

Red Rocks Amphitheatre holds a special place in the hearts of music lovers due to its unparalleled natural beauty, with towering red sandstone formations forming a breathtaking backdrop for concerts.

The venue’s legendary acoustics and unique open-air design create an immersive and some might even say magical experience, making every performance at Red Rocks an unforgettable event.

Throughout its storied history, Red Rocks Amphitheatre has witnessed legendary performances by iconic musicians such as The Beatles, U2, and Jimi Hendrix, solidifying its status as a hallowed ground where musical legends have left an indelible mark on the hearts of audiences.

When you step into this iconic venue, Red Rocks embraces you with open arms, inviting you to be a part of its rich musical legacy, but it still helps to do a little bit of your homework to make the most of the experience.

Red Rocks Amphitheater

Preparing for your Red Rocks Concert

Planning out your trip to Red Rocks

If you’re still looking for a special event to attend at Red Rocks, you can always check the latest event schedule on the official website.

Events can be announced several months in advance or sometimes just a few weeks before the event so it’s worth signing up for updates or checking the event page regularly if you’re looking for something specific.

The venue is most well known for putting on concerts, but you can also occasionally catch comedy shows, movies (classic and new films), and sometimes other special events like yoga sessions.

Red Rocks Amphitheater

Ticket purchasing: recommended websites, resale options, and best time to buy

A Red Rocks concert typically has a reserved section, a general admission section, and maybe a VIP section.

Just how big the reserved section is going to be versus general admission depends on the concert/event. Sometimes the reserved seating could be found somewhere in the first 40 to 50 rows. Other times, it could just be a few rows.

In our case, we attended a 311 concert which had a huge general admission section.

Tickets for the reserved section were about three times more expensive than general admission for our concert so it helps to really think about your preference (more on how the general admission seating works below).

There are multiple platforms you can get your tickets from and we decided to purchase our tickets through StubHub, which gave us the ability to transfer or sell them if we needed to.

I’ve pretty much purchased all of my tickets through StubHub over the years and never had an issue but you can also purchase tickets directly through Red Rocks/AXS (we found tickets to be slightly cheaper on StubHub but YMMV).

Once you purchase your tickets, you’ll likely be using the AXS App (App Store or on Google Play) to populate your ticket.

Only a few hours before our concert, I got locked out of this app because it randomly required me to verify my email when trying to login with my Apple credentials but none of the email verifications came through.

Luckily, I was finally able to locate my password so my advice would be to not rely on logging in with your Facebook or Apple account because if you don’t know your password, you could get locked out of the app (reseting your PW could be hard with limited service).

Also, the app generates a QR code that changes every 60 seconds so you can’t simply take a screenshot of your tickets once you see them for the first time. You will probably be fine but keep an eye on the app and make sure you have your tickets pulled up well in advance of arriving.

Red Rocks Amphitheater

Planning logistics: transportation, parking, and arrival and exit time

Doors open about one hour prior to the start of the concert and parking for the event should open up about two hours prior to the doors opening but always check on your specific event for the exact times.

You’ll have several different options to choose from when it comes to parking and typically it is available for free.

Here are the main lots you’ll be considering:

  • Upper South Lot
  • Lower South Lot #1
  • Lower South Lot #2
  • Upper North Lot
  • Lower North Lot

As you begin to approach the parking lots, you’ll be directed to whatever open lot your path is heading to so you may have to just go with the flow sometimes.

Red Rocks Amphitheater parking

Also, lots of people park along the road, presumably to avoid the congestion of the parking lots. From what I can tell, this is acceptable but they will tow or ticket folks who don’t park properly so use caution.

Vehicles can be left overnight but must be removed by 10 AM the next morning.

Red Rocks Amphitheater parking

The length of your concert is going to depend on the artist performing, but you can probably expect things to run from 7 PM to close to midnight.

Here’s how long our event lasted just to give you an idea of how things can go.

Initially, the concert was supposed to start at 6:30 PM but because of weather it started around 7:45 PM.

The first opening act lasted about 40 minutes as did the second.

So 311, the main attraction, came on at about 2 hours and 15 minutes after the show started and lasted until close to midnight. We got home around 12:45 AM which meant we spent about 7 hours total at the venue.

If you’re relying on Uber to get you to and from the concert, be aware that finding an Uber back can sometimes be a challenge. Whether it is surge pricing or limited cell phone service, some people do have issues at times so you may want to leave the concert a couple of songs before it ends to avoid the mad rush.

Also be aware that there are some people who hang out around the exits and claim to save you money on Uber and Lyft but I would steer clear of these people as you never know who you can trust.

Drop off points for rideshare services are located at Trading Post, Upper North Lot, and Upper South Lot. But note that pick up location at the end of the night will be directed to Lower South Lot 2 only.

We chose to drive our own vehicle in and park. We left the amphitheater at the beginning of the second encore song and we were able to beat the crowds, only dealing with very minimal traffic getting out of the venue.

Red Rocks Amphitheater crowd at night


One popular way to deal with getting to red rocks without the hassle of parking is to utilize a shuttle bus.

You can find shuttle buses that will pick you up at various parts of Denver and take you directly to the venue. This can be a very safe way to get to and from Red Rocks if you plan on partying it up.

Dressing appropriately: considering weather conditions and comfort during the event

Weather in the Denver/Red Rocks area is notoriously unpredictable, especially in the summer when storms quickly develop and dissipate in the afternoons.

Our experience is a perfect example of why you can’t rely on the weather forecast.

On the morning of our concert, the weather forecast predicted a clear late afternoon with no chance of rain and we ended up getting hit with a thunderstorm that delayed the concert and forced us to run for cover so we didn’t get drenched!

So bringing a poncho or waterproof jacket is a very good idea even if you woke up that morning and you see a 0% chance of precipitation.

And if you do see a chance of severe weather, bring something to cover your head from hail and be ready to head to your vehicle or another place of shelter if it starts to rain down like it did on these unfortunate concert goers.

Also, after sunset, the temperature can drop pretty quickly. You could easily go from a temperature in the 70s to the lower 60s or even 50s.

During the spring and fall, you could be dealing with really cold temperatures calling for a thick jacket and multiple layers.

But in the peak of the summer, the evening temperatures can be heavenly although the wind can sometimes pick up pretty good. I noticed that the wind was significantly stronger in the last few rows of the venue versus where we were in row 60.

Red Rocks Amphitheater Denver skyline view

Navigating the Venue

Understanding the layout of Red Rocks: seating areas, stages, and landmarks

Red Rocks has capacity for around 9,000 attendees. There are 70 rows in the amphitheater with the back row and some of the first rows dedicated to accessible/VIP seating.

You’ll be able to get up to your row utilizing one of two stairways.

Red Rocks Amphitheater

One staircase aisle is directly adjacent to all of the seating and the other one is on the perimeter of the venue which makes it a little easier to navigate because you won’t have people standing in the way and the steps are smaller.

This also is where are you find the designated smoking areas (for tabacco).

Red Rocks Amphitheater smoking

Almost anywhere you park, you’re going to have to deal with some elevation gain to get to and from your seat.

There are ways that you can minimize the walking, though. For example, if you are planning on sitting in one of the upper levels you could enter from the Top Gate West Entrance from the Upper North Lot, which would seriously cut down your walking efforts.

The south entrance has an advantage of allowing you to avoid lots of extra stairs as they have a winding ramp that takes you to the lower levels of the amphitheater.

Red Rocks Amphitheater south entrance ramp

Just be aware that if you’re coming from sea level, the venue is located at 6,450 feet.

Even if you’re fit, the high altitude can impact your ability to do basic things like going up stairs, so I recommend drinking lots of water and taking your time while ascending the trails or steps. Besides, the breathtaking views along the way make it easy to pause and savor the scenery.

Red Rocks Amphitheater Funicular Trail

Getting through security

When we went through security for our concert, the process went like this.

First, there was a staff member who was in charge of checking bags. They never used a metal detector but they did dig through our bag.

They didn’t check every single tiny item and it seemed like they were more concerned with trying to detect heavy/bulky items. A joint or small pipe stashed away could’ve easily gotten through.

Next, there was the staff member with the metal detector wand. They “wanded” us over our upper torso, midsection, and arms but that was about it. Sometimes the venue may also give you a pat down, although I doubt they perform those like TSA.

Once we got through these two stations, there was a third staff member who scanned our QR code and we were officially in the venue!

Red Rocks Amphitheater north entrance

Know what items to bring and not to bring: not always so clear

You can find the full list of things allowed and not allowed on the Red Rocks website. Some prohibited items that you might not expect include some cameras, aerosols (including sunscreen), tablets, and gum.

But here’s something to know: there’s a bit of inconsistency with what you see on the official Red Rocks website versus how things actually go in the real world when it comes to security at Red Rocks.

A big question is often asked about bringing marijuana into the venue whether it be blunts, joints, pipes, or vapes.

On paper, Red Rocks clearly prohibits this: “All marijuana products are prohibited at Red Rocks.”

But in practice, the enforcement policy on these is going to differ a bit based on the artist and the event. For example, security might be quicker to come tell you to put out your joint at a certain type of event if you are smoking in broad daylight.

During our 311 concert, the smell of bud filled the atmosphere through the entire show from the opening acts through the encore. Clouds of smoke billowed from the crowd even before it got dark, even in areas close to the end of the rows.

It was pretty clear to me that the enforcement policy was to let people do their thing (within reason).

But waiting till dark and using a vape or pipe when away from the ends of rows will probably always be the most discreet way to go about it (besides edibles).

And keep in mind people can make complaints via calling in or texting and so you could always be reported if you’re sitting next to the “wrong” people.

I’ve also seen reports of staff “spraying” out joints and giving people warnings. So just don’t be a nuisance and have some situational awareness as to how things are being enforced at your event and you’ll be fine.

When it comes to bringing additional “prohibited” items, there are also some other discrepancies.

For example, umbrellas are not allowed but the staff let us know that if you keep them in your bag while in the audience, there is no issue (so you could use them while standing outside if a rain shower popped up).

Another thing is the new bag policy, requiring bags to only have one pocket. We saw a few bags let in that clearly did not meet this requirement.

Obviously, if you don’t want any issues you should err on the side of being cautious but just know that there may be some wiggle room with event staff, depending on the nature of the event.

Red Rocks Amphitheater security

A checklist of items worth bringing

In terms of the things you’ll want to consider bringing, here’s a list:

  • Well charged phone with tickets already pulled up in app before you leave your house/hotel
  • Comfortable shoes for steep walking (hiking boots not needed)
  • Light jacket or sweater (evenings can get cool or downright cold)
  • Rain poncho or waterproof jacket (in case of inclement weather)
  • Blanket, towel, or seat cushion to sit on
  • Binoculars (for a closer view of the stage and surrounding scenery)
  • Small backpack or bag with single pocket for personal items
  • Sunscreen and hat (for tailgating and openers)
  • Sealed water bottles
  • Snacks or packed food (in clear plastic bag)
  • Personal medications (if necessary)
  • Chapstick

Enhancing the Red Rocks Experience

Arriving early: benefits of exploring the venue before the concert starts

I would actually recommend you to visit Red Rocks well before you attend a concert if possible.

We visited Red Rocks a few weeks before our concert and did a little bit of hiking in the morning and then just went up the amphitheater steps to check out the views. This really helped us to get a sense of where we might want to sit and got us generally familiar with the layout of the venue.

Even if you only have time in the morning or early afternoon of your concert, it could help to go check it out before the concert. You can also spend some time visiting the Colorado Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Tailgating at Red Rocks: tips for pre-show festivities and community bonding

Tailgating is definitely a part of the experience and as mentioned it goes on in many of the different parking lots.

One of the coveted lots is the upper north lot (that has close access to the amphitheater) which we initially wanted to park in but we were redirected to the lower north lot, which still had a good amount of tailgating going on. But others have good things to say about the Upper South lot if you really want to party.

If you plan on tailgating, they do have some rules you need to follow which include:

  • Tailgating must be confined to the rear of your vehicle and not interfere with the parking of other vehicles.
  • You may not block off other parking areas or spots.
  • Loudspeakers, tents and canopies are not permitted.
  • Open flame fires and charcoal grills are prohibited – no large BBQs. Food and beverages should be for personal consumption for your ticketed party.
  • Small gas-controlled grills are allowed unless there are temporary fire bans in effect.
  • Propane grills must be at least 12” off the ground and the flame no more 6” high.
  • Glass is not permitted in any area of the park. Use cans or plastic instead.

Each of the parking lots will have a few portable toilets for you to use but be prepared for some potentially long lines.

If you want to move around and kill some time, you could also do some light hiking.

Probably the best trail to do which is easy to moderate would be the Trading Post Trail, which we have done and really liked as it takes you that close to many of the rock formations.

Red Rocks Amphitheater tailgating

Finding the best seats at Red Rocks

Now on to finding the “best seats” at Red Rocks.

If you followed my suggestion and previously visited the venue, you’ll have a solid idea of the seating preference you’d like.

For those without reserved seats and opting for general admission, you’ll sometimes have a plethora of choices.

By inquiring around, you’ll receive recommendations for nearly every section within the venue, ranging from the front rows to the very back.

So to give you some clarity here are my recommendations based on my personal experience and all of the (very thorough) research I did before experiencing Red Rocks.

Red Rocks Amphitheater view from last row

For those who are willing to arrive early, securing seats in the front rows at Red Rocks guarantees an up-close and electric concert experience. The pulsating energy of the crowd, the lighting, and the raw connection with the performers create an atmosphere that resonates on a primal level.

But you’ll need to line-up early. Get to the gates 30 minutes to an hour(+) before they open to get up close. Also, keep in mind some of the seats are reserved for accessible seating and also VIP seating.

If you sit in the middle portion, you still experience some of that energy from the front section and the good acoustics, but you also get to appreciate more of the amphitheater and enjoy views of Downtown Denver and Dinosaur Ridge.

These seats would be the seats around rows 30 to 40 but you still need to arrive early to lock these down lots of times. Also, some of these can be reserved at times.

If you’re seated towards the back (rows 50+), you should be able to find more space between you and others and you’ll have the most expansive view of the entire venue and backdrop of the city lights. Our 311 concert was around July 4 so we also had the benefit of admiring a beautiful fireworks show from around row 60.

Of course, from the back the band members are much smaller although the screens help you still get a good feel of what’s going on down on the stage. The biggest drawback could be that the acoustics could be impacted, particularly if there is a lot of wind.

Red Rocks Amphitheater fireworks

A good amount of people were also standing in the aisle ways of the stairs and posted up on the ledges hanging out under the trees so depending on how staff is enforcing things, you can get a little creative with your seating situation.

Once you do locate your seat, memorize your row number. There were at least a few people who I found coming through our row and getting lost as they struggled to locate their row.

Keep in mind that your seat is pretty much going to just be a wooden bleacher.

If you’re worried about comfort, you can go out and buy one of those stadium seats and bring those in as long as they are not wider than 18 inches and do not have legs. Only a very tiny sliver of people had these during the 311 concert.

Personally, I was tempted to use one of these but in the end the bench seating was not that bad and we stood up 95% of the time during 311’s performance.

There are no seats with obstructions in this amphitheater which is one of the major perks of its design.

But I would try to avoid rows that connect directly to concessions or drink stands because you’ll experience A LOT of traffic coming through during the entire show.

Red Rocks Amphitheater at sunset

Also, while general admission means you can take anything you want there is some concert etiquette that goes into this. When securing a seat, avoid trying to squeeze people in, especially if you are arriving late.

If there is a lot of space between people, they will usually happily scoot over to give you some room but if you’re going to force them to get squished in, you should probably look for seat somewhere else.

Having people come into your space is much more common in the lower rows near the stage where people have a different expectation of personal space, so if you don’t want to deal with much of that you can head up towards the top.

I will say 311 creates some great vibes and all of the people we were seated around were really cool.

The only slightly annoying thing was when everyone was sitting down during the opening acts.

On occasion, people walking by would kick us in the back trying to make their way through, despite there being a pretty wide aisle.

Also, towards the end of the concert when lots of people were leaving early, a decent number of people were stumbling through without sufficient lighting to guide them to the exit aisle.

But overall, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

Red Rocks Amphitheater 311

Food and Refreshments

Exploring the culinary offerings: notable food vendors and concessions

If you’re looking for alcohol, you can find bars located throughout the venue from top to bottom. Some of these had long lines, but the small bar near our row 63 at the top seemed to serve people quickly. Expect to pay $13 to $15 for an alcoholic beverage and about $6 for a bottle of water.

Red Rocks Amphitheater beer pricing
Prices from summer 2023.

You can also find concessions on the bottom of either entrance as well as at the top of the venue (whenever construction is finished). They serve up everything from tacos, burgers, hotdogs, and pizza.

Bringing your own snacks and beverages: permitted items and restrictions

We didn’t really want to mess around with the concession stands and waiting in those crazy long lines (although you can apparently order through the app to avoid the lines).

So we decided to just bring our own food which consisted of chips, beef jerky, and some candy for the sugar rush. We also brought in gummies since I’m not much of a smoker these days. We simply put these in a clear Ziploc bag inside of our tote bag and got them in just fine.

Security did seem pretty strict on the closed container requirement for liquids.

If you bring in bottles of water or other permitted liquids, they have to be factory sealed. Also they don’t allow certain types of beverages like aluminum cans or anything with glass.

Near the upper north lot, they did have a Chick-fil-A pop-up that stayed open all the way until after the concert was finished but as good as it sounded, I didn’t like the thought of paying $9 for a chicken sandwich, so we passed.

If you’re looking to get some merchandise, head to the lower south clamshell. Occasionally, there might be other spots to grab merch, but regardless of where it’s sold be quick when going for your merch. The popular items tend to sell out fast, and the merchandise lines can become quite lengthy.

Accessible facilities and services

As mentioned, if you need accessible seating you can find that at the bottom and top of the venue. Look into getting shuttled from the parking lot if needed.

Bathrooms can be found at the bottom of the amphitheater on both sides (north and south) as well as up top around the visitor center.

Red Rocks Amphitheater crowd

Final Word

For any music lover, heading to Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a true bucket list experience.

For the most part you don’t have to stress too much about the details as just about any seat in the house will offer you a memorable experience.

But for those who want to optimize their experience, knowing things like what to bring, where to tailgate, where to sit, and what to expect can help make your experience that much smoother!

15 Things to do in Estes Park, Colorado [2023]

Estes Park is one of the most beautiful mountain towns I’ve ever visited.

In addition to the great scenery, there’s a lot of things to do, from enjoying the leisurely strolls along the scenic river walk to getting adventurous in the mountains.

In this article, I’ll break down some of the best things to do when in Estes Park based on our personal experiences.

Rocky Mountain National Park

For lots of people coming to Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park is the number one attraction. And there are a lot of ways to enjoy the park.

You will need to get familiar with the timed entry system and how it applies to the specific time you’re visiting.

We always just opt to enter the park before the timed entry system begins which means waking up really early but it’s always worth it even though it might be in the 30s (Fº) when you enter the park!

As far as hiking goes, there are endless hiking options and Rocky Mountain National Park is my #1 national park in the US in terms of bang for buck hiking.

Mills Lake Rocky Mountain National Park

Personally, I really like the Bear Lake Corridor even though it is often busy with other hikers and tourists.

If you’re down for something strenuous, consider the hike to Sky Pond which allows you to hit scramble up alongside a waterfall and see some stunning alpine lakes. Chasm Lake is another great strenuous hike. 

The hike to Dream Lake and Emerald Lake is more of the moderate category and still offers stunning scenery along the way but it can get quite crowded if you wait too long to begin.

dream Lake Rocky Mountain National Park

If you just want something easy and team take a stroll around Bear Lake, which is right next to the parking area.

bear Lake Rocky Mountain National Park

I also recommend looking into the Gem Lake Trail.

This trail is very close to Estes Park proper and gives you a good feel for the mountainous terrain surrounding Estes Park while offering you great views of the nearby peaks and Estes Park itself.

gem Lake Rocky Mountain National Park

Something else you can do is just take a drive through the park, looking for wildlife. During our travels we spotted insane amounts of elk including some with some magnificent racks. We also found several moose, deer, and marmots.

Estes Park River Walk

The Estes Park Riverwalk is a paved path that runs through the heart of Downtown Estes Park, alongside the Big Thompson and Fall River.

Lots of tourists only see small parts of it when they visit but I would recommend you starting from the very beginning which is near the Estes Park Visitor Center, where you can also find free parking.

From there, you can make your way to Performance Park, covering approximately 1.1 miles one-way.

Estes Park River Walk

Along the way there’s a lot to check out. You’ll find outdoor instruments like chimes and xylophones as well as several art installations, monuments, and you may even encounter locals fly fishing.

My favorite part of the River Walk is just enjoying the beautiful forest scenery, with pines, fir trees, and quaking aspens lining the rushing river – it’s incredibly scenic.

Be sure to find a bench to hang out on for a while and enjoy the therapeutic sights and sounds of the river, which many people like to do with a hot cup of coffee or tea in hand.  

Estes Park River Walk

The Riverwalk takes you behind Elkhorn Avenue which is the main street home to a vast amount of shops, restaurants, and cafes.

If you’ve never been to Estes, you might be overwhelmed by the number of options with an ice cream or fudge shop seemingly every few feet, so be sure to check out our guide on the best places to eat.

When checking out the Riverwalk, I recommend also doing the pika statue scavenger hunt.

You’ll be looking for 12 pint-sized statues which are hidden in various spots and you can use clues to find them along with helping you gain some insight into the people who helped develop the region. Find all of them and you can unlock a special button from the visitor center.

Speaking of the visitor center, it’s a good idea to stop by to pick up maps, recommendations for restaurants and things to do, and the main guidebook which has coupons that can save you several bucks at different restaurants.

Estes Park River Walk

Lake Estes

Lake Estes is a reservoir located in Estes Park, Colorado, that is a popular tourist destination due to its scenery, wildlife, and recreational opportunities. It encompasses 185 surface acres, boasts 5 miles of shoreline, and reaches a maximum depth of 45 feet.

Completed in 1948, Lake Estes was created as part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, (C-BT), which is a large-scale water diversion and storage project in Colorado developed to address water supply needs, irrigation demands, and hydroelectric power generation in the region.

Lake Estes

One of my favorite things to do while in Estes was to take walks with our dog around the lake and just enjoy the scenery of the front range mountains including the iconic Longs Peak.

This is also a great place to encounter local wildlife. Prepare to be awestruck as you witness the majestic elk gracefully wandering around the lake’s shores, with a few daring individuals even taking refreshing swims in the cool waters.

And if luck is on your side, keep your eyes peeled for the extraordinary sight of bald eagles perched on the powerlines

Lake Estes elk

A lot of people like to rent paddle boards, kayaks, and other small boats to enjoy the lake and you can rent these from the Lake Estes Marina.

You can also get a temporary fishing license along with bait at the marina as fishing is one of the most popular things to do in the lake.

Lots of the parking is found in the areas but if you want to secure free parking just had to Fisherman’s Nook, on the north side of the lake.

Also, as a bonus you should check out Mary’s Lake which is just a couple of minutes away from the heart of Estes Park. You’ll find smaller crowds there and there are some cool rocky outcroppings you can climb up to and enjoy the views.

Stanley Hotel

Built in 1909 by F.O. Stanley, this grand landmark was the inspiration for Stephen King’s spine-chilling novel, “The Shining.” After King stayed at the property for only one night, just before it closed down for winter, he reportedly had the entire haunting story created in his head.

The hotel has hosted famous personalities like Theodore Roosevelt and John Lennon and is also well known for its paranormal activity.

Stanley Hotel

You can experience the hotel in a number of ways.

For one, you can just stay at the hotel and maybe even try to get into room 217, known for its supernatural activity.

Some people have only lasted a matter of hours in that room so you may not want to go into booking that without thinking things through first.

Or you can opt for a tour, such as a ghost tour, where you will explore the eerie corners and haunted rooms.

During our stay, we did the Shining Tour which dives deep into the origin of the story and also is effectively a ghost tour since you learn about some of the main hauntings in the property and get to walk down haunted hallways if you’re up for it.

The tour even allows you to catch a glimpse of the axe used in The Shining along with a haunting recreation of the bathroom from room 237 seen in the movie. I highly recommend it!

Stanley Hotel shining axe

Historic Park Theatre

Built in 1913, the Historic Park Theatre in Estes Park is one of the oldest operating movie theaters in the country and a renowned cultural landmark nestled in the heart of the town.

In 1922, Ralph Gwynn assumed ownership of the theatre and built the landmark tower known as the “Tower of Love” as a tribute to the love of his life, but it’s not quite as sweet a gesture as you might imagine.

On the day they were meant to unite their lives, the love of Gwynn’s life vanished, leaving him standing alone at the altar. Perhaps seeking a twisted form of closure, Gwynn built the tower to represent the beautiful love of his life: beautiful on the outside and hollow and empty on the inside.

Historic Park Theatre

If you are accustomed to the lavish amenities of fully equipped modern theaters, you’ll find that your viewing experience at the Historic Park Theatre in Estes Park offers a departure from those cookie-cutter multiplexes.

But it’s still a great place to embrace the vintage cinematic experience and it’s not so bad. While the seats are a bit stiff, you can find cushions in the back to help you get comfortable. And with your staple concessions items available, it’s not a bad way to catch a movie.

Historic Park Theatre

Rock Shop

Make sure you go to the one of the rock shops in Estes Park before leaving.

I’d recommend taking a visit to the Red Rose Rock Shop which features all sorts of minerals, gemstones, and fossils.

Personally, I never really spent time in a rock shop before so I did not even realize that you could purchase fossils like the ones found in the shop so I thought that was extremely interesting. You’ll come across things like dinosaur bones, petrified wood, megalodon teeth, trilobites, and many more oddities.

It’s also a great place to find some beautiful gemstones and crystals that would make for great souvenirs which would be much better than the standard boring souvenirs you typically find a gift shop.

Out back, you’ll also find a pond and they give you food if you’d like to feed some of the ducks.

There’s another rock shop located in downtown that’s a little bit more of a premium gift shop where you might find jewelry.

Rock Shop

Estes Park Museum

The Estes Park Museum is a free museum where you can explore the origins of the region. Learn about the key players in the development of the town and how it emerged as a tourism mecca.

One of the standout attractions within the museum is the impeccably maintained 1909 model EX Stanley Steamer Runabout, a truly remarkable vehicle with the impressive ability to reach speeds of up to sixty-five miles per hour.

Another must see is the historic cabin from the early 1900s, which you can go inside of. It’s a modest museum but still worth checking out for a little while.

Estes Park Museum

Birch Ruins

The Birch Ruins are well-preserved remnants of a stone bungalow built in 1907 and owned by Albert ‘Al’ Birch, the editor of the Denver Post.

Starting in 1903, Birch spent his summers in Estes Park and after a few years, he developed a deep affection for the place and commissioned stonemason Carl Piltz to construct a small bungalow on this rocky outcropping, offering a scenic view of the town.

Unfortunately, in 1907, the bungalow was destroyed by fire, leaving behind only the stone ruins, which can still be explored today.

Admission is free to explore the ruins and only a short and easy hike is required to see them. This is a great way to experience a little bit of nature without having to venture away from the downtown area and the views are pretty impressive.

Birch Ruins

Peak to Peak Scenic Byway

Estes Park is located at the beginning (or end) of one of the most popular scenic highways in Colorado.

It’s known as the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway and it’s a great place to go for a scenic drive especially during the color change which would be in late September or early October.

In addition to some really great views along the way, you’ll be able stop and see the famous rock chapel, take a pit stop in Allenspark for one of the famous cinnamon rolls, and check out the historic carousel or dine inside a train car in Nederland.

There are plenty of side routes to ghost towns, beautiful hiking areas, and historical sites. Some of these require some advanced planning so be sure to check out the article linked above.  

You’ll finish up in the competing casino towns of Blackhawk and Central before heading back or you can continue on to Interstate 70 if you are heading to Denver or other nearby areas.

It’s a great drive because you can knock it out in about 1.5 hours one way, making it a very reasonable road trip to do.

Peak to Peak Scenic Byway

Stanley Home Museum

The Stanley Home Museum is a new historic house museum in Estes Park, Colorado. Built in 1904 by Freelan Oscar (“F.O.”) Stanley and his wife Flora, it’s a fine example of Colonial Revival architecture and it was used by the Stanley’s as a summer home for decades.

Furnished with period pieces throughout the rooms, the museum takes you back to the early 1900s while allowing you to learn about the remarkable contributions this couple made to the Estes Park area.

As you get taken from room to room, more of the “Stanley story” will begin to come together.

You’ll realize just how far reaching F.O.’s impact was, be it through the iconic Stanley Hotel, the creation of tourism-enhancing roads, the establishment of a power plant that illuminated the town, or even his role in the formation of Rocky Mountain National Park.

It’s pretty inspiring to hear about all of the accomplishments. If you have an interest in history, entrepreneurship, or antiques, this tour will be right up your alley.

Stanley Home Museum

Historic Power Plant

The Historic Fall River Hydroplant is a former hydroelectric power plant located in Estes Park, Colorado. It was built in 1909 by F.O. Stanley to provide electricity for the Stanley Hotel and ultimately the town of Estes Park.

The plant was damaged in the Lawn Lake Flood of 1982, but was restored and is now open to the public as a museum. It’s a great place to learn about the history of hydroelectric power and the development of Estes Park.

You’ll get a good overview of FL Stanley and get taken through the plant to get it up close look at the turbines and generators used.

For people with a mechanical or engineering background, they will probably love all of the technical inside all over your average person like myself you might get a little bit lost.

Still, it’s interesting to come away with some tidbits of information and two also learn about the catastrophic flood of 1982 and the impact that it had on the community.

The plant is open from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from June through September. The guided tours are offered at 1 PM, 2 PM, and 3 PM and usually last about 45 minutes to an hour.

Here’s your inside tip, though: you don’t necessarily have to arrive right at the beginning of the hour to jump on a tour. We arrived about 20 minutes prior to 3 PM and the volunteers were able to get us started on our own personal tour which was extremely nice of them.

The other great thing about this attraction is that it is 100% free but you can always consider making a donation.

Historic fall Power Plant

Farmer’s Market

The Estes Park Farmers Market is a weekly event where local farmers and vendors sell fresh produce, baked goods, and other Colorado-made products. It typically begins at the beginning of June and will run until the end of September.

It takes place every Thursday and runs from 8 AM to 1 PM, which is great because it allows the market to remain open for a few hours before those summer thunderstorms roll into the mountains.

We visited this market and really enjoyed engaging with all of the different friendly vendors and supporting the different small businesses.

We walked away with some delicious handcrafted chocolate peanut butter cups in addition to honey infused with whiskey barrel flavor. But you can find everything from tamales to bison sausage here.

I recommend heading here for breakfast as you won’t be disappointed by some of the pastry options.

Farmer’s Market

Estes Park Memorial Observatory

The Estes Park Memorial Observatory is another free activity that’s great for anyone interested in exploring the night sky. It’s home to a 16-inch telescope capable of giving you great views of galaxies, nebulas, and brilliant star clusters.

You’ll need to contact them and request a booking in advance and then hope for clear skies.

Unfortunately for us, the skies did not open up so we are observing night was canceled but I’m hoping to return at some point to do some observing.

Estes Ark

If you’re looking for something somewhat bizarre to see check out the “Estes Ark” which is a scaled down version of Noah’s ark.

The ark is filled with thousands of stuffed animals that come in all different varieties along with lots of antiques. It’s one of the stranger things to come across but perfect for those with a love of stuffed animals or a fascination with Noah’s Ark.

Other activities you can enjoy

In addition to hiking, if you want to get out and be active there are a lot of activities you can book like white water rafting, high ropes courses, fly fishing.

You’ll also find a couple of places around town to enjoy things like go karts and miniature golf.

You can head to the visitor center to pick up information on the different vendors available or sometimes you can find their headquarters located along the Riverwalk or Elkhorn Avenue.

Final word

There’s obviously a lot that you can do in Estes Park and the good news is that there are quite a few free things you can do. If you enjoy spending time in nature, you will no doubt enjoy your time in Estes Park!

Argo Mill And Tunnel Tour Review: A Fascinating Look at the History of Gold Mining in Colorado

One of the biggest attractions in Idaho Springs, Colorado, is the Argo Mill tour.

As you step inside this historic landmark you’ll be transported back in time to the early 1900s, immersing yourself in the well-preserved corridors that once buzzed with activity.

It’s an incredible experience to witness firsthand the machinery and infrastructure that played a crucial role in the mining industry of the era.

As you explore the corridors, you’ll learn fascinating details about the history of the mill and the various mining processes that were used to extract precious minerals from the surrounding earth.

It’s a unique opportunity to gain insight into the ingenuity and hard work that shaped the development of the region during that time period and below, I’ll tell you everything you need to know before your visit.

What is the Argo Mill?

The Argo Mill is a historic gold mill located in Idaho Springs, Colorado, that played a major role in the Colorado Gold Rush for several decades. Today, visitors can take a tour of the mill, learn about its history, and even partake in some gold panning (and yes, you can keep what you find)!

It was built in 1891 and was one of the largest and most technologically advanced mills in the world at the time, processing ore from several mines in the area and becoming a major economic driver for the region.

Equally impressive was the Argo Tunnel, a remarkable engineering marvel that served a dual purpose. Not only did it effectively address the crucial mine drainage needs, but it also provided a more efficient means of transporting the valuable ore.

The Colorado and Southern Narrow Gauge Railroad ran directly in front of the Argo Mill and provided easy transport to the smelters and the United States Mint, which was located in Denver due to its proximity to these riches.

The Argo Mill was closed in 1943 following a fatal underground accident, which you will learn plenty about. However, it was restored in the 1970s and is now a popular tourist destination and a National Historic Landmark.

Argo Mill Tour

How to book a tour to The Argo Mill

If you want to visit the Argo Mill, I’d highly recommend that you book online. Some of the tours do sell out in advance and we had a 100% full tour when we visited, so you don’t want to wait around too long.

Here are the tour prices you can expect:

  • Adults: $25
  • Children (ages 5–16): $20
  • Children age 1-4: $4
  • Infants: Free

It is possible to just book a panning session but I’d highly recommend that you go for the full tour.

Argo Mill Tour

How to get to the Argo Mill

The Argo Mill is located in Idaho Springs, Colorado, right along I-70 about 40 minutes west of Denver.

If you pull up the address via Google Maps directions might try to take you to the rear of the mill but you can easily find the parking lot if you turn onto Riverside Drive and simply head towards the main parking lot.

You’ll see a building for Argo Mill tours and you can head inside to check-in at the cashier.

Our experience at The Argo Mill

The experience kicks off with an informative video introduction that delves into the significance of the Argo Mill and the Argo Tunnel.

You’ll gain a deep understanding of the pivotal role these structures played in the mining industry and their extensive network of tributaries. The video provides a captivating overview of the historical context, showcasing the immense scale of operations and the vital contributions made by the mill and tunnel in processing and transporting precious minerals

After the movie, it will be time to head outside and take the shuttle bus up to the top of the mill.

Argo Mill Tour

It’s a steep drop off from the side of the dirt road and there are no rails so if you are afraid of heights it’s best to just not look that way. Luckily, it’s a short journey.

Argo Mill Tour

As you make your way across the top of the mill, you’ll have some great views of Idaho Springs and the lower portions of the structure. You really get a sense of how big the facility was.

Argo Mill Tour
Argo Mill Tour

Once we made it to the top, the first destination to explore was the Argo Tunnel. But before heading inside you need to grab a hardhat.

Argo Mill Tour men in hard hats
Argo Mill Tour tunnel

Then it’s time to venture inside the tunnel and explore its intriguing corridors, but don’t worry, you won’t be trekking for miles in a sketchy cave!

Your journey will take you approximately 60 yards into the Argo Tunnel, a remarkable feat of engineering that stretches a staggering 4.16 miles (6.69 km) in total.

As you delve into the well-lit tunnel, you’ll discover the story of the catastrophic flood that wreaked havoc within its depths. It’s both fascinating and horrifying to think about the power of mother nature that burst through this tunnel, now contained behind the mighty bulkhead structure.

Argo Mill Tour tunnel

You’ll then get a chance to explore the claims office where miners would come to register their mining claims and deal with legal matters pertaining to their operations.

The claims office served as a hub of activity, where miners would present their documentation, discuss property boundaries, and resolve disputes. It was here where contracts were negotiated, fees were paid, and the legal framework of mining operations was upheld.

Be sure to pop in for a couple of minutes to check out some of the historical photographs and articles.

Argo Mill Tour

Then it’s time to head inside the big red Argo Mill, which is the highlight of the tour in my opinion.

Taking in the scents of aged wood, metal, and earth, you’ll be transported back in time to the bustling world of gold milling. The mill is a remarkable sight to behold, with its intricate machinery and towering structures — you just imagine all the bustling activity that took place.

Inside, you’ll have the opportunity to explore all of the different levels of the mill. From the crushing and grinding rooms to the cyanide processing areas, lots of the original equipment is still intact.

Along the way, knowledgeable guides will share fascinating details about the various steps involved in the milling process, including how the ore was crushed, pulverized, and treated with chemicals to extract the precious gold.

Standing in the chambers once used for the stamp mill you can imagine the sounds of these contraptions rhythmically pounding on the rocks, generating a thunderous noise as pieces of ore were pulverized into tiny rocks.

Argo Mill Tour

It’s also quite powerful to learn about the challenges and obstacles that workers faced while working in the mills.

The conditions were often harsh, with loud machinery causing hearing loss over time, and the constant exposure to dust and hazardous chemicals leading to respiratory diseases. The toll on their health was significant, and many workers faced shortened life expectancies due to the demanding nature of their jobs.

Understanding the sacrifices and risks they endured adds a somber perspective to the history of the mills and reminds us of the human cost behind the quest for gold during the Colorado gold rush.

Argo Mill Tour

Once you’ve had the opportunity to explore several levels, you will eventually descend to the museum level. Here, a wide array of artifacts awaits, transporting you back to the mining era.

From old paystubs to captivating historic photographs, you can immerse yourself in the rich heritage of those days.

Argo Mill Tour

Additionally, you can even experience the sensation of handling some of the tools once wielded by the miners themselves.

Argo Mill Tour
Argo Mill Tour
Argo Mill Tour

When you exit the museum, you’ll be back on the main ground level where even more old mining artifacts are on display, including a stamp mill that once crushed rocks to extract gold and other precious minerals.

Argo Mill Tour

Gold panning

Each tour ticket price includes gold panning lessons, giving you the opportunity to test your luck with an ore sample containing genuine “placer gold.”

Placer gold, formed through the erosion and deposition of gold by natural forces like water or wind, is commonly found in stream beds and riverbanks and that’s what you’ll be looking for.

The experienced guides will teach you the proper techniques of swirling the pan, allowing the heavier gold particles to settle at the bottom.

Tip: Record the steps because there are a lot and you’ll be able to reference them later, even if it’s another time!

Argo Mill Tour panning

As you gently shake the pan, the lighter sediment washes away, revealing the glimmering specks of gold. It’s an exciting and hands-on experience that connects you to the exhilaration and anticipation that prospectors felt during the Colorado gold rush.

Whether you strike it rich or not, the thrill of uncovering genuine gold flakes is an unforgettable moment that brings the history of the gold rush to life.

Argo Mill Tour panning

On average, you’ll find about three little flakes of gold although some will find more than that (I had four).

I’m not going to lie, I suspect these pans are pre-loaded with gold flakes. But regardless, it was still really cool to find some little shining pieces of gold that I could take home.

Tip: To make it easier for your eyes to spot the shimmering gold, avoid choosing a spot in the shade.

Argo Mill Tour panning

It’s not just gold you’ll find; you may also find a variety of gemstones like Peridot, Topaz, Garnet, Quartz, Amethyst, Citrine, or Agates.

Once you finish up with the panning, you can head to the gift shop and find some souvenirs.

Argo Mill Tour gift shop
Argo Mill Tour gift shop

Final word

Overall, if you have an interest in the history of mining or the Colorado gold rush, this tour is a really interesting way to spend about an hour and a half. I learned a great deal throughout the tour and had fun with my first ever attempt at gold panning! If interested, I’d highly recommend that you book online!

How Big Is the Island of Oahu? (Size Comparisons with States & Cities)

Oahu, the vibrant and widely visited Hawaiian island, boasts the distinction of being home to the state capital, Honolulu.

However, the island’s actual size often leaves people wondering about its dimensions, as its remote location makes it challenging to gauge.

Understanding the scale of Oahu is crucial in order to grasp its geography and plan your island explorations more effectively.

To provide you with a comprehensive perspective, I will delve into the island’s dimensions and offer meaningful comparisons to enhance your understanding of its size.

How big is the island of Oahu?

The island of Oahu is approximately 597 square miles (1,545 square kilometers) in size, including small associated islands such as Ford Island plus those in Kāneʻohe Bay and off the eastern (windward) coast, making it the 20th-largest island in the United States.

As far as length and width goes, Oahu is 44 miles (71 km) long and 30 miles (48 km) wide and its shoreline is 227 miles (365 km) long. In other words, it’s about the length of the Panama Canal.

Oahu Hawaii

How does Oahu measure up to other Hawaiian Islands?

In terms of how Oahu stacks up to the other Hawaiian islands, it is the third largest Hawaiian island, following the Big Island (Hawaii) and Maui.

Even though some believe Kauai to be one of the much smaller Hawaiian islands, Kauai and Oahu are actually very similar in size in terms of land area. Kauai is 552 square miles, which means that Oahu is only about 8% larger than Kauai.

But the Big Island is much larger than Oahu, coming in at 4,028 square miles. This means that the Big Island is about 6.7 times larger than Oahu.

The Big Island is also much taller than Oahu. The highest point on the Big Island is Mauna Kea, which is 13,803 feet tall. The highest point on Oahu is Ka’ala, which is 1,023 feet tall.

In terms of population, Oahu blows the other islands out of the water. The Big Island has about 190,000 people, while Oahu has about 980,000 people. This means that Oahu is about 5 times more populous than the Big Island. On the other hand, Kauai has a population of approximately 73,000 people, making Oahu roughly 13 times more populous than Kauai.

This much higher population is relevant to your travels around Oahu because in some places it can mean dealing with a lot more traffic both on the road and when trying to get around on foot, waiting in lines, etc.

Generally, if you want to get away from the throngs of tourists and urbanization, you don’t go to Oahu, or at least not Honolulu.

The big Island

How does Oahu measure up to other US states?

If you’re curious to compare Oahu with other states, here are some intriguing details. Oahu spans approximately half the size of Rhode Island, which covers 1,214 square miles.

In contrast, Texas encompasses a vast area of 268,596 square miles, making it roughly 450 times larger than Oahu.

But now let’s take a look at the size comparison of Oahu and different regions and cities of the US, starting off with another tropical area of the US: the sunny Florida Keys

The Florida Keys, while a completely different shape (a string of islands), are about 137 square miles, meaning that the Florida Keys are about 4.2 times smaller than Oahu, although they stretch over 150 miles farther!

What about lakes in the US?

Well, Oahu is much smaller than the biggest lake in the USA, Lake Superior, as Lake Superior is 31,700 square miles. This means that Lake Superior is about 53 times larger than Oahu in terms of land area!

One lake in the USA that is approximately 597 square miles in size is Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain, which is about 630 square miles. So you could theoretically fit Oahu inside the body of water just north of New Orleans.

What about regions?

Oahu is almost the exact size of Cape Cod Bay (604 square miles) meaning that Oahu could snugly fit inside of the hook-shaped peninsula.

And as for cities?

New York City, is about 304 square miles which means that Oahu is roughly twice the size of New York City. Houston, Texas, has a land area of 665 square miles (some say closer to 600), making it a very close fit for the island of Oahu.

The biggest county in the US, Los Angeles County, is about 4,058 square miles putting Los Angeles County about 6.8 times larger than Oahu in terms of land area.

Oahu seen from plane

How long does it take to drive around Oahu?

Contrary to what many think, you cannot drive around the entire island of Oahu because there is no road that completely encircles the island.

Instead, you can only drive along a portion of the island. Typically, when people talk about driving around the island they mean doing the “Eastern Loop” that runs along the stunning Kamehameha Highway (Route 83).

They then come down the center of the island because there is a small peninsula called Kaena Point that juts out into the Pacific Ocean on the northerwest shore which breaks up the continuity of an encircling highway route.

If you start in Waikiki, you can drive the ~110-mile loop around the eastern half of the island in about 3 hours and 30 minutes without stopping much, as shown by the map below.

Oahu loop map route

If you wanted to hit up the northern coast and western side of the island it would take about 5 to 6 hours, depending on traffic. Basically, you would be spending the entire day just driving around the island and you’d have to do some backtracking on the west side.

Oahu loop map route

The time estimations above assume that you make very few stops along the way.

The thing is, there are so many interesting sites to see along these highways!

From the beautiful landscapes of Kualoa Ranch to Pearl Harbor, and all of the beaches and waterfalls in between, you’ll likely want to stop a lot along the way.

So if you do plan on driving around the island of Oahu, I’d just go ahead and plan for that to be an all day event so that you can really enjoy some of the sites and make plenty of worthwhile stops along the way.

Final word

I hope this article has provided you with a better understanding of the size of Oahu.

Comparing it to familiar areas can indeed help in visualizing the island and anticipating what it will be like to navigate and explore. Having a sense of scale can also contribute to a more informed and enjoyable experience as you move around the captivating island of Oahu.

Guanella Pass Scenic Byway Guide: List of Sites to See & Tips [2023]

Colorado is renowned for its picturesque scenic byways that wind through magnificent mountain landscapes. Among these, the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway stands out as one of the most breathtaking routes to explore.

Whether you crave awe-inspiring vistas of majestic peaks towering over 14,000 feet or the thrilling possibility of encountering bighorn sheep or moose, the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway delivers an unforgettable experience.

Despite its relatively compact nature, this scenic byway offers an abundance of natural beauty, diverse terrain, and good ole fashioned, road trip excitement.

Below, I’ll break down the scenic drive for you so that when you decide to give it a try, you’ll be ready to maximize your time and see everything that it has to offer!

What is the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway?

The renowned Guanella Pass Scenic Byway is 22-mile stretch of highway, extending from Georgetown to Grant, between the South Platte and Clear Creek watersheds.

This meandering pathway leads explorers through dense woodlands of spruce, fir, aspen, and pine, gradually ascending above the treeline to unveil breathtaking panoramas of majestic peaks like Mount Bierstadt.

Along the way, you’ll also be treated to stunning vistas of Clear Lake and have the opportunity to encounter magnificent wildlife such as moose and bighorn sheep.

Related: Peak to Peak Scenic Byway Guide: List of Sites to See & Tips AND Mount Evans Scenic Byway: A Guide to the Highest Paved Road in North America

Guanella Pass Scenic Byway sign

How long does it take to do the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway?

The amount of time it’s going to take you to complete the scenic byway depends on how many stops you plan on taking. But generally speaking, it’s going to take you about one hour to do the one-way journey.

Guanella Pass Scenic Byway

What’s the best time of year to drive the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway?

The best time of the year to do the Guanella Pass Scenic Bywayis going to be during the fall color change which is typically early October.

We did the scenic drive during the summer which was a fantastic time. Lots of the mountain peaks were still wearing their snowy crowns and the aspens’ vibrant green hues made for pretty stunning scenery and were a feast for the eyes.

Since there are lots of large aspen grows along this byway this means that during the fall, it’s probably one of the best scenic byways to traverse.

Although you can easily find aspens throughout the route, there are special signs that put you on notice when a golden spectacle awaits.

Guanella Pass Scenic Byway leaves sign

But winter travelers be aware, the road is closed from around Thanksgiving time to Memorial Day, so don’t count on this being open all year round.

Is there wildlife to encounter along the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway?

During your drive along the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway, you’ll have the chance to encounter various wildlife, which is certainly one of the route’s highlights.

While taking in the breathtaking scenic drive, we were fortunate to come across one of the most coveted wildlife sightings: a majestic bull moose!

Guanella Pass Scenic Byway moose

We also encountered some beautiful deer alongside the road.

Guanella Pass Scenic Byway deer

Other fascinating wildlife you might encounter include bighorn sheep and there are some signs that point out where they might be seen perched high on rocky ledges or traversing steep terrain with ease.

What sites are on the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway?

In contrast to other scenic byways that traverse multiple towns, the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway predominantly immerses you in nature’s awe-inspiring beauty. It gives you a true Colorado experience.

Along the route, you will encounter picturesque lakes and trailheads, and for the most part, you will find yourself far removed from the hustle and bustle of civilization.

The byway starts off with a great overlook of Georgetown, once known as the “Silver Queen of the Rockies.”

From this vantage point, you are treated to a panoramic view that showcases both the town’s historic structures and the shimmering Georgetown Lake, setting the stage for your unforgettable road trip.

Georgetown, CO

As soon as you head south from historic Georgetown, you’ll encounter a couple of extremely scenic bodies of water.

The first is Green Lake which is a pretty stunning lake although it is bordered by private property and the owners make it very clear that trespassing is not allowed (albeit with creative no trespassing signs).

Guanella Pass Scenic Byway green lake

However, just a short distance beyond Green Lake, you’ll discover a cherished destination for outdoor enthusiasts: Clear Lake. This stunning lake attracts visitors who seek to indulge in activities such as kayaking, fishing, and immersing themselves in the great outdoors.

Guanella Pass Scenic Byway clear lake
Guanella Pass Scenic Byway clear lake
Guanella Pass Scenic Byway clear lake

The Xcel Energy Cabin Creek Hydroelectric power plant comes up next which is it another interesting spot to check out.

After a while you will arrive at the Guanella Pass Campground which is also where you will find the Silver Dollar Lake Trailhead. This is a really popular hiking area which takes you to the stunning Silver Dollar Lake.

Guanella Pass Scenic Byway

After some switchbacks you’ll see the Bierstadt Trailhead. At this point, you find yourself in the heart of the most visually captivating stretch of the byway and it might be hard for you to move on. It was such a beautiful spot. (They also have bathrooms.)

Mount Bierstadt Guanella Pass Scenic Byway

This is where you can hike one of the “easier” 14ers in Colorado: Mount Bierstadt. With the elevation, altitude, and mileage, it’s still not an easy hike by any means but for those wanting to conquer a14er without serious climbing or scrambling, this is a good contender.

Mount Bierstadt Guanella Pass Scenic Byway

You’ll then come across Duck Lake which is once again another lake surrounded by private property.

Guanella Pass Scenic Byway

As you continue to head south, you’ll encounter several more campgrounds and trail heads. The scenery on the southern portion of the scenic byway, after you pass through the summit area, is not quite as glorious.

However, it’s still really beautiful and you’ll discover gems like the cool waterfall right by the road at the Scott Gomer creek access and trail.

Guanella Pass Scenic Byway waterfall

Continuing along the route, you will encounter several inviting turnouts near the Geneva Creek, providing an opportunity to pause, unwind, and embrace tranquility. These turnouts beckon you to step out of your vehicle and find solace on one of the bridges that gracefully span the creek.

Guanella Pass Scenic Byway

Eventually you will end up at the junction with US Highway 285 which is the end of the scenic byway.

If you’re working up an appetite then I would highly suggest stopping at The Shaggy Sheep, which is just beyond the intersection.

They are known for their tasty burgers and country cooked meals. We tried one of their delectable burgers which we loved. And their fries? Crispy, golden, and served hot.

I also experimented with the smoked brisket although it wasn’t really for me though the coleslaw provided a delightful burst of freshness and tang to complement the “14 hours beef.”

If you have a sweet tooth, they are also known for their amazing desserts and cookies so you can’t go wrong. They also had excellent service which made our experience at this cozy little restaurant a very memorable one.

After relishing a delightful lunch, the time had come for us to retrace our steps along the scenic byway.

One of the notable aspects of this picturesque journey is its relatively short length, making it easily manageable to embark on a round trip if desired. It’s a great half day trip from Georgetown.

Final word

Like most of the scenic byways in Colorado, the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway did not disappoint. The abundance of flowing creeks, beautiful lakes, stunning mountain peaks, and the lucky wildlife spottings, made this a trip well worth it.

Berthoud Falls Cascades: Read This Before Visiting

If you’re ever driving along Hwy 40 in Colorado, be sure to take a couple of minutes to check out Berthoud Falls Cascades. It’s an incredibly accessible cascading waterfall that is hard to pass up if you know where to look.

Below, I’ll break down everything you need to know when visiting Berthoud Falls Cascades, including how to catch one of the most magnificent views it has to offer.

What is Berthoud Falls Cascades?

Berthoud Falls Cascades is a small and very easily reachable cascading waterfall situated right alongside the winding Hwy 40. Due to its compact size and close proximity to the highway, it presents an ideal opportunity for a brief stopover while exploring the surrounding region.

Berthoud Falls Cascades

How to get to Berthoud Falls Cascades

You’ll find the cascades when traveling on Hwy 40, just west of the town of Empire, Colorado.

You need to be careful when visiting Berthoud Falls Cascades because the turn off is located right on a hair point turn as seen below.

So try to slow down and put your blinker on as you are approaching the turn so that the cars behind you will be on notice. On busy weekends, this little curve could be a little treacherous. Check out the image below to see just how tight of a turn this is!

There’s not an official parking lot but it’s more of an extended turnout area with a ~50 foot pathway that leads to a bridge which the cascades run underneath.

When we visited, there were no other vehicles so we parked pretty close to the falls but when we were leaving there were a number of vehicles so the space can get a little bit tight at times. Try to park in a way that allows space for others.

Visiting Berthoud Falls Cascades

Berthoud Falls Cascades is a popular spot because the cascades are located only a few steps away from where you can park so you don’t have to do any kind of hiking to get to them.

They aren’t the biggest falls or the largest cascades you’ve probably ever seen but they are beautiful and if you visit in early summer when there is a lot of snow melt, the water will be flowing at a good rate.

Berthoud Falls Cascades

You can spend time exploring this area and simply meander around the creek. Exercise caution when approaching certain edges as the drop-off can be quite significant.

For those who are active minded, you can take the trail located on the right side of the creek.

Berthoud Falls Cascades

Get ready for a pretty steep scramble at times, like the ones you’d find near some waterfalls in Hawaii.

I highly suggest checking out this little trail because if you hike/scramble up just a bit, you’ll be treated to an awesome view of Hoop Creek with mountains in the background. It’s definitely worth it!

Berthoud Falls Cascades

It looked like the trail continued on but I’m not sure how long it goes on for. The creek intersects Highway 40 just a little bit upstream so I can’t imagine the trail being very long.

Oh, and make sure not to miss the incredible views along the road too! I couldn’t get enough of those stunning snow-capped mountains. They truly take your breath away!

Berthoud Falls Cascades turn off
Berthoud Falls Cascades turn off view
Berthoud Falls Cascades turn off view

As you can probably tell, this road is perfect for a summer drive with pleasant mountain temperatures and beautiful snowy peaks. However, Highway 70 is also an incredible route to take during the autumn season.

Highway 70 colorado

I noticed several expansive slopes covered with vibrant green quaking aspens, which undoubtedly transform into a dazzling golden-yellow spectacle in the fall. It’s no wonder this highway attracts a lot of attention when leaf peepers emerge to witness this captivating display.

Related: Peak to Peak Scenic Byway Guide: List of Sites to See & Tips

Highway 70

Where to eat when you’re in the neighborhood

If you’re working up an appetite and in the area, then my recommendation would be to check out Dairy King in nearby Empire, Colorado. And no, that is not a typo. The name of the joint is called “Dairy King,” and it’s a bit of a hidden gem.

They are known for their great burgers, extra salty fries, and wide range of shakes and malts. They also are dog friendly which is great for those of you road tripping with your furry friends.

Dairy King

We split one of their half pound burgers and then tried one of their specialty shakes which was an amazing peanut butter and marshmallow brownie concoction. And like I mentioned, if you like your fries extra salty, you’ll really love this place.

Beyond the food, the amazing weather, and snow-capped mountain views, the dining experience was made extra special because the staff was very friendly. So I couldn’t recommend this place enough!

Dairy King

Final word

Highway 40 meanders through the stunning Front Range mountains of Colorado, offering a picturesque route away from Interstate 70.

This scenic road is a popular choice for travelers heading to various destinations, including the renowned Hot Springs near Granby, ski resorts, and those seeking a breathtaking drive, particularly during the vibrant fall foliage season.

I wholeheartedly encourage making a brief stop at the Berthoud Falls Cascades. The cascades are conveniently accessible, and if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to scramble up and marvel at the awe-inspiring views they offer.

Estes Park Parking Tips: Read This Before Visiting!

If you’re going to Estes Park and bringing your car, finding the right parking spot can be a bit confusing. But don’t worry, there are resources to help you figure it out. What’s more, you can totally score free parking in Estes Park!

In this guide, I’ll hook you up with all the tips you need to know about parking before you visit Estes Park.

Tip #1: Head to the visitor center to get a parking map

When you arrive in Estes Park, one of your initial stops should be the Estes Park visitor center.

It’s a well-done facility staffed with friendly individuals who can address any inquiries you may have about the town.

Additionally, they offer a wealth of materials to assist you in discovering dining options, things to do, and more.

They have a visitors guide booklet that has a parking map inside of it which will have all of the latest lots and street parking labeled clearly so that you’ll be able to tell the paid lots from the free lots.

I highly suggest that you get that book and also it’s helpful because you can find coupons to some of the popular restaurants in town!

Related Estes Park articles:

Tip #2: There are free and paid lots scattered around town

When you take a look at the parking map mentioned above, you’ll see that there are free and paid lots scattered all around town. It’s usually easy to tell these apart because they are clearly marked as free or paid.

The maps label the parking lots with different animals to help you find where you are. They also use a color system to show you the difference between the paid and the free lots and those that have stricter time limits such as only one hour or three hours.

One thing to be aware of is that sometimes a free lot is located right next to a paid lot. So if you’re okay with just walking like 20 more steps you can completely avoid paying for parking!

Tip #3: You can take advantage of free EV charging

One of the coolest things about visiting Estes Park for us, was finding the free EV charging options.

We parked at the lot near the visitor center and utilized one of the EV spaces pretty much every time we went into town.

This incredible setup allowed us to keep our hybrid vehicle fully charged throughout the entire two-week adventure, and not a single drop of gasoline was used.

It was an absolute blast cruising through Rocky Mountain National Park without burning any gas. The whole experience felt refreshingly eco-friendly, as there is just something about utilizing electric power in a national park that just feels so right.

I don’t know if this will always be the case but the EV charging was also free so not only did we not use any gas but we did not have to pay for any electricity. Considering all the back-and-forth we did between Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, this was a major value add!

Tip #4: The two best free parking lots we used

There are two free parking lots I would suggest you consider using most of the time.

I already mentioned the first one which is located near the visitor center where there is a multilevel parking garage along with EV parking.

I like this because there are always empty spaces, it’s free, and it takes you to the beginning of the Riverwalk so you can enjoy a scenic walk as you head into town. It also has a pretty good view of the Stanley Hotel from the top floor.

The other free parking spot is located on Big Horn Dr.

There is a lot right behind the Himalayan Curry & Kebob restaurant but there is also free street parking there as well.

If you’re not in the mood for the walk all the way from the visitor center or you just don’t have the time then you can park there and you’ll be right in the heart of Elkhorn Avenue.

Tip #5: Use the trolley

Estes Park runs a trolley system that’s free to use.

From the Visitor Center, you can branch out to various parts of the city. The most popular trolley to use is probably the red trolley which takes you from the Visitor Center to the end of the busy part of Elkhorn Avenue.

But they have other colors that take you to different parts of the city, including places like the YMCA.

You can check out the map below which shows the trolley routes as of 2023.

Final word

There are quite a few different ways to go about parking in Estes Park. If you want to avoid paying for parking you definitely can do that by utilizing the various free lots found around the city. And if you have an electric vehicle, you’ll be happy to know that you can utilize free EV charging at some of the stations.

Georgetown Lake, Colorado Guide: Wildlife Spotting, Fishing, & Hiking

Nestled amidst the breathtaking landscapes of Colorado and bustling I-70, Georgetown Lake emerges as a true gem offering stunning scenery and abundant recreational opportunities.

Whether you’re yearning for the sight of majestic Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep gracefully roaming the rugged landscape, seeking a relaxing hike along the calm lake waters, or eager to cast a line and reel in the day’s catch, this lake has something for you.

Below, I’ll break down everything you need to know about Georgetown Lake, including how to enjoy your time there.

What is Georgetown Lake?

Georgetown Lake is a reservoir located in Clear Creek County, Colorado that’s a popular destination for wildlife spotting, fishing, boating, hiking, and some gnarly winter activities like ice racing.

Georgetown Lake

Where is Georgetown Lake?

Georgetown Lake is located in Clear Creek County, Colorado, about 45 miles west of Denver, right along Interstate 70.

You can find parking on different sides of the lake but mostly on the I-70 side.

Directly off Argentine Street, you’ll find a couple of different gravel parking lots, including some by the Georgetown Lake Bathrooms and the Wildlife Viewing Area. There are also spaces on the south side of the lake, near 22nd St.

On the other side of 22nd St., you’ll find the White Reservoir, which is a smaller lake that is surrounded by residential buildings including homes, condos, and a hotel.

Related: Discovering the Beauty of Lake Estes: A Guide to Scenic Trails and Wildlife Encounters

Georgetown Lake activities

Wildlife viewing

Georgetown Lake might be one of the best places in Colorado to spot Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, Colorado’s state animal.

The bighorn sheep, scientifically known as Ovis canadensis, are known for their impressive size, strength, and distinctive curved horns that adorn both males (rams) and females (ewes).

They are perfectly adapted to the rugged mountainous terrain and there are over 7,000 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in Colorado.

Georgetown Lake bighorn sheep

The bighorn sheep found in the cliffs above the lake are members of the Georgetown herd, a native population that has thrived here for generations.

It is believed that around 400 of these magnificent creatures call this region home, and efforts have been made to relocate some individuals to different areas in order to support their population growth and ensure their long-term survival.

Georgetown Lake bighorn sheep
Georgetown Lake bighorn sheep

The fall and the winter are supposedly the best times of year to observe bighorn sheep, particularly around the rut season when they gather in herds and are easier to spot. But we saw plenty in of sheep in June.

In terms of the best time of day, typically you’ll want to view during morning and late afternoon but we also had a lot of success near sunset.

At the lake, you’ll find a raised observation deck with a panoramic viewing platform and viewer scopes to enhance your wildlife spotting experience. The observation deck faces north which is technically the habitat zone for these but you can also find them on the south side of the lake (behind you).

Georgetown Lake bighorn sheep viewing area

A surefire method to catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures is to keep an eye out for their prominent, snowy hindquarters. If you happen upon one, it’s highly likely that you’ll encounter a gathering of their companions in the vicinity.

Georgetown Lake bighorn sheep

But don’t only fix your gaze to the mountains, because you might spot some aquatic wildlife hanging out near or in the lake like fastidious muskrats, which you can see pictured below.

And since this is the mountains, other wildlife you might encounter include bears and mountain lions although those tend to be rare.

Georgetown Lake muskrat


Georgetown Lake is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, providing a myriad of hiking opportunities that cater to every adventurer’s taste and skill level.

The primary pathway encircling the lake is known as the Tom Bennhoff Lake Trail.

If you’re up for a leisurely stroll, this path spans approximately 1.6 miles, guiding you along the scenic shoreline and weaving through enchanting wooded areas of pine, aspen, and fir.

This well-kept trail is a breeze to navigate, so you can leave those heavy hiking boots at home. With its mostly level terrain, you’ll only encounter a gentle ascent in a few spots, adding a touch of elevation to your journey.

Tom Bennhoff Lake Trail Georgetown Lake
Tom Bennhoff Lake Trail Georgetown Lake

One of the highlights of the trail is to check out the Harry M. Locke Dam on the north side of the lake. It’s location in the middle of the valley means that sometimes the winds can be ripping through this area which can be quite an experience. Make sure you hold onto your hat!

dam Georgetown Lake
Tom Bennhoff Lake Trail Georgetown Lake
Tom Bennhoff Lake Trail Georgetown Lake
Tom Bennhoff Lake Trail Georgetown Lake

As you progress on your journey, you will come across exquisitely crafted wooden benches adorned with uplifting and inspirational quotes and intricate carvings.

Tom Bennhoff Lake Trail Georgetown Lake

The Tom Bennhoff Lake Trail can also be a great launching point for longer and more strenuous hiking.

There are a couple of different trails that connect to the Silver Creek Trail which runs parallel to the lake and beyond for about 3 miles. It has some good scenery but you never are able to venture too far from the bustling hum of highway noise from I-70.

Silver Creek Trail
Hiking the Silver Creek Trail.

You also have the option of going all the way up to the summit of Saxon Mountain (11,533 feet) which is a pretty strenuous hike of 14 miles and 3,000 feet elevation gain.

Tom Bennhoff Lake Trail Georgetown Lake

If you need a respite from the chilly mountain air, there’s a warming hut offering you a small haven of warmth and comfort (reservations may be needed).

warming hut Georgetown Lake


One of the most widely enjoyed activities on the lake by both locals and visitors alike is fishing, which offers a perfect opportunity to immerse oneself in the serene waters, casting lines and patiently waiting for the elusive nibble.

When the weekend rolls around, you can bet your boots that folks will be scattered all around the perimeter of the lake, casting their lines and reeling in fish.

This place is a haven for anglers, stocked with rainbow trout that will put up a good fight. And you might even come across some elusive wild brown trout.

But don’t think the fun stops when the chill sets in.

Even during the frosty winter months, this spot remains a hotbed for ice fishing enthusiasts, drilling holes in the frozen surface and dropping their lines down below.

So whether it’s a sunny day in summer or a crisp winter’s eve, you can always count on the lake to be a prime destination for all your fishing adventures.

people fishing Georgetown Lake
people fishing Georgetown Lake
people fishing Georgetown Lake

Water sports

For those who love water activities, there’s another fun thing you can do – hop on a kayak or any other non-motorized boat and get right onto the water. (The boat put in is just beside the wildlife viewing platform.)

kayak on Georgetown Lake

It doesn’t seem like swimming is recommended and possibly it’s even prohibited based on some of the signs.

One of the major challenges of swimming here is that the water temperature remains so-cold throughout the year. In fact, one of the signs even warns of a recent casualty from someone who suffer hypothermia and passed away after their kayak overturned.

If you’re curious about the rules for the lake, here they are:

  • No alcohol allowed
  • No motorized boats of any kind
  • No sailboats in excess of 16′ in length
  • Approved Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) required for all types of watercraft
  • No open fires
  • No overnight camping without Town issued permit
  • Permits required for motorized vehicles on ice
  • Vehicles left unattended for more than 24 hours
  • may be towed at owner’s expense
  • Littering is illegal, take your trash with you!

Ice racing

Something else that is pretty unique about this lake is it in the winter they allow ice racing!

Drivers with four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive race their cars around a track on a frozen lake, and the fastest driver wins. It’s been an annual tradition for almost 50 years and you can look to make reservations for these events that take place in January and February.

They also have classes and Sunday fun days for people who want the experience without the pressure of competition.

Final word

Georgetown Lake is a great spot partly because of its easy access and close proximity to Denver and it has a lot going for it.

The extensive array of hiking choices caters to individuals seeking various levels of hiking, offering an ideal opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts of all skill levels.

Moreover, the generous expanse of shoreline provides an idyllic setting for anglers to cast their lines into the serene waters in pursuit of a prized catch.

And lastly, it is regarded as one of the premier locations in Colorado to catch awe-inspiring glimpses of the majestic Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep,

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