Our Colorado Travel Diary
If you happen to follow my personal Instagram account, you probably know that Rob and I took a long weekend trip to Denver, Colorado last weekend to get out of town for some rest, relaxation, and a change of scenery. Having grown up all over the US, I have a huge love for traveling and exploring new places. Rob and I also both love hiking and spending time outside, and we fell in love with western US when we visited Zion and Bryce Canyon on our 1st wedding anniversary.
After that trip, we made it a point to explore more and focus on building memories that we could cherish for a lifetime. Our last trip was last April when we went to New England and explored Boston and a tiny town in Maine. We were long overdue for another adventure, and when Rob’s friend, Austin, reached out to us after Layne passed away about coming out to Colorado, we knew that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore a new place and reset before we headed into a new season.
So today on the blog, I can’t wait to share with you our Colorado travel diary. If you plan to take a trip to the Denver, Colorado area in the future, here’s a little bit of where we ate as well as what we did — and even what we wish we would’ve had more time to do!
Where We Stayed
We took advantage of using our Hilton points, and we stayed at the Hilton Doubletree in Thorton. We have always had great luck with Hilton (sorry, mom and dad! – they are Marriott loyal), and this time was no different. It was really nice and quiet, clean, and the staff was super nice as well. Not to mention, we had free breakfast every morning – and there was a Starbucks directly in front of the hotel! Meanwhile, it was a great area, super close to a lot of restaurants and the outlets, and it wasn’t far of a drive to downtown. Since we didn’t spend hardly any time downtown, that didn’t bother me. When we go back, I’d definitely stay there again – but I’d probably like to rent a cabin closer to the parks!
Where We Ate
Pubhouse Brewery in Longmont, Colorado
When we finally made it to Colorado, we made the trip up to Longmont to hang out with Rob’s friend, Austin, and have a chill evening of catching up. It’s crazy to think we hadn’t all been together since Rob and I got married a little over 3 years ago. Rob grew up with Austin, so it was definitely a night full of belly laughs and old stories. For dinner, we headed to Pubhouse Brewery a couple blocks from Austin’s house. It was a great local spot for bar food and watching games on their jumbo TVs. Rob ordered a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich and fries. Meanwhile, I stuck with my diet and ordered the chicken salad in a wrap with fruit. It definitely wasn’t like a let-down healthy option. It was SO good!
Snooze in Denver, Colorado
Snooze was recommended to us by one of my best friends who use to live in Colorado. We wanted our first full day in town (Saturday) to be another day to hangout in the city and with Rob’s friend, so we decided that kicking it off at Snooze after an early morning workout at the hotel was the perfect way to start off the day. We got there relatively early for a Saturday morning, and there was a huge wait overflowing to the outside of the restaurant. I honestly didn’t mind the wait though with the free coffee and corn-hole boards on the sidewalk. Rob swears he won, but I’m not sure if I trust his score keeping.
For our meal, I stayed in the lighter side with the Sweet Potato Hash (added chicken sausage for extra protein) and one of the best cappuccinos topped with cinnamon. Meanwhile, Rob got the Snooze Spuds Deluxe with green chiles. The food was definitely worth the wait! It tied with The Roost on my favorite foodie spot of our trip.
The Roost in Longmont, Colorado
For dinner Saturday night, we met back up with Rob’s friend Austin in Longmont and walked a couple blocks again to The Roost (which is actually next door to Pubhouse Brewery!) It was a fantastic farm to table style place that prides itself on purchasing from local farms and ranchers. While Snooze was the best breakfast, The Roost was hands down the best dinner we had while we were in Colorado.
For our meal, we ordered a bunch of appetizers to share between the three of us. I particularly loved the lettuce wraps and the bangin’ cauliflower. Meanwhile, Rob and Austin loved the buffalo style tots and the bacon and queso tots. (Have you ever had tater tot nachos? Talk about a carb coma!)
The Locals Grill in Estes Park, Colorado
We spent the first half of Sunday at Rocky Mountain National Park before we went over to Estes Park to rent UTVs. But, we couldn’t drive UTVs on an empty stomach, so we stopped to have a quick lunch at The Locals Grill in Downtown Estes Park. To be honest, I really wasn’t expecting much from the appearance of the restaurant. However, Rob is usually the king at finding the best hole-in-the-wall places. I was pleasantly surprised that it was actually an amazing burger and sandwich place. Rob had an Elk burger that he still raves about, and I had one of the best grilled chicken sandwiches I’ve ever had!
Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ & Brew in Estes Park, Colorado
After renting UTVs in Estes Park, we all ended a super fun packed day with some of the best Texas-style barbecue that I’ve had (outside of Texas) at Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ & Brew. Rob and I are usually skeptical of Texas-style barbecue and Tex-Mex when we are not in Texas – and usually for a really good reason! However, it was a super fun and quirky place with seriously amazing food.
We were starving after playing with UTVs all afternoon, so for an appetizer we all shared the BBQ Nachos. We each then got our own Smokin’ Platter. Austin and I each got Texas BBQ Sausage and Texas Beef Brisket, and Rob got Texas BBQ Sausage and Smokin’ Buffalo Ribs. It’s safe to say this is a must-have if you’re ever in Estes Park! You will NOT regret it! We ate so much food that I promptly fell asleep about 5 minutes after pulling out of the parking lot.
Trail Ridge Cafe @ Alpine Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park
During our full day in Rocky Mountain National Park, we stopped at the Alpine Visitor Center off the Trail Ridge Road and enjoyed a cup of chili in the Trail Ridge Cafe. To be honest, it was really pricey (gotta get that tourist money!), and I wasn’t super impressed. However, with Rob and I both getting colds during the trip it definitely hit the spot on the last day. (Did I mention that it was in the mid-50s up there?!) All in all, you really couldn’t beat having lunch with that breathtaking view!
What We Did
Softball Games and Laughs
When we finally made it to Colorado, we made the trip up to Longmont to hang out with Rob’s friend, Austin, and have a chill evening of catching up. For dinner, we headed to Pubhouse Brewery a couple blocks from Austin’s house, and then we hung out at the softball fields and watched Austin’s softball game. We haven’t seen Austin since Rob and I got married a little over 3 years ago, so it was definitely a night full of belly laughs and rehashing old stories. Those are the best nights, in my opinion!
Scooter Rentals in Downtown Denver
After breakfast at Snooze, we took advantage of our time in the city by renting Lime scooters in Downtown Denver to explore the city a little bit. Even living in Atlanta we have never done that before, so I was a little nervous at first. But the city was definitely pretty quiet for an early Saturday morning, so we didn’t have to worry about a lot of people or traffic. It was a BLAST! The weather was great, and it was a super fun way to explore around downtown.
Shopping at the Outlets
With us living in a small(ish) town that really only has a Walmart, I love the chance to go shopping a bit when we travel. Especially to outlets with deals and stores we don’t necessarily have back home. After leaving Downtown, we went up to the Denver Premium Outlets near our hotel to shop a little bit before freshening up and heading to Longmont again to meet up with Austin. I got some new workout gear, and Rob got some new clothes and shoes. The only issue was fitting it all back in our carryons.
Rocky Mountain National Park
On Sunday, we spent the first half of our day driving through about half of Rocky Mountain National Park along the Trail Ridge Road. If you’ve never been to Rocky Mountain before, their website kind of describes it perfectly….
“Feel Like You’re On Top of the World! Rocky Mountain National Park’s 415 square miles encompass and protect spectacular mountain environments. Enjoy Trail Ridge Road – which crests at over 12,000 feet including many overlooks to experience the subalpine and alpine worlds – along with over 300 miles of hiking trails, wildflowers, wildlife, starry nights, and fun times. In a world of superlatives, Rocky is on top!”
It takes about 2 hours to drive through the entire park (one-way) with no stops, so with half a day before our UTV rentals in Estes Park, we were only able to drive through half the park while stopping at some of the scenic overlooks. We made it up to the Alpine Visitor Center before turning around. Talk about breathtaking! It was really hard to take it all in. Rob and I kept saying that it was like staring at a painting. (God sure is an amazing artist!)
UTV Rentals in Estes Park
When we were planning for our trip, Rob was saying that he really wanted to rent UTVs. I didn’t realize that was a possibility until I googled it and Backbone Adventures came up on Trip Advisor! Not only do they rent 2-seat Razors and 4-seat UTVs, but they also rent jeeps, snowmobiles (in the winter), ATVs, and dirt bikes. It was so easy too – I reserved it online, we showed up about an hour early at the shop to sign paperwork and get helmets, and they delivered and picked up the UTV at the trailhead.
Rob, Austin, and I ended up renting a 4-seat UTV for a half day for only $219. To be honest, if we were doing it again, we would have done two of the 2-seat Razors or a Razor and ATV. The 4-seat UTV had a super cramped back-seat, so it was a little uncomfortable with how rough the trail was. If you saw on Instagram stories, I *apparently* almost *killed* Rob and Austin. But that’s another story for another day. One thing I wasn’t a real big fan of was that the trails were really rough. There weren’t hardly any flat spots to speed through and have fun. We were hoping that it’d be more flat and open to some amazing views. In the end, we had an amazing time though with a lot of laughs! Definitely would do it again!
Rocky Mountain National Park (again!)
On Monday, for our last day in Colorado, we decided to change our original plans and go back to Rocky Mountain National Park to completely drive through the park and to do some hiking. When you arrive at the park entrance, the rangers will give you a map and a newspaper. Inside the newspaper is a list of ‘Gentle Hikes’ that are throughout the park. While they are each pretty short, they definitely add up to several miles and are a great way to see a lot of different parts of the park in one day!
Shopping in Downtown Estes Park
After a full day in Rocky Mountain National Park, we finished our day with some shopping in Downtown Estes Park before heading back to the hotel and getting some sleep before our 6:00 AM flight Tuesday morning. From candy shops to local art galleries, Downtown Estes Park was such a cute tourist town with lots of local shops and restaurants. The heavy rain drove us to head out early, but I wish we would’ve had more time to explore these local spots. I definitely recommend you make time to stop here if you can!
Our Favorite Parts
Rob and I definitely agree that our favorite part of our short time in Colorado was visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. I mean, no wonder we changed our plans and went back for another day! It was absolutely breathtaking and really hard to take it all in. Our second day there I was sitting on an overlook on one of our hikes taking in the view, and I couldn’t help but shed a tear thinking about how much we would have loved getting to experience such a beautiful place with Layne. On our walk back, it made me think that Layne was probably looking down on us saying, “If you think Colorado is breathtaking… just you wait, mama!”
When I asked Rob what his favorite part of the trip was, he said he loved walking up on the elk herd in Rocky Mountain National Park. He then went on about his fantasy of carrying one with him back to the truck…. “a trophy bull elk with the antlers draped over his shoulders” and all. What a typical southern boy hunter answer, right? I was almost embarrassed to type that. But, real life over here y’all!
What We Wish We Would Have Done
More Hiking Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is a place you can seriously spend days upon days in. I’m not a camper, but I do love hiking and exploring. If we had more time, I would have loved to do some more of the hiking trails. I especially had my eye on the Ute Trail, running from the Alpine Visitor Center down to Poudre Lake and Milner Pass. However, it was 4 miles long (each way) and probably would have taken up too much of our day. It’s on my list for next time!
Colorado Springs – Manitou Incline and Pikes Peak
For our last day in Colorado, our original plans were to wake up super early and drive down to Colorado Springs. We wanted to drive up/down Pikes Peak, spend some time in Colorado Springs, and then hike the infamous Manitou Incline (with its 2,744 stairs and 2,000 feet of elevation change in about a mile.) However, with how much we fell in love with Rocky Mountain National Park, it didn’t feel right to do only half of it. In the end, it just wasn’t enough time to do all the things we wanted to do. So the next time we go to Denver, we want to spend time in Colorado Springs!
Well, friends, that quick (kind of, not really) overview of our time in the Denver area concludes the first installment (of hopefully many more trips back!) of our Colorado travel diary. Colorado definitely stole our hearts, and it’s safe to say that this won’t be our last trip to the Rocky Mountains. If you ever find yourself traveling to the Denver area for a quick trip away like we did, I hope our travel guide helps you plan your trip with intention. Have you been to Denver before? Tell me about your experience in a comment below! Are there any other things we must do the next time we go?