19 Jan A Girlfriend Getaway to Estes Park
What’s better than hiking to a gem of a lake, refueling over a delectable dinner, and then crashing in a classic mountain cabin complete with a wood burning fireplace? Add on shopping, side-by-side pedicures, wine tasting and catching a glimpse millions of miles into space through a high-powered telescope and you have the perfect girlfriend getaway. Estes Park has got it all! So rally up your gal pals and hit the road!
Take the Trails of Rocky Mountain National Park
“This park is the jewel of Colorado,” hiking guide Marlene Borneman tells our group of gals as we set off on our expedition to Gem Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Ready to show off what is only a sliver of the beauty in Estes Park, Marlene led us on a hike (3.6 mi. R.T.) across the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead near the Twin Owls. “I always carry a camera. You never know what wildlife you might see,” Marlene says. After climbing just over 900 feet and passing a rock formation that resembles Paul Bunyan’s boot, we reached the summit of Gem Lake where sandy shores sit ready for any hiker ready to take a break.
Our hiking group usually rolls solo to conquer the trails, but we decided to switch things up by taking a guided hike with Kirks Mountain Adventures. The benefit: learning nifty facts along the way. “And this is a flower botanists go crazy for. There are only a few places you will find a rare flower named saxifrage,” Marlene pointed to a beautiful flower tucked into a rock crevice that we would have walked by without noticing. As someone that has climbed all 126 peaks in the park, it’s common knowledge.
Taking a trip with a guide from Kirk’s Mountain Adventures is handy for people of all hiking levels and skills. Guides at Kirk’s help hikers navigate trails on everything from class 1 to class 5 hikes. “This summer I had a group of women come out who thought they couldn’t hike,” says Marlene. “After customizing a hike based on their needs and pace, the group came back for more the next day. I think people are starting to catch on more to the idea of active vacations,” says Marlene.
If you have the ambition for an extreme hike but lack experience, a guide can take you on anything as challenging as climbing Long’s Peak or Shark’s tooth. Both are steeper, longer and require hands and feet to climb as well as portions that are off trail. For anyone questioning if they should hike out of their comfort level, Marlene has some advice: “Healthy risks help you live longer.”
Pull up to Kirks, located right off Elkhorn Ave. (Estes Park’s Main Street) to find an adventure of your own.
Catch Rest in a Spacious Cabin at McGregor Mountain Lodge
From the very second you step foot in the McGregor Mountain Lodge you will feel instantly at home. Our group of gals received a bright greeting from the office manager, Susan, before we cozied up in our log cabin. After warming up with cookies straight out of the oven and sipping on spiced cider in the lobby, Susan loaded us up with fire wood, directions on lighting a one match fire, (no need for the guys on this trip!) and movies from the well-stocked collection.
Wasting no time, we settled into the Cedar Loge Suites, which comfortably sleeps seven. This cabin is ideal for larger groups that can chat it up in a shared living space before heading to their separate rooms once the bedtime hour hits! After revving up the fire, we swapped stories in our PJ’s and settled into our new digs overlooking the Continental Divide and Fall River.
At sunrise, we were stunned to look out our log cabin window to see an elk looking right back at us! Lodge owner, Chris Wood, later told us the elk we saw is around frequently. His nickname is ‘Lefty’ because he has a battle scar on his left eye, likely from a run in with a mountain lion!
A little about the lodge: The McGregor Mountain Lodge is in a prime spot- 4 miles from Estes Park and 1/2 mile from the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, which the cabins also back up to. The Lodge has options for groups sleeping as few as two or up to seven. Rooms are complete with kitchens, wood burning fire places and classic mountain decor.
A little about the lodge owner: Chris Wood headed up to Estes Park 18 years ago after graduating college with the intent of spending one summer. But the spirit and community of Estes is still holding him captive! If you ask him what kept him here the answer is simple: “It was the lifestyle. I mean look at this,” Chris says pointing to fresh snow on the mountains.
Chris started by working in housekeeping at the McGregor Mountain Lodge, and then eventually was promoted to manager. Eight years ago, he made the lodge his own after purchasing it and bringing his natural hospitality on board. As someone that always loved having company as a kid, the decision to own a business where he could greet company every day made perfect sense. ”I was the one that would wait by the door and yell ‘Mom they are here, Dad they are here’ Now I get to do that every day,” smiles Chris.
2815 Fall River Road Estes Park, CO 80517
2815 Fall River Road Estes Park, CO 80517
Relax at the Riverpointe Spa
A prime way to relax and catch up with your gals is with a side-by-side pedicure at the Riverpointe Spa. Setting up shop with a wide-open view of the Big Thompson River, the spa is tucked away off Elkhorn Avenue. Friendly spa employees will make sure you are right at home with spiced cider (whip cream on top– yes please!) or lavender topped chocolate. Choose between the new OPI Gel Lacquer and a traditional pedicure with polish that dries without a UV lamp. Either way, your feet will be ready to trek Estes Park for more adventure! We chose the OPI Gel Pedi which we have found is just as trusty as the shellac but is less damaging on nails. The shine hasn’t rubbed off and there are no chips to be seen!
There are two pedicure stations which make for a quiet atmosphere to catch up. If you have a larger group of ladies, there are plenty of other services including facials, massage and of course manicures. Whichever service you choose, you will be impressed by the accommodating staff and cheerful atmosphere.
121 Weist Drive, 970.577.6841
Top off Those Shopping Bags
What better time to fill up the shopping bags than when the guys are out of sight? Shopping is key on most any girlfriend getaway. From local bookstores, tasty cookie shops, unique art and even a year around Christmas shop, here are some suggestions to set your shopping gears in motion.
1. What beats 12 days of Christmas? How about 12 months of Christmas? This is exactly what you will find at the Spruce Shop. For more than 40 years, the store has sold all things Christmas inside a century-old cottage open year around. You will find ornaments, collectibles and seasonal decorations that will bring the Christmas spirit to any home.
125 Spruce Drive, 970.586.8510
2. There is always new art to be seen at The Art Center of Estes Park. Changing exhibits keep visitors coming back to see the wide variety of local and regional art, including: paintings, sculpture, photography, textiles, glass work, and wood carvings. If you are not in the market to purchase art, consider taking a class. Workshops include: oil painting, sketching, stained glass, and jewelry-making. Cost is usually in the $50-to-$100 range.
517 Big Thompson Ave., 970.586.5882
3. Macdonald Book Shopdoes everything a good bookshop should do – which is a lot more than sell books. The store, nestled inside a log cabin, is a book lovers dream. The friendly staff will make excellent recommendations you can save for later or dive right into in one of the many book nooks. Swoop up either a mainstream novel or choose from books signature to Estes Park highlighting hiking guides, edible Rocky Mountain plants or abandoned ghost towns.
152 East Elkhorn, 970.586.3450
Grandma Barb will not only greet you with a variety of warm cookies, but also a smile that takes the edge off winter. Cookie lovers don’t come in just for flavors like oatmeal butterscotch or the cookie sandwiches overflowing with butterscotch filling, either. The store owner, who introduced herself as Grandma Barb, strikes up a conversation with all visitors. She also sells day old cookies with all the profits benefiting an autism foundation. The walls are decorated with pictures of 11 years’ worth of customers. “I see kids at the mall and say come on up! Grandma wants your picture!” You may even spot some of her 17 grandchildren and 6 grandkids on the wall with a warm cookie in hand.
217 West Elkhorn, 970.577.0967
Thick or thin? If you prefer the latter Chicago’s Best Pizza is calling your name! The menu serves up all the classic flavors and also some out-of-the-norm styles, including the hot wing chicken and the white pizza served with Alfredo sauce, chicken and veggies. You can order up a whole pie or just a slice to chow down on in the casual atmosphere among locals and out-of-town guests. If you come in at prime lunch or dinner hours, be prepared to wait, but it will be well worth it! The family owned pizza and sandwich shop sits right off Elkhorn Avenue.
112 West Elkhorn Avenue, 970.586.4796
Sample Award-Wining Wines at Snowy Peaks Winery
What would a girlfriend getaway be without sipping on some locally crafted wine? It’s even better when they are crafted with Colorado grown grapes from Palisade and Burlington. Erik and Candice Mohr, owners of Snowy Peaks Winery, invited our group in on a day when volunteers and family friends were busy filling, labeling and corking bottles for distribution. We even managed to top off a few bottles ourselves while getting a sneak peek into the assembly line.
The bottling and winemaking takes place in the basement of the winery, which is Erik’s territory. Candy has made the upstairs her own, creating a warm and homey tasting room where grape-loving travelers can sample some of the 20 varietals the winery makes. Pucker up for everything from sweet to dry, red to white, and several blends and dessert wines. You can also find other Colorado made products including cheeses, jams, chocolates and jellies. This is perfect to pack up a picnic in Rocky Mountain National Park along with a few bottles of Snowy Peaks Wines.
About the owners:
Erik says he opened up the winery on a whim, which Candy wasn’t always keen on, at least in the beginning. “I was nervous but there wasn’t any quitting once we started.” she says. “We see people come back year after year. I never expected that.” Erik admits he didn’t have professional training of a winemaker, but with a background in biology he masterfully creates wines that woo thirsty travelers. “I’m still experimenting even after seven years,” says Erik. “It’s a lot of hard work but it’s paying off.”
292 Moraine Avenue, (970) 586-2099
You can also order the Wine Online:
Enjoy a Savory Dinner at Twin Owls Steakhouse
Trading in one fireplace for the next, we left the McGregor Mountain Lodge for a homemade dinner at the Twin Owls Steakhouse, situated just north of downtown, along MacGregor Avenue. After receiving a friendly greeting from the owner, Thad Eggen, we sat down in the dimly lit, two-story log cabin for some of the best eats in town. The property was built in 1929 as a family home but now offers the quintessential mountain dining experience, complete with a floor-to-ceiling fireplace, high-beamed ceilings, and open windows, showing off views of Black Canyon and the surrounding Rocky Mountain National Park.
The menu doesn’t skimp on any category. Choose from made-to-order cut steaks, game, poultry, pork, seafood and sandwiches. If you aren’t in the market for a full meal, the appetizer selections include everything from scallops, caprese and cheese plates. If you want a specialty item, order up the Lumpy Ridge Elk Kabob’s ($13). Each menu item also comes with a suggestion for a wine pairing, just too tempting, right? Lucky for us, this trip was about a girlfriend getaway!
The restaurant is open for dinner on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights through April. On Friday, you can even enjoy the sounds of Estes Park singer and guitarist, James Davis.
Husband and wife Thad Eggen and Sandra Huerta own Twin Owls Steakhouse. As a former Spanish teacher at Estes Park High School, Thad sees several familiar faces of former students and teachers. His wife, Sandra Huerta manages all the events and wedding planning while Thad focuses on the restaurant side. “Sandra keeps everything running smoothly. She is so detail orientated. She dots the I’s and crosses the T’s,” says Thad. The two also have a 6-year-old son who has developed quite the palette from spending so much time in a restaurant. “He tends to eat things like smoked salmon for a snack. It’s funny because when I was that age I ate slices of cheese and cinnamon toast.”
After seeing the charm of the restaurant cabin situated near Rocky Mountain National Park, it’s easy to see why the attached event space is sought after for special events and weddings. Twin Owls Steakhouse was named a top pick for weddings by The Knot. This spot is also exactly where Sandra and Thad said “I Do.”
800 MacGregor Avenue