City folk want to expand their horizons in the American west
December 6, 2008 7:48 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I are thinking about taking a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado next summer. I want to stay close to wilderness, but we have little camping experience and no equipment at this time - I was kind of hoping for a rustic cabin experience nearby. I've read previous threads about this but many of the answers seem to be about experienced campers. Does anyone have any recommendations of where to stay or the easiest way to ease camping newbies into an out-west nature experience?
posted by agregoli to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You can definitely find a cabin if that's what you'd like. There are lots of vacation homes in the area that people rent out, including cabins. You can find these through searches or on craigslist.

You'll find the most lodging in Estes Park, the main town on the east side of Ro Mo. Personally I find Estes Park overcrowded and excessively touristy in the summer. I would search for something in one of the smaller towns nearby, like Allenspark, Meeker Park, or Glen Haven. These are all "towns" of at most a few hundred residents. Here are the results of one quick search on Allenspark.

You also might consider looking on the west side of the park, in towns like Grand Lake and Granby. The advantage here is that it's much less crowded, and you can probably find less expensive cabins to rent. The disadvantage is that you're a bit farther from the most dramatic Ro Mo scenery, and the damage to the forest from the beetles is much worse on the west side - so you'll be seeing a lot more dead pine trees.

If you want to camp: the easiest option for newer campers is to go car camping. There are a number of car camping sites in the park which you could reserve through the park service website (see here, although currently the Ro Mo page is not working for me). Personally I don't like doing this as the campsites are fairly crowded and can be noisy. I much prefer the backcountry camping in the park, but if you haven't camped a lot before that may not be a good fit for you. If I were you (i.e., if I didn't have camping gear but wanted to be close to wilderness) I would look for a cabin rental.
posted by betterton at 8:12 AM on December 6, 2008

My wife answered a near-identical question about a week ago, recommending Aspen Lodge near Estes Park (but far enough out of town to avoid most of the crowds). Have fun!
posted by Happy Dave at 8:26 AM on December 6, 2008

Response by poster: Whoops, missed that question, my bad.
posted by agregoli at 10:07 AM on December 6, 2008

2nd-ing betterton's suggestion about Grand Lake.

The wife and I drove through RMNP on Trailridge Road in September to see 'fall'. We started in Estes Park and drove through to Granby on the other side. Along the way, we stopped for lunch in Grand Lake.

It's just a short drive to the park, on a largish lake, and the weather should nice in the summer - mild days and cool nights. There's a hotel that has cabins overlooking the lake, the wife and I thought about going up there again in the winter until she saw that the average temperature in Feb was 4 degrees.
posted by Jim T at 2:44 PM on December 8, 2008

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