Denver, Estes Park, Red Rocks - and no car!
April 9, 2013 8:52 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I are visiting Denver in mid-June for five days, primarily to see Devotchka to play at Red Rocks - but we're keen to do a bit of sightseeing as well. Our current plan is to go straight from DIA to Estes Park via shuttle bus, stay there for a couple of days, do some hikes, etc, then (somehow?!) get to Downtown Denver. We'd drop our bags there, get a taxi (or similar) to Red Rocks and back for the concert, and then head to DIA. Hiring a car isn't an option... does this sound sane?

I've done a bunch of research on this online and it seems that DIA > Estes Park is fairly easy, and there are various options from taxi upwards to get to Red Rocks; but the one thing I can't figure out is getting from Estes Park to Downtown Denver. There don't seem to be any shuttles... is this doable? Should we even be considering Estes Park or are there other good options that might help on the travel madness? Any help appreciated!
posted by adrianhon to Travel & Transportation around Denver, CO (9 answers total)
Estes Park is absolutely amazing, and if there's any way to work it out you should definitely go.
There seems to be an Estes Park to Denver airport shuttle -, and maybe from there you could get a hotel shuttle to downtown Denver?
posted by needlegrrl at 8:57 AM on April 9, 2013

Your best bet would be Estes Park > Lyons > Boulder > Denver. Buses run between Lyons, Boulder and Denver regularly, but you may have to take a taxi from Estes to Lyons.

As far as Red Rocks goes, the W light rail line from Denver out to Golden is starting up at the end of the month (April), so you could take it and taxi to Red Rocks.

Oh, and definitely check out rideshares on craigslist (Denver and Boulder).
posted by mrrisotto at 9:52 AM on April 9, 2013

Best answer: You might post requests for rides to the concert on the craigslist rideshare board. A cab to Red Rocks from downtown Denver is going to be insanely expensive (round trip, almost certainly more expensive than a car rental). Estes Park is fine but so much (most?) of Colorado is beautiful. And the actual town of Estes Park is a bit touristy -- it's RMNP that is the real attraction, IMO. I wouldn't fixate on Estes Park if I were you. You could do some very beautiful classic Colorado hikes in Boulder and have far less trouble with transportation from downtown Denver. Denver is fine with intracity transit and okay with transit to Boulder, but public transportation to other cities for the most part is nonexistent.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:02 AM on April 9, 2013

If you're from near sea-level, don't forget that the altitude is a big thing if you don't give yourself time to acclimatize. Denver itself is a mile above sea level, and Estes Park is something like another half-mile up!

I did part of my medical training in Denver, and there was always a steady trickle of people who would get off the plane and just get bad altitude sickness and need a brief trip to the ER or hospital. Also, don't be like me and drive straight from the Midwest to Estes Park, and then get drunk with everyone else during orientation. It is memorably awful.

So, do keep that in mind for your plans for sightseeing.

Also, Red Rocks is a 20 mile taxi ride from downtown Denver. Denver is sprawling. I'd look into that light rail to get you most of the way there.
posted by vetala at 11:30 AM on April 9, 2013

Without a car you should prepare to spend a lot of time on buses that don't connect as well as you would hope. As far as the taxi to red rocks, it alone will cost as much as a week-long rental car.

However, I have good news, you could probably get a ride from someone in Denver to the show, just post on Devotchka's facebook or the event. People are very friendly! As a matter of fact, if you think you need it, PM me and I will ask if anyone is going who would give you a ride to red rocks amongst my friends.

Getting from Estes to Denver is tricky but a friend of mine from Lyons says that there is a shuttle that runs in the summer from Lyons to Estes and back again. From there you can bus it as mrrisotto suggests. Taxis might be difficult to find up there so it would be best to make a reservation.

The best thing about Estes Park is Rocky Mountain National Park which is pretty far away from town. There might be tours, or bicycles, etc that you could take but in my opinion there are limited things to do in town outside of shop at little specialty stores, drink a martini at the Stanley Hotel, and see the mountains (but not touch). The short of it is, if you go to RMNP it is amazing. If you go to Estes only, it may not be quite as great.

The Denver Art Museum has some nice collections and a diverse range of things to check out. There is plenty to do in Denver if you decide to spend a few days there. There are a couple of traditional arcades that have opened as bars, good music around town, and other miscellaneous things in the summer. If you have a strong preference for night life you can PM as well and I can try to make a suggestion or two. Have fun!

Ooh, just saw this and agree: "You could do some very beautiful classic Colorado hikes in Boulder and have far less trouble with transportation from downtown Denver."
posted by occidental at 12:25 PM on April 9, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great responses so far! So it sounds like Boulder may be a very viable option if we wanted to do some hiking for a couple of days without all the public transport madness? Like a few people have said, we'd rather not spend all our time on/worrying about buses. And the point about altitude acclimatisation is well taken.

What sort of hikes in Boulder would people recommend?
posted by adrianhon at 6:16 PM on April 9, 2013

Best answer: What sort of hikes in Boulder would people recommend?

Boulder's got some nice days hikes - check out Green Mountain or Bear Peak, which are literally city parks. Green Mountain is easiest to get to - just walk (or, whatever) to Chautauqua and give it a go. Maps are available at the trailhead,

RMNP is going to trump anything Boulder, has, though. Estes Park is going to be far prettier than Boulder/Denver/Morrison. I do suggest Ed's Cantina for breakfast.

Estes Park - Boulder - Denver are ~26miles between each, and not having a car is going to kind of suck. RedRocks is nowhere near downtown (it's another > 10 miles from downtown Denver).

I'm not sure what type of magical taxi service you're going to get in Golden (after taking the new fangled W lightrail line), to Red Rocks (and then, what are you going to do to get back?) - it's going to be more like a limousine service type of thing.

So, some options:

Take the Skyride from DIA to Boulder - ~ $13 - not bad.

Take a shuttle service from DIA to Estes Park: - $80 (whoa)

Denver - Boulder can be done via the BV or BMX line - it's $5. I take this line every day (to, surprise go to Green Mountain/Bear Peak)

Some other ideas is to check out Nederland (commuter bus should run from Boulder), which will have access to the Indian Peaks - see if there's a way to get to the 4th of July campground Trailhead - I've only driven to it, but someone could certainly walk from town if they wanted to.

It would make so much sense for visitors to get to these very popular areas, but obviously Denver can't be bothered. Kind of lame.
posted by alex_skazat at 12:44 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sorry, this probably a way better guide to hikes in Boulder

Also remember both Boulder and Denver have a bike rental scheme. I can map out how to get to Denver to Red Rocks via bikes on a perfectly safe bikepath, if you'd like (muahha...)
posted by alex_skazat at 12:48 AM on April 10, 2013

Best answer: I agree that you'll get better hiking if you stay in Boulder versus Estes Park--it's not easy to get from Estes to the hiking, whereas there are trails starting right in Boulder that take you up into the foothills for some great views of the Continental Divide. Heck, if you're staying in Boulder, I would highly recommend trying to snag one of the Chautauqua cottages--you'd have some of the best views in Boulder plus most of the trails right there. It's totally walk-able from Chautauqua to downtown Boulder (maybe 1.5 miles, most through pleasant residential neighborhoods) where all the restaurants and the pedestrian mall are.

My favorite hiking in this neck of the woods is up at Brainard Lake, especially in June, but I don't think there is any public transit up there (or to Ward, the nearby town). But you'll get hiking that is 90% as good if you stay in Boulder, so I'd probably just do that. There's a ranger station with helpful folks staffing it in the summer right in Chautauqua, and plenty of maps available. Good hikes that start right near the cottages include:

*Green Mountain (strenuous but beautiful views of the Divide)
*1st and 2nd Flatiron (again, strenuous with a bit of scrambling near the end, but stupendous views at the end)
*Looping up Bluebell Baird and down Enchanted Mesa (much easier, but exceeding pleasant and several nice views of the Flatirons)

Also, you can rent bikes hourly through B-Cycle at several locations downtown, and there's miles and miles of bike paths that you can ride in central or east Boulder if the weather is nice, which it will be in June. You're a bit further away from the mountains so you get great views while getting to pedal along in the flats, which is nice. The Boulder 180 is a 14-mile ride that is almost entirely on bike paths or very, very low-traffic residential roads and it's a fabulous way to spend an afternoon in the summer. As a bonus there are some easy-to-access microbreweries (as well as a distillery and a mead-making operation) right off of some of the bike paths.

If you had a car I'd say you should head to Estes, but if you don't Boulder is a clear winner--the town is going to be so much easier to get around without a car, better access to outdoor fun, and the transit links between DIA-Boulder and downtown Denver-Boulder are much, much better.
posted by iminurmefi at 10:14 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

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