Our first National Park stop on our 2019 National Parks adventure was Rocky Mountain National Park. Notice I didn’t say vacation, because with three kids and lots of work camping it is not a vacation. It is a fun adventure though and I love it! I am not going to lie and say it is perfect. Many hours in the car with three kids, ages 5, 5, and 7 can be nerve racking. The noise never stops. The peace and solitude of each National Park we visit is disrupted by my crew. Oh well, we will roll with it. I would rather put up with the chaos, noise, and fighting, than not go at all. All those things go with the territory of road tripping with young kids. As I write this, we have been gone a full week and a day now. It was yesterday, day 7, when my nerves felt completely frayed and I hit a wall of exhaustion. I am thankful for my husband. He watched the kids kayak today after breakfast and I went back to bed for a few hours. It disrupted our “schedule”, but that’s ok. We are rolling with it. We got off to a late start today, but we still got to see everything we wanted to see in the National Park. We just got back a little later than planned.
Rocky Mountain National Park was amazing! The last time we were here was a few years back with the Perez family. We had a great time then and knew during our first visit that we wanted to come back again. We decided since we were on our way to Yellowstone it made sense to stop at the Rocky Mountain National Park for two nights.
I made reservations for us to go white-water rafting in the Rocky Mountains. I booked with Mad Adventures in Kemmling, Colorodo. They had the best reviews online and our experience was the best! I highly recommend this company if you want to white-water raft while visiting Rocky Mountain National Park.
Mad Adventures white-water rafting company is located just outside the west entrance of Rocky Mountain Park, which is the Grand Lake entrance. We stayed just outside the east entrance of the park, which is the town of Estes Park. This entrance area of Rocky Mountain National Park is known as the Estes Park entrance. Highways 34 and 36 in Estes will take you right into the National Park. The two highways merge eventually to become Trail Ridge Road, which is the main drive through the park. This is a scenic, mountainous drive with lots of places to pull off to view animals and the landscape. In one guidebook I had read, it said to budget 2.5 hours to get through the park from Estes Park all the way through to Grand Lake on the other side. 2.5 hours is a rough estimate and I am guessing it means you don’t stop, only slow down to take photos. Your drive time depends how traffic flows and how much time you want to spend stopping and taking photos. If you want to get out and hike you need to add that time into the equation as well. We took about 5 hours to drive this scenic route through the park in the morning before our white-water rafting. This gave us enough time to stop and take lots of photos, walk some short trails, and stop in the visitor’s center. After the rafting adventure, we had to drive through the National Park again to get back to Estes and the return trip was closer to 2.5 hours because we didn’t do much stopping at all.
During our visit to Rocky Mountain National Park we got to see lots of elk. We were lucky enough to catch a herd that was crossing a roadway to a prairie area and we had amazing views of them for as long as we wanted. They were grazing and taking their time. We also saw bighorn sheep that were in a field near a mountainside early in the morning. According to the National Park’s official map and guide, the one that they give you when you enter the park, there are approximately 350 bighorn sheep in the park today. In the 1950’s they almost went extinct. We saw some deer as well. Seeing the elk in several locations in the park was impressive. It was an added bonus to the scenery we got to enjoy. You can see some of our photos below.
We booked an afternoon white-water rafting adventure. I am glad we didn’t do morning, because it was cold out! That water was frigid, even in the afternoon. It is cold because the river water contains all the ice and snow melt coming off the mountains. There is still snow melting in July, so the river waters are chilly. My kids and husband all got in the water to do some cliff jumping. Our guide stopped our boat at some cliffs and gave us the option to jump if we wanted to. I opted not to jump. I didn’t want to be frigid the remainder of the white-water rafting. Getting splashed by some waves and rapids is one thing, jumping in to get soaking wet is another story. Brielle had chattering teeth the rest of the ride, but she said it was worth it.
To book with Mad Adventures go to their website at: https://www.madadventures.com/
Our guide was Pete. He was amazing! Great storyteller with wonderful knowledge about the area and its history. He is also a good joke teller. He made our day fun and safe. We hit rapids and had a wild ride too. The kids were sitting on outer seats and all dove to the center seats in the middle of the raft after we hit some big rapids that sent our boat topsy-turvy. They were worried they were going to get tossed out of the boat. They could have too. I am glad they made that call themselves, so we didn’t have to fish anyone out of the river.
Below you can see photos of our white-water rafting adventures!
Because of the size of our rig (we have a 42” fifth wheel RV) we had limited options in the Rocky Mountain area for camping. I booked us at Jellystone in Estes. It was a great experience and would gladly book there again. They have great amenities for the whole family including a pool, a huge inflatable for jumping, miniature golfing, basketball, and several playgrounds. The rates were good for the area too. Prices in the Tetons were higher with less amenities. To check out the Jellystone we stayed at in Estes, CO here is the link: https://www.jellystoneofestes.com/