On our recent visit to Denver, we managed a day for leaving the city and driving north. It’s a dramatic drive because Denver is flat, but the mountains are a vision on the horizon. The tour guide Moon Handbook – Denver suggested the Peak-to-Peak Byway, “if you just want to enjoy the scenery at your own pace with lots of stops or none at all.” We chose the lots of stops version.
Blackhawk to Estes Park is about a 55-mile trip, but we turned it into more than a hundred mile trek that left us plenty of time for seeing some of the most beautiful vistas known to man, until the next one appeared.
Our first detour occurred when we saw the sign for Idaho Springs.
“That’s the home of Tommyknocker brewery,” my husband said. It happened to be one of our favorite brewers.
We turned the car around and made the ten-mile detour for lunch. We enjoyed our Indian pale ales and a lunch of black beans and fish tacos.
Back on the route again, we traveled parallel to the Continental Divide. The aspen trees were beginning to turn and at certain points, we came to colorful patches of the trees.
They call the route Peak-to-Peak for a reason – we went in the crevices from one peak to another with views of Mount Meeker, Longs, Pawnee, and Ouizel peaks. We stopped at the visitor’s center near Longs Peak where a ranger convinced us needed to take another detour.
“It costs $20 at the entrance to the national park,” he said. “But you won’t be sorry in the least.”
He was right. We entered the Rocky Mountain National Park at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on Route 36. Then we began the climb to the alpine region of the park. We went around curves with no guardrails; we saw bulls herding their female elks; we went to the highest point on any paved road in the United States (12,183 feet); and we went where the trees don’t grow. We were in the clouds and looked down on the smaller peeks – those midgets of only 10,000 feet.
We came back down the mountain as the sun began its descent as well. The lowering sun made dark shadows on the mountains creating dark patches on my photos.
Rocky Mountain Majesty at its finest.