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DansDeals Forum => Trip Reports => Topic started by: kivabb on August 07, 2020, 01:03:04 PM

Title: Colorado 11 Day Trip with our Group of 11 (Part 1)
Post by: kivabb on August 07, 2020, 01:03:04 PM
It seemed that our family was probably from the minority of visitors that were in Colorado when we were there that had actually planned a trip 10 months in advance. And as the months rolled by and Corona was increasing in all states, I selfishly watched Colorado and hoped it would stay under the radar and not stop reopening. B”H, it was meant to be and we had a great trip.

Denver has so many beautiful day trip options, and the idea of being able to park ourselves in as little hotels as possible was a huge luxury for my wife. So the first week we did just that. I was actually surprised how little Yidden we saw the first week on the trails. Then we found out that most people go straight to the Vail area. Our plan was the following week to go to the mountain area in Avon. If you have the time, don’t miss some of those incredible nature day trip options from Denver.

Our group consisted of my wife and I with our 9 children ages 3 to 21. Maybe our last licks (in our current status) of having everyone together on a family trip.

I’m a big fan of United Group Flights. If you have 10 or more in your group,  they can hold your reservations until 3 months before departure penalty free. This year, because of Corona, they basically would have allowed me to cancel at the last minute. They also allowed me to match lower pricing as pricing dropped. In the end, we got $150 RT including handbags. I know they had these crazy flash sales from PHL that dropped as low as $100 RT on some airlines, but with Newark being so convenient and 5-6 non stop flights a day, we decided to stick with them. They required masks except while eating or drinking, so we worked within the system as much as possible without making a C”H, to allow the kids a “breather”.

Car Rentals
I like using Costco Travel for car reservations. They include an extra driver for free, usually give me great rates, plus allow me to add Fast Break to my Budget reservation so I can skip the counter. Avis did not allow me to get both the Costco discount and apply to Avis Preferred. When I made the reservations 6 months back, the price was $1250 for 11 day rental. I kept checking back and it had gone up as high as $1500, and in the last week had dropped to $933 with Budget. I made a backup reservation with Avis for $990 in case Budget had no Ford Transits. Moral of the story, keep checking for price drops. With our group of 11 B”EH, I love renting those Ford Transits which are basically the 15 seater with the last row removed for luggage. In my experience, only Budget or Avis rent those. The other companies are with the extra back bench and minimal luggage space. When I arrived in Denver, I learned not only that Avis and Budget share the same fleet, but that they only have the Chevy’s in 12 seaters. Luckily for me, there was 1 Ford Transit in the lot from a one way rental that was just dropped off.

Hyatt House Denver/Lakewood at Belmar - (5 nights). I love Hyatt House. 8K points for a suite with a full size kitchen and eating area (we needed 3 of them). Plus they were on sale now 25% off. The hotel manager was extremely accommodating to our needs (you’ll see her email after you make a reservation) including room type (awards only allow kings and we needed some double queens). There was no housekeeping because of Corona which was an adjustment, but everything within reason that we requested, they were happy to accommodate. They had a large enclosed patio that we made our BBQ’s every night which has huge convenience. Free breakfast had cereals, fruit, and stuff like granola bars to go that was a help. Good coffee too. The location was extremely convenient. It was a 10 minute drive to the Yeshiva where we went for Shachris, there is a Target literally next door which was great for restocking every night, and they had a Nordstrom Rack across the street which increased my ratings with the ladies of the family. The immediate area seemed very safe and we would definitely return.

Shabbos/MS - Spent with some family in Denver.

Wyndham Avon - (4 nights) We reserved a 3 bedroom condo. We used promotion code entertainment and we received 20% off. https://www.extraholidays.com/avon-colorado/wyndham-resort-at-avon

Food - Sandwich makers, homemade muffins, cold cuts and cheeses for breakfast and lunch . It helped a lot to have a pizza shop (with great food) along with a supermarket to stock up. We usually get a small propane grill to cook up the burgers, not dogs and schnitzel we bring in our bar bags. We usually get from Walmart and pick up when we pick up the propane but the last few summers they had been out of stock in August. I found that Ace Hardware had and we arranged a pick up a few minutes away. https://www.acehardware.com/departments/outdoor-living/grills-and-smokers/gas-grills/8394876

Altitude Sickness ? - On Day 3, I experienced some tightness in my head as we went up in altitude to RMNP. My wife had some tightness in her chest that reminded her of Corona. My girls also had some headaches that dwhich issipated as we went down in altitude. Another one of my daughters threw up later that night. That was with sleeping in Denver and waiting until day 3 to go to a higher altitude. On Day 5 we went back up with no symptoms.

Corona - Our whole family had gotten sick in March so our attitude was mainly being considerate and respectful to others and not make C”H. My understanding from some in the local community was that most people in the Denver community did not get Corona yet. So many Shuls were being extra cautious and not allowing out of towners in (understandably so!). So make sure to call ahead and see if you will be granted entry. As far as the trails are concerned, RMNP had most people without masks, but Brainard Lake had most with masks. When reading the reviews on the hiking sites for the trails we were considering, I saw that many reviewers bad mouthed the non maskers. So being that we wanted to avoid C”H, we kept masks handy when oncoming hikers would walk by.

Downtime- We try to plan ahead so we’re not caught off guard while trying to keep the same standards we keep at home while away in regard to television, movies, etc... If you go to https://www.seatguru.com/ you can see if your flight has a entertainment system and if you need to prepare accordingly. If they don’t, then it’s easier. For when they do, we bring DVD players on board to give them a safer alternative. During the trip, we try to pack the days so we’re usually exhausted by the time we hit the hotel. When they do need a chill, we’ll have our girls scout out the pool and if it’s empty we’ll let them take a swim which is always fun. And again, we bring the DVD’s with some appropriate entertainment for if/when needed. In our case, having Nordstrom Rack and Target around the corner provided a safe (while expensive) outlet. Or you can write trip reports in my case :)


Day 1 - EWR-DEN, checked in, unpacked, winded down.

Day 2 - Garden of The Gods. Plenty of trail options from stroller friendly to more intense. We saw a bear! Beautiful place.

(https://i.postimg.cc/Y0k9bSrq/IMG-2677.jpg) (https://postimg.cc/BLY4v4Pd)

Day 3 - Rocky Mountain National Park.
Need to book in advance at https://www.recreation.gov/ for park entry.
Free if you have a (going in or out of) 4th grader https://everykidoutdoors.gov/index.htm
Emerald Lake Trail - 3.6 Miles Round Trip (Beautiful!), Old Fall River Rd, Trail Ridge Road

Emerald Lake:
(https://i.postimg.cc/FKCB4hTr/IMG-2762.jpg) (https://postimg.cc/SX8rLb03)

Day 4  - Epic Sky Trek (ropes course). Good safe fun https://castlerockziplinetours.com/sky-trek.html
They had a Groupon and with the 20% coupon they have every few days we ended paying $31 a person (versus $49)

Day 5 - Brainard Lake Recreation Area, Lake Isabelle - 4.2 mile hike to Isabelle Lake
The hike starts from Long Lake Trail head. The main challenge is parking as they’re only allowing 80% capacity due to Covid and they’re real strict. Not getting to park at the trail-head can add anywhere from 1-4 miles to your hike which could have spoiled our day. They allow people in at 6, 10:30, 12 and 1:30 so we aimed for the 12PM arrival. We did some homework and determined that the afternoon would be the best time to arrive to avoid the morning rush and increase our chances for a parking spot by the trail-head. With all that, we still didn’t get our preferred parking and were told we had to park half a mile away (Mitchell Lake) and walk the extra mile. I asked a ranger if I can drop off the family and then I would walk the extra distance myself. They agreed. When I dropped them off, a parking spot opened and God had mercy on us as the ranger allowed us to park right by the trail-head. I knew it was going to be a great day! The ranger left the trail-head at around 2:30PM so if you arrive after that there seemed to be several spots open. I have been to many beautiful places on the west coast, and this lake is definitely close competition. There’s a turnoff to the left of the trail right when you hit Lake Isabelle that most people miss that offers some incredible views of the lake at eye level, with the falls right by your feet and the incredible panoramic background. And those moose that never get any attention in an enclosed setting, become the most majestic looking animals when seen in their natural habitat. We saw them here with antlers and all. This place should be on everyone's bucket list.

Here's one shot of Lake Isabelle. Images don't really do justice but you get the idea. There's  a waterfall right behind here.

(https://i.postimg.cc/8zT5hcyy/IMG-2935.jpg) (https://postimg.cc/XpD4Wj6F)

Day 6 - Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater
Beautiful place. It was 100 degrees when we went so beware of lots lots of semi dressed people doing all sorts of exercise and plan accordingly.

Shabbos - We’re spending time with some family on the East side. A shout out to Aish Denver that definitely tried to hustle for us if we would have needed a plan B. They seem like an amazing community. Granted that having a normal Shabbos option can make a huge difference on our trip.

I’m actually writing this on Friday of our trip. We’re going to Avon on Sunday, but wanted to get this out on the possibility that someone else would benefit from our findings.

So if you see a tall group of 11 walking around the East Side for Shabbos that stick out like a sore thumb and don’t look like the locals, that’s us :)

Stay tuned for Part 2

Title: Re: Colorado 11 Day Trip with our Group of 11 (Part 1)
Post by: @Yehuda on August 07, 2020, 01:30:30 PM
Wow, awesome report! I haven't been to RMNP yet, but now I know what specific things to do once there!
Title: Re: Colorado 11 Day Trip with our Group of 11 (Part 1)
Post by: Joel on August 07, 2020, 01:56:24 PM
Thanks great TR! Will be going in 2 weeks can use some of the info you shared
Title: Re: Colorado 11 Day Trip with our Group of 11 (Part 1)
Post by: kivabb on August 07, 2020, 02:56:44 PM
Wow, awesome report! I haven't been to RMNP yet, but now I know what specific things to do once there!

Your trip report actually inspired lots of my trip planning so thank you for that!

Added a pic of Emerald Lake.
Title: Re: Colorado 11 Day Trip with our Group of 11 (Part 1)
Post by: flyingace on August 07, 2020, 04:29:02 PM
+1 for not excluding day trips from Denver.  We had only four days to spend in Denver and did day trips. Beautiful hikes and scenery all over.
Title: Re: Colorado 11 Day Trip with our Group of 11 (Part 1)
Post by: sam28 on August 10, 2020, 10:35:09 AM
Wow amazing TR sort and to the point . did u make all the trips from Denver ?
Title: Re: Colorado 11 Day Trip with our Group of 11 (Part 1)
Post by: kivabb on August 10, 2020, 10:50:27 AM
Wow amazing TR sort and to the point . did u make all the trips from Denver ?

Yup. All trips from Hyatt House. Sometimes we drove 100 minutes each way, but for my wife if was worthwhile to come back to same hotel and not keep packing and unpacking.
Title: Re: Colorado 11 Day Trip with our Group of 11 (Part 1)
Post by: kivabb on August 12, 2020, 09:43:16 PM
(Part 2)

Day 8 - St Mary's Glacier
We wanted to break up the drive from Denver to Avon and this seemed to be a popular spot not too much out of the way. The hike is about 1.5 miles RT with constant elevation and lots of rocks. The view of the lake and glacier once we were up there were beautiful. There is no snow or ice on the actual trail to the glacier so you should be able to avoid injury assuming nothing foolish is done. Here too, on a hot Sunday, there were lots of interesting people that were dressed accordingly. Bring exact change ($5) for parking. There was a cop giving tickets to people parked on the street.

(https://i.postimg.cc/3RfQKkR0/IMG-3074.jpg) (https://postimg.cc/TLb40YnT)

We checked in later that night to the Wyndham Avon. We got a beautiful 3 bedroom Condo for $300 a night (plus $15 parking). Pool was closed. Game-room was open. They had a great patio to make BBQ as well as a fire pit for a good chill at night (as some of my kids call it). Concierge as well to help with trip ideas.

The Chabad in Vail allowed us our first Mincha/Maariv in about a week with a Minyan. They seemed okay with anyone coming in as long as masks were being worn.

Day 9  - Glenwood Cavern Adventure Park - https://www.glenwoodcaverns.com/
The $60 entrance fee was too steep for our party of 11. So I contacted group sales ahead of time and they asked me if anyone in our group had a birthday the month of our arrival as that would be their best rate. That entitled us to a $40 entrance fee per person and a pizza party.  They allowed us to trade in our pizza for a $10 gift card per person to use just about anywhere in the park. I think the minimum for the “birthday party” is 8 people. We officially went on a slower day and still had to wait about 30 minutes per ride. Great Alpine Slide.

This isn’t too important for future travelers, but it definitely added a twist to our trip. After about 3 hours there, the power had gone down on the mountain. Shortly thereafter we saw smoke billowing up from a mountain a short distance away. It seems a forest fire had broken out a short distance away (the locals later claimed that a forest fire of that scale hasn't happened there since 1974) and we were asked to descend the mountain and leave the park. By the time we got down, highway 70 had been shut down going Eastward and our 50 minute drive turned out to be a 5 hour drive as we took the scenic route (Rifle, Craig, Steamboat Springs) fearing that it could be many hours or potentially days for the roads to reopen. In the end, the park refunded us 75% of our visit. So considering that the other 25% we paid was a gift card to buy souvenirs, we did okay. I was very impressed in how they handled things. Three days later, I-70 is still closed. It's a good thing we didn’t wait.

Day 10 - Ford Park, Botanical Garden, Vail Village, Lionshead Village
The ADHD in me has a hard time with a chilled out day, but I needed to leave a day open in case bad weather (or a forest fire!!!) would require a schedule change for our Glenwood Canyon or Rafting day. I also knew my wife would appreciate a day like this. Parking was free. The park and gardens were nice (if you appreciate that stuff). The window shopping in the villages are seemingly trying to resemble European architecture (the Alps?) and nice.

Day 11 - Piney River Ranch
In the end, they cancelled our rafting trip due to the forest fire earlier in the week. I have had this dream of taking my kids rafting on the Colorado. I had done extensive homework to get the most bang for our buck (they offered us like 20% off since we were eight) for rafting on the Colorado and we had chosen Defiance Rafting to do the Shoshone rapids twice, https://www.raftdefiance.com/double-shoshone, but it wasn’t meant to be. They gave us a full refund.

So we needed an activity for the day. My younger ones had been hiked out from the week before so we needed an easier day. The concierge in Wyndham suggested Piney River Ranch. It’s only 8-10 miles from Vail but on a dirt road and a bit nauseating for my passengers (we took Bonine). Once up there, a beautiful lake and background. They rent canoes for $30 an hour and you can put up to 3 people in each. He gave us an extra 20 minutes and it was beautiful. They also have horseback riding, but with pricing at $105 per person and needing to weigh less than 220 pounds, that counted that out one way or the other. They seemed to have a hike as well which we skipped. On the drive out, there’s a small bridge that you cross that has a small camping area right there. We pulled over there to have lunch and then went down to the stream down below and the kids had a real nice quiet place to put their feet in the water. We saw a moose on the way out. https://www.pineyriverranch.com/

(https://i.postimg.cc/hGgBMF6v/IMG-3246.jpg) (https://postimg.cc/CRvXL2Fp)

Day 12 - Lake Dillon, Loveland Pass
Tomorrow is our last day. We have a 6PM flight so we figured we’d take a short stop by Lake Dillon and drive by Loveland Pass to get a picture by the continental divide since it’s just 10 minutes out of the way. Then stop for some pizza before heading towards the airport.

Final Thoughts - Colorado is a beautiful State and we only touched what was within 2 hours driving from Denver or Vail. On top of that, the idea that kosher food and minyanim (under normal circumstances) are available make it an obvious place to visit. I would have loved to have hit some spots like the Sand Dunes and the Grand Canyon of the Gunnison but with our age groups, it would have been too much driving at this stage in life.

Vail is a beautiful place. And if you have the time, it’s definitely worth stopping here for 3-4 days as a base to hit places like Glenwood Canyon, Hanging Lake, Colorado River Rafting, Piney River Ranch along with Vail Mountain and shops. Most of the people that I met in the Vail area only come to Vail to visit. Some for 10 days. I think it would be a shame to make the trip to such a beautiful state for so long, and miss out on many places that are too far from Vail when they could have done it if they were based in Denver (or any other place for that matter).

I hope when the kids are a bit older to return and hit some of those places I couldn’t reach, as well as get my Double Shoshone Rafting.

I hope this helps.