Snowy landscapes and The Shining: Colorado in the winter

Wednesday, 22 Mar, 2023 0

By Graham McKenzie

Just ninety minutes from downtown Denver lies the town of Estes Park.

Recognised as the gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park it has long held the reputation for a centre of activity, wildlife watching and stunning views. For somebody, like me, who loves adventure, snow, frosted trees, frozen lakes and the anticipation that something quite different is round the corner, it is a winter wonderland.

First things first though; the drive from Denver to Estes Park is one that starts and ends with the constant reminder of how magnificent the Rocky Mountains are. They are at their spectacular best in the winter. When the sky is a deep blue, and the sun is high the terrain before you is magnetic in its quality. It’s the mainland equivalent of being at the seaside. Here watching the views roll in one after another is as hypnotic as watching waves cascade.

Estes Park is a relatively small town and in the colder months not especially busy. Its easy to park, easy to get restaurant reservations and easy to find a good hotel. I stayed at the Taharaa Mountain Lodge which was friendly and comfortable but also has one of the towns leading restaurants, Twin Owls, on site.

Taharaa is an Ute Native American word that means ‘Beautiful View’ and from my room, that had a small balcony overlooking the valleys that merge in Estes Park, it was an appropriate naming. My room also had fast Wi-Fi, coffee making facilities, every channel you could ever want, a very comfy bed plus a fireplace with real flames. If you don’t feel cosy in the Taharaa you have no chance.

For the nephologists amongst you Colorado is a dream destination. The winds that are taken high over the Rocky Mountains create some of the most spectacular skies one could see, and lenticular clouds are quite common.

The big-ticket item for me however was snow shoeing in the Rocky Mountains. This is not something I had done before and approaching the mountain staging post I was expecting to slip into a pair of comfy modified tennis racquets. This was not the case as modern snowshoes are oblong pieces of plastic with grips on the bottom and straps for your snow boots. Once I was fully equipped, off we went to the trail to begin the ascent. The temperature at this stage was around the -15c level but the trail was fairly clear with compacted snow.

After about a mile I realised that the reason for lack of breath was the altitude as we were about two miles above sea level but the counter to this were the unbelievable views across the valleys. After and hour ascending we called it a day, but the descent was definitely a walk on the wild side as we went decidedly off piste. Bounding, if that’s the right term, through huge snow drifts, sliding on backsides, spotting wildlife, traversing frozen lakes and stopping to wonder at the beauty of it all.  The images will remain with me on what was a day never to be forgotten.

Once back in the comfort of my hotel I had one last task to complete and that was to re-enact one of the most iconic and frightening horror movies of all time. Estes Park is home to the Stanley Hotel the inspiration for Stephen King’s novel The Shining.  Most evenings you can pay a small fee and take a tour of the hotel, find out about its history, which in itself is compelling, and how Stephen King came to stay there, get very drunk and have a nightmare which gave him the inspiration for this dark tale.

All in all, Estes Park is an ideal destination if you like the thrill of winter in all its guises but don’t happen to ski.

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Learn more about :   Colorado Tourism ( Asia Pecific )     Colorado Tourism ( United Kingdom )     Colorado Tourism ( N. America )  


TravelMole Editorial Team

Editor for TravelMole North America and Asia pacific regions. Ray is a highly experienced (15+ years) skilled journalist and editor predominantly in travel, hospitality and lifestyle working with a huge number of major market-leading brands. He has also cover in-depth news, interviews and features in general business, finance, tech and geopolitical issues for a select few major news outlets and publishers.

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