On August 28, 2016, I took advantage of the free weekend in the national parks by driving through Rocky Mountain National Park on Trail Ridge Road and skipping the usual $20 per vehicle fee. Then I used the money I saved to relax at the Hot Sulphur Springs Resort and Spa.
I left my house before 6:30, eager for a morning of picture-taking and an afternoon of relaxing.
Sunflowers at a pulloff on Highway 36 south of Boulder.
I reached Estes Park around 8 and had a quick breakfast and bathroom break at McDonald's before hitting Trail Ridge Road.
The first pulloff inside Rocky Mountain National Park on Trail Ridge Road, coming from Estes Park.
I was immediately presented with amazing photographic opportunities. This picture looks like something Bob Ross would have painted.
At first, I stopped at nearly every pulloff, but I realized it would take me days to get through the park at that pace, so I started limiting my stops to ones that looked unique or especially beautiful.
The Continental Divide
Poudre Lake, a short walk from a parking lot off of Trail Ridge Road. Stunning!
Can you believe I got all these amazing photos with just my cell phone?
Me next to Poudre Lake.
I took so many pictures, I really had to limit myself to how many I put here. No need to turn you off with dozens of repetitive mountain shots. But I really can't recommend RMNP enough for other budding photographers like myself to try out your skills. It is truly a beautiful place and makes me grateful to be a Coloradan!
I brought a picnic lunch with me and had lunch at the Pine Beach Picnic Site next to Shadow Mountain Reservoir, which lies next to Grand Lake. This is just east of Highway 34 after it exits RMNP. Usually it is $5 to use the picnic area. Hooray for free days!
Back on the road, I took Highway 34 until it hit Highway 40 and headed west toward Hot Sulphur Springs for an afternoon of relaxation.
I didn't take any pics of the hot springs because it's private property. Also, if it was me, I wouldn't want some stranger taking pictures of me in my swimsuit when I was trying to relax. You can see pictures of the hot springs on their web site.
My favorite part about Hot Sulphur Springs is that there are 24 pools and private baths to choose from, all of which are different temperatures, and some of which are indoors. It's fun to hop from pool to pool to find just the right temperature and ambiance. I enjoy hopping into the big swimming pool to cool down after spending time in the hotter small pools. The big pool is kept between 78-82 degrees and is only open May through October.
Four of the warm pools are for children under 12, and the rest are adults only. All pool areas are supposed to be quiet areas, and for the most part, people seem to respect that.
This day, the hot springs were a little busy, and I often had to share a pool with others, though I did occasionally find myself with a pool all to myself, which is fantastically relaxing.
Adult pool price is $18.50. Kids under 12, who can only use the four children's pools, are $11.50. Kids under 3 are free. Private baths (which I haven't tried yet) are $16 per person per hour. The lockers require two quarters - plan on at least a dollar per person in quarters, because you will probably need to get into your locker at least once before taking your stuff out at the end of the day, either because you forgot to put on your sunscreen or grab your sunglasses or perhaps you want to grab $2 for a cold water from the front desk after you've been soaking for a couple of hours.
The resort and spa also offers rooms and spa services, but I have not tried those yet and have no comment about them.
About 5 pm, I started to feel overheated and sunbaked and decided it was time to head home. I got caught in rain and decided to stop in Granby for a snack to see if I could wait the storm out. It was still raining when I left, but I quickly drove out of the storm and was rewarded with a drive through the clouds.
There was a great pulloff for me to stop and take these pictures.
I got home a little before 8, exhausted but relaxed. I highly recommend this day trip to everyone!