Months of planning done, last minute mapping complete, ESTA and passports at the ready, kit and clothing all packed (a lot easier as there was no actual climbing this time..) we headed to Glasgow Airport for what was promising to be the trip of our lifetime.. (or at last top 3!).
This is the first of a series of around 7 or 8 blogs covering the trip.. I’ll keep it low on words and big on pics but hope to add some great insights and tips along the way for anyone wanting to give it a go… pre-trip planning was key (and I do love to plan!) and having Plan A’s, B’s and even C’s in the bag meant we could max our time (and even squeeze in an extra park!).
The US National Park websites are superb resources and really do offer everything you need to plan, pre pay passes (tip… if you plan to go to 3 or more parks you may be better just buying an annual pass for $80 covering all US federal parks)
A willingness to drive for hours (the scenery, roads and gas stations stocked like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory make it fun) , get up early and “go for it” as well as staying flexible and fluid also help – as do basic map skills.. but.. its really easy to road trip in the states as we discovered even for 1st timers so hope you find it fun to read and even inspiring! If it does let me know 🙂
The plan was 13 days, driving 5 states in a big anti clockwise loop starting and ending in Denver an visiting /exploring 5 amazing National parks along the way .. it became 6 but we’ll get to that later.
Landing in “the mile high city” of Denver was step 1 as we were getting our hire car here and it would be our start and end point of the whole adventure. Nice city, lovely people it has to be said and as my wife travels for work A LOT we had a great room at the Hyatt and the team there were awesome!
May 3,2019 – Land around 6pm local time after a 10 hour flight and back 7 hourse due to time zones – check in , sort next day planning, check AccuWeather app (great for multiple locations planning !) ..go to the bar for a nightcap and to look out over the Denver skyline and towards the Rockies! … and sleep.
May 4 – Up early, walked a quick 2 blocks south to get the hire car and loaded up the car and off we went… bound for RockyMountains national park and now officially on our road trip (can i get a Woop Woop!).. me getting to grips with driving on the working side.. some signs a bit confusing but quickly enjoying it . Have to say we found the US road infrastructure to be excellent all round! No wonder so many do road trips.
This early in May it’s still officially spring here in Colorado and given its altitude (lowest point around 2,300m , highest at around 3,800m (snowed in this early in season)- so drink plenty water, and take your time as you will start to feel effects of altitude if coming straight from sea level) still plenty of snow in the mountains. heading to Estes park and into the park we were limited due to access roads still being closed but already we cold get out and enjoy the BIG landscape. Entering Estes you pass a big rock sign so of course – Photo Stop! when you do grab a seat and before you know it you are surrounded by dozens of chipmonks and Blue Jays – stunning birds with a bright blue feathering.
Off into the park for an afternoon just to get our feet on the ground and “acclimatise” to the US and park “structure” before the main event and before heading to Boulder for dinner and sleep. Mostly driving and the odd stop and short walk up to a rocky outcrop, enjoy the views which are never ending – Rocky Mountain is similar to a “big Scotland/Alpine environment” .. parks to come were not anywhere near as familiar… , grab lunch .. wander round the first of many tourist oriented shops selling everything from Stetsons to mounted stag heads.. its is the US after all!
Sun , sights, animals and our Park cherry popped we headed over to Boulder for a chilled evening and wander around the cool/hipster pedestrianised Pearl St , before hitting the road for the start of the road trip proper.. a 9 hour drive out of Colorado into Wyoming and to Jackson Hole – home of the stunning and mountainous Grand Tetons National Park… which you’ll find more about in the next report. .. so come back and check it out very soon… trust me , we haven’t even started yet!