Rainbow Mountain Peru Trek

The magical mountains of rainbow are located in Cusco, Peru high up in the Andes. The peak of rainbow mountains has an altitude of 17,060 ft / 5,200 m above sea level. The city of Cusco sits at an altitude of (11,152 ft / 3,399 m). The rainbow mountains are called Vinicunca, Winikunka, or Montaña de Siete Colores by Peruvians. If you’re asking yourself “is it worth going to Peru rainbow mountains?” the answer is YES.

Her Life Adventures Rainbow Mountain Peru Trek

Rainbows and mountains are both beautiful. And I’m obsessed with anything colorful/shiny/that sparkles. So when I heard you could hike to a RAINBOW MOUNTAINS in Peru (rainbows + mountains = Chelsea’s favorite things) I knew I had to go.

Rainbow Mountain Peru Trek

Visiting Peru’s Rainbow Colored Mountains

I was nervous for the ascent up the mountain- Instead of acclimating like most people I had been sick for a good majority of the trip from the altitude in Cusco (for whatever reason my body absolutely HATES altitude, and anything over 9,000 ft makes me nauseous and uncomfortable). This trek would be pushing my body to limits i’d never pushed it to before- and I worried these beautiful mountains could very well be the death of me.

Rainbow Mountain Peru Hiking Trail

How do I get to the rainbow mountains?

The morning of the hike starts EARLY, or late if you want to look at it that way- the van picked us up from our Airbnb in Cusco at 2:30 a.m. We all instantly regretted not bringing a pillow for the 3 hour ride ahead of us. Blankets were provided for us, so we attempted to sleep on each other and catch up on some zzz’s (we didn’t get to sleep till 10 p.m after the Machu Picchu trip ). The rough ride made that difficult, and nobody got much sleep. I’m pretty sure there are more speed bumps in Peru than the entire continent of South America…

Rainbow Mountain Village

We arrived at a village 15 minutes from the trailhead where we were fed a light breakfast by the locals. Breakfast consisted of breads, jams/butter, a plate of scrambled eggs, and some tea (it’s highly recommended you drink the coca tea- it will help with the altitude sickness). I was nauseous from the van ride and/or altitude so I skipped breakfast.

When we arrived at the trail head around 6:30 a.m. we were at 14,000 ft and it was cold! Layers on layers was key to this trek. There were locals selling wool gloves, hats, scarves, parkas and other souvenirs- a couple people from the group bought some hats and gloves. We still had 2000 ft in elevation to gain and it was already cold…

Rainbow Mountain Sherpas

You Can Ride Horses to Rainbow Mountains Peak

There were horses for rent that you could ride up the mountain for 60 soles (about $18 USD). SOLD. And that was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Half our group decided to rent horses, while the other half decided to brave the mountain on foot.

Rainbow Mountain Horses
Horseback Riding Rainbow Mountain Peru Trek

The horse came with a local guide who led the horse up the mountain for you- these guides were the real heros. They were wearing sandals on their feet- and made the trip up and down the mountain MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY, sometimes running past other hikers on the way down.

It was impressive and made me feel like a whimp on my horse- but then I’d try to take a deep breath, and considering I was having a hard time breathing just sitting there, I knew the horse was a wise decision.


Wildlife Along the Vinicunca Trail

Riding the horse up the mountain allowed me to relax, and enjoy all the incredible views along the way. These views included cuteness overload, with thousands of alpaca, llama, and farm animals.

Animals on Rainbow Mountain Hike

Reaching the Peak

The horses do not go up the last quarter mile of the hike- the mountain is too steep, and the air is too thin- so you know what that meant? It was up to us to make it through the hardest part of the hike. Since we had left at 2:30 in the morning- we were the first tour group to arrive to the mountain.

Hiking up to Rainbow Mountain

There was only 4 people in sight, and we had the opportunity to be some of the first people up the mountain that day. So I moved as fast as I could before the other tour groups started arriving to summit. The key was slow and steady, I would take 5 steps and be panting and out of breath.

Her Life Adventures Rainbow Mountain Peru Trek

Rainbow Mountain Peru Hiking Trail

Is hiking up Peru’s rainbow mountains difficult?

The photo above doesn’t make it look very daunting, does it? I remember being so frustrated I couldn’t breathe, my stomach was rolling with nausea, and I was in tears just 10 feet away from reaching the top. I didn’t think I was going to make it, I thought for sure I was going to die by asphyxiation right there on that mountain in Peru.

Hiking up to Rainbow Mountain

When I finally took my last step to the top- I collapsed to the ground, gasping for air, trying to catch my breath for a couple minutes. I felt like a fish out of water. Finally my breathing slowed- and as I lifted my head to look up at what I had just worked for- a smile of pure joy spread across my face, and I knew instantly it was all worth it.

Hiking up to Rainbow Mountain

**This hike is extremely difficult for all levels of fitness, due to the high altitude and low oxygen levels. Please consult with your physician if you have any questions. It is recommended that hikers do not spend more than 30 minutes at the peak (the air is too thin)**


Arriving at the Peak

Making it to the top of the peak was a huge accomplishment for me. I fought through physical and mental exhaustion not allowing myself to give up (believe me, I wanted to) Everyone cheers each other on at the top, those that’ve reached it, know that it’s those last few steps where people hit their wall and almost give up, and they NEED that encouragement.

Rainbow Mountain Peru Peak
Rainbow Mountain Peak View

We were offered the horses again on the way down. I was confident enough that I could make it down on my own, so I declined the assistance. The trip down as always- was easier than the trip up.

Rainbow Mountain Peru Trek
Rainbow Mountain Peru Llamas

Homemade Peruvian Lunch

When we got to the bottom we were served a homemade authentic Peruvian lunch, and I had no issues stuffing my face this time around. It was after all, Thanksgiving 🦃


My Peru Crew!

Rainbow Mountain Peru Trek

Helpful Hints for Visiting Rainbow Mountains

Our group of 6 did a tour package with Flashpacker Connect- they were awesome, and our guide Johnathon was extremely knowledgeable. Our package was for the 2 day inca trail hike, 1 day Machu Picchu, and 1 day in the rainbow mountains. They provided transportation to and from each expedition, an over night stay after the inca trail in the town aquas calientes, and a good majority of our meals.

**If you are concerned with the altitude, please consult with your doctor before your trek**

The mountain trek takes place above 4000 meters; the terrain is challenging, and weather is unpredictable ranging from hot and humid to rain and wind. Hikers should be in reasonable shape, and healthy. Ensure you have proper gear and be prepared for variable weather conditions throughout the day.

Rainbow Mountain Peru Hike

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The Perfect Weekend Camping in Michigan’s UP Central Region

The Perfect Weekend Camping in Michigan’s UP
(Central Region)

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The U.S. state of Michigan is made up of two major peninsulas. The Upper Peninsula (UP), is the northern of the two.

MI UP Map

Locals of the Lower Peninsula will often say I’m going “up north” for the weekend. Which could be anywhere north of their local county. Memorial Day weekend, my boyfriend and I took our fur babies camping up north to Michigan’s UP to welcome the beginning of the summer season. “Up North” for the weekend took us 6 hours north of Detroit straight up I-75 to the central region of The UP.

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 The summer months (Late May- August) are best for tent camping in The UP. Temperatures range from mid 70’s to low 90’s, depending on how close to the waters you go. Lake Superior touches the northern part of the region, while Lake Michigan/Huron (depending on what side of the Mackinac Bridge you’re on) border the southern region.

Where To Camp

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Indian Lake State Campground

We left right after work Friday to make the most of our three-day holiday weekend. Arriving to our campsite at night per usual (we’re getting SO GOOD at setting up camp in the dark). We camped at Indian Lake State campground for the weekend, it was centrally located for all the activities we had planned. Michigan has some INCREDIBLE state campgrounds, I would recommend booking early, as most fill up quickly during the summer. Our camp site for the weekend was right on the lake! Check out my packing guide for what gear I use. *Note* If the state parks are all full, there are private owned campgrounds in the area as well as cabin rentals.

Explore Kitch-iti-kipi

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Kitch-iti-kipi known as “The Big Spring” is another gem in The UP’s crown. The 40 ft. deep spring pumps over 10,000 gallons of water a minute! Be sure to ride the self-operated observation raft across the spring, it offers a unique perspective, providing striking views to the bottom.

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Big Spring is located inside Palms Book State Park, beautiful all year round… Big Spring doesn’t freeze! Visiting in the winter to see the crystal clear blue waters surrounded by a winter wonderland would be an epic adventure. (Mental note made)

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is 40 miles of breath taking lakeshore along Lake Superior. There are nearly 100 miles of hiking trails winding through dense forest that will take you to waterfalls, pristine beaches and other secluded beauty.

Take A Hike

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Deciding which hike to do will be tough, there are so many things to explore! I would recommend doing a couple hikes inside this bubble of national protected land to best see the beauty the UP has to offer. Michigan is so incredible! As we hiked along lakeshore north country trail the trail suddenly went from dirt to boardwalk as we crossed over some swamp lands. As we continued further, I looked around… we were completely surrounded 360 degrees by bright yellow flowers.

Relax at Chapel Beach

img_0134Explore the beach area and hike to the waterfall nearby!

Take A Dip

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At the end of the hike there was the opportunity to cool off in a bath of crystal clear ABSOLUTELY FREEZING Lake Superior water. I wouldn’t recommend swimming for too long, while the surface temperature of Lake Superior varies seasonally, the temperature below (660 ft; 200 m) is 39 °F (4 °C) I dipped my toes in and decided that was enough for me! 😊

For more on what to do in Michigan’s U.P check out my post on the Eastern Region!

MI UP Map

 

Packing Guide: Camping National Parks

Packing Guide for Camping

Being outside in nature, soaking up the sunshine and fresh air is one of my favorite things to do. Camping is one of the best ways to experience the outdoors in all it’s natural beauty. My budget travel enthusiasts will appreciate the cash they’ll save by instead of staying in hotels. My packing guide for camping is perfect for when visiting National Parks, or other backpack camping destinations.

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This blog post may contain affiliate links. If you click on one of my affiliate links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission for referring you. This comes at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I have personally used + loved.

But what do we do for food?!? The best part about camping outdoors means cooking meals in cool places. After all, what’s better than dinner with a view? The Skys the limit on where you choose to eat your meals.

Camp Freeze Dried Food
Yosemite National Park

Last year I went on dozens of camping trips- forgetting something when you’re camping can be a huge pain in the ass (this one time we couldn’t find fuel, so our meal depended on if we could get the water boiling over a fire- not impossible, just time consuming, and after 5 days- that’s a lot of work) – most times we’re in the middle of nowhere, so you’re out of luck if you do.

I’ve brought friends with me on trips who have never camped before, and their first question is always- what do I pack? It was entertaining to watch them stumble through what they thought they might need (20 lbs of clothes, and no sleeping bag- maybe they were going to just wear lots of layers?)

Yoho National Park

I’ve created a packing guide to avoid that, broken up into camping essentials that you cant be without- down to what is nice to have if you have the packing space/weight. I usually try to fit my gear in a carry on so I don’t have to check a bag on the flight. Helping me save money!

Here’s your ultimate packing guide to camping in national parks!

Camping Essentials

necessities

 

Tent

My REI Half dome plus tent is the perfect size for me and my travel companion. With a door on each side it makes it easier to enter + exit without disturbing my sleeping partner.

The towel I bring is ideal for backpack camping. The light weight, compact towel comes in handy for showers, swimming, travel, or backpacking. It dries fast and is designed for multiple uses daily.

Sleeping Bag/Pad

Sleeping on the ground isn’t always the most comfortable, a good pad can make a huge difference when it comes to a good night sleep- plus it keeps you warm when the temperatures drop. The sleeping pad I use is nice because it self inflates- and after a long day of hiking, I’m lazy and need all my air.  The marmot sleeping bag I use is awesome- it has a hood at the top that not only keeps your head warm- it keeps your pillow from sliding away at night.

 Tip: Pack a sleeping pad repair kit just in case!

Head Lamp

It’s always ideal to set up camp during the daylight hours- however somehow I always manage to end up at camp when the sun goes down. Holding a flashlight (or your cellphone) while trying to set up your tent for the night is difficult- get a head lamp. Yes it looks silly, yes you will be extremely grateful you brought one.

Tip: its handy to study the park maps and pick out what hikes you’re going to do the day before to see if there are any restrictions before you get to the trail head.

Backpack With Daypack

The backpack I take on my trips is better classified as a travel backpack than it is a backpacking backpack. What I love about it is it opens like a suitcase/duffel. PLUS the outer small daypack is the removable- great for carrying my water bladder or camera gear on my hikes.

Camp Stove/Cookware

Food is one of the largest expenses when traveling. Cooking your meals while camping will help cut down costs tremendously ($5 usd a meal vs $15 usd eating out). I bring my stove and cookware with me on longer hikes and cook my meal with a view at the summit- just don’t forget your spork (that’s happened to me several times). The cookware kit I have comes with bowls/pots/pans/spork and a stove. 

Tip: Conserve water and use the leftover water from cooking to clean your dishes. 

Footwear

I have two different types of hiking footwear. My Tevas are designed specifically for a woman’s foot in order to provide unmatched comfort and performance in the water. I’ll also wear them in hot climates or sand hiking.

For more aggressive terrain such as rocky trails, I’ll wear my Salomon Women’s X Ultra hiking boots. These shoes are specifically designed for a woman’s anatomy. It holds your foot in place even during technical descents, and prevents slippage so you can enjoy more stable and safer descents.

Still Have Space?

Other Stuff

 

If you are planning on backpacking and hiking to your campsite every oz of weight matters- you have to carry your bag for miles. These next items are SUPER NICE to have, but you can get by without them if you don’t have them or are trying to save space & weight.

Hammock & Slap Straps

There’s nothing better than kicking back in my hammock after a long day on the trails. I keep telling myself one night I’ll pull in my sleeping bag/pad and sleep under the stars (But then things like coyote’s howling at all hours of the night prevent that from happening- imagine that.) The slap straps I have are easy to use and make set up happen in seconds.

Pillow & Chair

I’m not gonna lie… camping without a pillow or camp chair can make for an uncomfortable night. I use my pillow on the airplanes (and sleep the entire flight 99% of the time). Sometimes I’ll forget the pillow, and I have to get creative for an alternative. Most times I make a ball out of clothes or the sweatshirt I’m wearing (I don’t recommend that). This lightweight camping chair takes up minimal space, and makes those nights around the campfire that much more enjoyable.

Tip: Some campsites don’t have picnic tables so when I get stuck sitting on the ground or finding a good “butt rock”. I always regret not bringing one.

Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are perhaps the most genius travel invention ever. If you don’t have a set- pay the $10 and get yourself some. They will change the way you travel forever. The cubes keep your clothes separated, keep your bag organized, and make packing things up fast and easy.

Tip: Roll your clothes instead of folding them, you’ll fit a lot more in.

Cocoon & Life Straw

I use my cocoon in the summer months- it’s perfect for warm nights and keeps my sleeping bag clean if it’s a dry shampoo type of day. The life straw is nice to have if you plan on doing longer hikes (6 + miles). My water bladder holds about 3 liters- and I get pretty close to running out on harder treks. I bring the lifeproof straw in case of emergency- it filters out 99.999999% of all the bad stuff, so you can drink from a fresh water source in a pinch.

What’s your favorite camping gear? Leave a comment!

Check out these extraordinary National Parks to inspire your next camping adventure!

2017 Year Review

✨2017 Was an Incredible Year for me ✨

I traveled on 3 international trips with AMAZING people (Thailand, Alberta Canada, and Peru), I camped in 5 new national parks, and I put thousandssss of Michigan road trip miles on the car. 🚙

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Macchu Picchu, Peru, November 2017

Rocky Mountain National Park, Septemer 2017- Couple Trip

 

California Mother Daughter Trip, November 2017

 

Brimley State Park, October 2017- Couple Trip

 

Yosemite National Park, California, September 2017

 

 

Port Crescent State Park, Michigan, Summer 2017

 

Wilderness State Park, Michigan, Summer 2017

 

Emerald Lake- Yoho National Park, July 2017

 

Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada, July 2017

 

Banff National Park, Alberta Canada, July 2017

 

Thailand Group Pic

 

Thailand, February 2017

 

 

I’ve worn glasses or contacts since I was in middle school. Every year my eye sight would get worse and worse- I made the decision I would get lasik surgery and ditch the contacts & glasses- and it’s one of the best investments I’ve made. This year my body was challenged in so many ways. From eye surgery to zero gravity flying to hiking into the highest altitude I’ve ever experienced- 2017 had it all. ⛰

 

Rainbow Mountain Peru, Altitude around 16,000 ft

Zero Gravity Flying

 

In 2017 I knocked some big stuff off the bucket list including white water rafting, rock climbing, and starting a travel blog. 💻

I have so many wonderful amazing things to be thankful for this year. But these two amazing beings here are what I am most grateful for. They came into my life a year ago and I am so excited I get to start 2018 with them– Happy New Year everyone!

 

The Perfect Weekend in Denver

Some of my favorite trips are the ones that happen spontaneously, that being said- I spend a lot of my time on skyscanner. Almost every single day, I’m looking at flights out of Detroit to see what kind of deals are out there (everyone always asks me how I travel so much= skyscanner). So when I found roundtrip tickets to Denver out of Detroit for under $100 ROUNDTRIP per person- I booked Logan and I tickets .0001 seconds later. (Umm sweetheart, we’re going to Denver next weekend ok?) Did I mention the tickets were for Friday to Sunday? Aka 48 hours? The perfect weekend getaway was officially set into motion.

Thoughts of mountains, road trips, and all the good food started taking over. I started thinking about all the amazing things on my Pinterest Board there are to do in Denver and the surrounding areas (I knew we couldn’t go THAT close to the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and NOT explore it.) We only had 48 hours from take off to landing back in Detroit. So with so little time and so much to do how do you choose? Two days. Two ways to spend them, one day in the city, one in the mountains = perfect!

We landed in Denver early Friday morning and picked up our rental car. It was 11 a.m. in Denver but we had been up since 5 a.m. Detroit time and this girl hadn’t eaten yet- that made finding food priority #1. I read everywhere that Snooze was THE place for brunch in Denver. This place certainly lived up to the hype. There was a 45 minute wait for a table (still hungry) and the restaurant was located in an old train station full of cute shops and eateries. We set off to explore a bit, and may have done some snacking while we waited…

Pasty snack, Pigtrain Coffee

Eggs benny classic and chili verde, Snooze

Breakfast Pot Pie, Snooze

After what might have been my favorite meal of the trip and some long over due caffeine we headed out to explore Denver. We popped into a couple local dispensaries to see what legal marijuana was all about. The weed dispensaries are everywhere, on every square block, of Denver. You’re usually within walking distance of one in most parts of the city. Since we turned 21 a couple years ago… (ok so it was more then a couple) we could just walk into any that looked cool. One was located in this older abandoned building… it was on the top floor of this old creepy spiral carpeted staircase. We contemplated turning back each step up we took, thinking surely we were in the wrong spot (we weren’t).


We ventured over to Larimer Square to explore the local shops and see the famous lights (we went a little too early, they weren’t turned on yet). It was September, just the beginning of the fall season- and the weather that day was perfect, cloudy and 70 degrees. Perfect for walking around with a delicious cup of coffee. While we walked around the city, I decided Denver was my favorite city. I loved the vibes, the art pieces (even the restaurant signs were creative and artsy), the cleanliness of the city. This mountain town was someplace I must return to someday.

Larimer Square


The cottage we were staying at in Estes Park (Dripping Springs Resort) was about an hour an a half drive from the city of Denver. As soon as we pulled into the drive way I knew this place was magical. We parked the car outside the cute entrance way and followed the path into the main house to check in. The dogs of the owners of the B&B greeted us with excited barks. We were shown a tour of the grounds, which included a smoking gazebo, a porch with chairs and hammocks (all overlooking the river) a few nature walking paths through the woods, and our cabin.


I felt like I was living a fairy tale. We stayed in the Canopy Cottage B&B Room. The cabin was meticulously decorated, with a warm and homey feel. We had a private porch with soft outdoor lighting overlooking the river that included a jacuzzi tub and bistro table & chairs. I didn’t think we’d be making it to the RMNP. This place was perfect, and I never wanted to leave. At this point in the night we had been traveling all day and the last thing I wanted to do was get back in the car. There was a mini fridge, teapot and wine glasses- but no food. But because this place is perfect- there was an assortment of menus in the room- and a delivery service ($3.00 usd) for any of the restaurants on the list… I’m sorry what? You’ll deliver me food to my cabin in the middle of no where so I don’t have to leave? Did I mention that I love this place? When the food arrived we ate out on the patio and warmed up in the jacuzzi before bed. The canopy bed was draped in sheers with twinkle lights, covered in a mountain of fluffy pillows- it was a beautiful night so we left the door open, and fell asleep to the sounds of the river.

Breakfast was served at 8:30 a.m. sharp in the main house. We were served a home cooked meal family style- of hot oatmeal, potato pancakes, breakfast meat, fresh fruit, and eggs. It was the perfect meal to get us ready for the long day of exploring we had ahead of us in the Rockies. Before we left we were given our picnic basket (you can picnic baskets, s’mores, and other cute romantics) which we enjoyed later that day on our road trip through the RMNP.

Estes Park is only a 10 minute drive to the entrance of the Rocky Mountain National Park. Our plan was to just drive on Trail Ridge Road (highway 34) from Estes Park to Grand Lake. It’s a 48 mile route that connects to east and west side of the rocky mountains. The drive was absolutely beautiful. It was early fall- and the yellow birch trees were in full force everywhere you looked, dotting the green colored mountains.

The drive along Trail Ridge Road (commonly referred to as the highway to the sky) crosses the Continental Divide. Of the 48 miles on this route- 11 of those miles are driven ABOVE the treeline, with elevation near 11,500 feet. The evergreen forest starts to disappear as you climb higher into the windy tundra to the highest point at 12,183 feet in elevation. We parked the car to walk out to the viewing point. With the high winds the clouds and fog made the visibility of the mountains a peep show of peaks popping in and out of view.

A word of caution should you decide to travel the Trail Ridge Road through the park for a few hours- the air is thin at these high altitudes (10,500- 13,000 ft). Traffic is slow- and the blind drop offs along the way make the drive strenuous. The weather is unpredictable- and travel above the tree lines should be accomplished early in the day.

We continued back down in elevation towards the city of Grand Lake to have some dinner. It had started to rain when we arrived, and the temperature had started to drop drastically so we decided to skip the kayaking. Instead we walked around downtown shopping at the little shops and checking out the food scene (not as impressive as Denver) we found a pizza joint and got some coffee for the road trip back.

We headed north on 34 back towards Estes Park. When we arrived at the west entrance of RMNP, the guard informed us that the road to Estes Park was closed due to snow. WHAT. We were just there a couple hours ago and it was beautiful! We had to turn around- we can’t get back home that way… that meant a 4 hour detour AROUND the park- not even through it.

Thankfully Colorado is all gorgeous and the ride home turned out to be more scenic then we anticipated! Despite the turn around- we had an amazing weekend exploring the beautiful Denver and Rocky Mountain National Park. See below for a complete itinerary of our weekend in Denver- what can YOU do in two days?

48 Hours in Denver Itinerary

Friday, Sep. 22 – Sunday, Sep. 24

Friday 9/22: Depart DTW 7:00 am SPIRIT

    • Arrive Denver 8:00 am
    • Pick up rental car
    • Snooze (1701 Wynkoop St #150, Denver, CO 80202)
    • Tattered Cover Book Store
    • Ice Cream Riot (1238 E Colfax Ave)
    • Pig Train Coffee
    • Milkbox Ice Creamery
    • Larimer Square (1430 Larimer St)

Drive 1.5 hours to Dripping Springs Resort

Saturday 9/23: Rocky Mountain NP

Trail Ridge Road: The highest continuously paved highway in the U.S., this 48-mile route connects the town of Grand Lake (on Rocky Mountain’s west side) to Estes Park (the eastern gateway). In between, it scales treeless peaks and crosses the Continental Divide. Trail head pull offs are located along the road to explore deeper into the park.

Grand Lake: Paddle a kayak or SUP across Colorado’s largest natural lake, which affords wide-open panoramas of the surrounding peaks.

Sunday 9/24: Depart DEN 9:30 am SPIRIT

    • Arrive DTW 2:21 PM