When planning my birthday trip this year I was in search of a destination that would make for a short weekend getaway and offer great hiking and lots to see and do. After some research I landed on Gatlinburg, a mountain town in eastern Tennessee. Known as the Gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it would also allow us the opportunity to check another national park off our bucket list. While this is a great road trip destination from many major cities, since we were limited on time we decided to fly into Knoxville and make the short hour drive to Gatlinburg.
When trying to decide on my travel plans for the summer, I knew I wanted to focus on road trips and discovering new Midwest cities. Located only 5 1/2 hours from Southwest Michigan, and home to a National Park (another one of my travel goals), St. Louis made the perfect choice for a long, weekend getaway. The city is home to numerous attractions and the food scene was unlike anything I'd experienced before with culinary kudos to so many different cultures. Be sure to spend time checking out the city's various neighborhoods which each offer their own unique flare. And of course you can't forget bout the 630 foot arch which in the heart of downtown!
Keep reading to discover how we spent three days in The Gateway to the West.
One of my travel goals this past year has been to visit more major US cities. Surprisingly, Denver hadn't even crossed my mind until my husband said he wanted to visit the mountains. We had a flight credit from our trip to Hawaii earlier this year and when we found a deal we couldn't pass up we booked a weekend to the Mile High City. And wow I'm so glad we did! This city had so many great things to offer and checked so many things off our travel list - hiking, beer, and baseball! We had almost four full days in Denver and were committed to making the most of our time and squeezing in as much adventure as possible.
We found a great Air BnB located just 10 minutes outside the city which was a perfect home base. We also rented a car which I highly recommend if you plan to explore Rocky Mountain National Park or any of the smaller surrounding towns. If you're staying right downtown and don't plan to go far you can get away without one. Denver has a great public bus system as well as Bird scooters and ride share.
Located only an hour and a half from downtown Denver, we knew we had to make a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park on our recent weekend getaway to the Mile High City. As much as I travel, I had never been to a National Park before and was excited to check this one off my list. And boy have I been missing out all these years! Rocky Mountain National Park was absolutely breathtaking - I've never seen anything like it before. We only had an afternoon to enjoy the beauty of the park so we tried to pack in as much adventure as possible in a short amount of time. After a delicious breakfast at Denver Biscuit Company, we hit the road for Estes Park and arrived around 10:30 a.m.
Roads in the park are busiest from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. during the summer months which boasted over 4.6 million visitors in 2018. Plan to arrive early or late to avoid crowds. Parking can also be hard to come by in certain areas of the park, with popular trailheads filling up as early as 6:30 a.m. We opted to park at the Estes Visitor Center (which has a garage and many free all day spots) and hop on the free shuttle bus. Although the bus is free, you'll still need to purchase a one day park pass ($25) in order to board the bus. Once you've got your confirmation email, be sure to screenshot it as service/wifi is limited when you get in the park. We took the Hiker Shuttle at the Visitor's Center up to the Park and Ride lot. There was open parking in this lot so you can try and drive up to this lot as well. From here we boarded a second bus to Bear Lake for our first hike of the day.
I love creating detailed travel guides to ensure you get the most out of your time. On this blog I'll be sharing some of my past trips in hopes that it helps you plan your next adventure. Pack your suitcase you never know where I'll be heading next!
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