This past week in the van was probably one of the most incredible so far! We spent another week in Colorado exploring the beautiful areas of Nederland, Boulder, & Rocky Mountain National Park! To say that these places blew us away, would be an understatement. We left thoroughly satisfied and yet already thinking about our return trips to the areas.
First, we drove the Peak to Peak highway from Denver all the way to Rocky Mountain. This is one of the most scenic drives in the entire country. Then, we went on hikes every single day of the week, which was definitely a record for us. Finally, we saw landscapes that I had only ever seen in pictures. It was absolutely mind boggling. You can read below for all the details of our last week in the van!
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Table of Contents
Van Life in Boulder & Rocky Mountain
When we heard a town celebrates something called “Frozen Dead Guy Days” we knew that we had to visit. Luckily, Nederland is located right off of the Peak to Peak Highway, which is one of the most scenic drives in Colorado and something you should add to your bucket list.
We got off the highway to explore Nederland, which was a quaint hippie town in the middle of the mountains. The reason that this town hosts the unique festival is because there is a man who was frozen by his family and is still kept in his original housing. This town also has fun small shops, delicious pizza at Crosscut Pizza (which we devoured), and amazing hikes in the surrounding mountains. Unfortunately, snow followed us there, so we only had time to explore a couple shops, eat pizza, and then we continued down the mountain to avoid the snow.
As soon as we got to Boulder, I could immediately tell that I liked it. I loved the feel of the town and the Flatirons that sit imposingly over the city are absolutely beautiful. Dylan and I really grew to love the city and we hope to go back one day!
First, we walked around the adorable Pearl Street Mall where shops line the street. They decorate the area for the season and when we were there, they had tulip beds that lined the mall. I loved how colorful and bright it made the area even on a cloudy day. We stopped along the way and found a bunch of great shops to pick up knick knacks and gifts for our loved ones.
That evening we slept on the street and woke up early to work at Trident coffee shop. This coffee shop had plenty of seating for working and there were lots of college students cramming for finals at the table. We enjoyed the quiet ambiance and we got a lot of work done before heading out on one of our first hikes of the trip. However, the rest of the week we chose to use the amazing modern library in town and we slept in the heart of town under the Flatirons at Chautauqua Park. It was such a great way to spend our time in this town.
Hikes We Did in Boulder
Over four days, Dylan and I completed five different day hikes in the area. Each of these hikes was more stunning than the last and we were in awe of the natural beauty that surrounded the area. You can read the hikes that I did in more detail here.
Each night we ended the work day with a new hike, which was the best way to spend our time. It felt so good to complete a serious hike after work and then either cook or grab a delicious bite in town. I wish I had even more time, because Boulder has a ton of great hikes to do in the area. It’s one of the places we’ve been where I felt like we could have spent more time exploring.
Hikes We did:
- First and Second Flatirons
- Rattlesnake Gulch
- Wonderland Lake
- Green Mountain
- Mt. Sanitas.
Food We Ate in Boulder
Something else that we liked about the Boulder area was the great food options it had. We found a lot of Colorado really lacking in food quality and delicious eating options. One of our favorite places that we went to in Boulder was the Avanti Food Hall. At this food hall, there’s a bar and multiple vendors with a variety of options from arepas to ice cream. Also, there is a great rooftop where you can go for happy hour on a nice evening and watch the sunset over the Flatirons.
The first night, we tried a plethora of options in the food hall. We got cold sesame noodles from Pig & Tiger, arepas from Quiero Arepas, and a Shawarma platter from Boychik. Wow, each dish we tried packed a punch and had delicious flavors. The hummus was incredibly smooth, while the cold sesame noodles were the perfect level of spicy. We loved this food hall and the dishes we tried so much, that we even went back another night for round two. If you have the option, make sure to go here on your trip to Boulder.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park (NP #30) is one of the most popular parks in the country and for good reason. This park is absolutely stunning! We pulled in on a sunny afternoon, but soon it began to snow as we immediately went into the park to get a campsite. Luckily, the campground still had multiple sites available to stay for the weekend, so we found a good one and spent a quiet night in the van.
Dylan and I woke up early Saturday morning to do a hike that we heard was one of the very best in the park. As we drove up the mountains, winds started to howl and I got a little worried that we would not be able to complete our trek to Sky Pond. The hike (which you can read more about here) is over 9 miles and climbs more than 1700 feet through the mountainside. We donned our microspikes, put on many layers, and got our hiking poles to prepare for the hike.
Wow, this was quite an experience! Unfortunately, a lot of the trail was covered by massive piles of snow, which meant we had to rely on footsteps to find the paths. Along the way we walked past quite a few people who had lost the trail and were trying to find their way to Sky Pond. We had to walk across multiple frozen lakes, by a half frozen waterfall, and through the woods.
Eventually, we made our way up a steep mountainside covered in snow and we knew we were getting close to the end. We walked about a tenth of a mile further to reach the famous Sky Pond. The feeling of getting to the top was unparalleled. Although it was freezing out, I couldn’t help but revel in the stunning surroundings and marvel at the fact that we had actually made it there. So many others turned around before getting to the end.
We weren’t the only ones at the top, there was a group of friends who had made it there at the same time as us. We chatted about our life stories and we became fast friends. On the way back, we even walked with them for a bit before heading our own ways. It was a wonderful end to a fantastic hike and I highly recommend you add it to your bucket list!
That afternoon, we walked around the town of Estes Park stopping in adorable shops and getting a few bites to eat. It was a great way to celebrate our completion of this hard hike before heading back to our campsite for a night amongst the mountains.
We woke up early again on Sunday to complete one last hike in the park: the Emerald Lake Trail. Talk about getting bang for your buck. In three miles you get to see four different alpine lakes, each with their own character, and each one more stunning than the other.
Again, we had to don our microspikes and hiking poles, because the trail was completely covered in snow. After our experience on Saturday, we felt as if we were professional lake walkers, casually strolling across the various lakes without the fear of falling through. Again, when we got to the very last lake, Emerald Lake, I couldn’t even believe my eyes.
Mountains shot up behind the lake imposingly, while the lake was completely frozen over. We were standing there, when we noticed that people were literally climbing up the mountain! Eventually we figured out that they were skiers and they were planning on throwing themselves down the slope. Dylan and I stood there mesmerized. We watched as multiple skiers passed us to climb the mountain and we hoped to see skiers come down. However, after 30 minutes of waiting no one had come down and we had to leave, so we reluctantly headed down the mountain to leave this wondrous park.
I think that this was one of the best weeks that we have had in the van and it might be our favorite in Colorado. We went on 7 hikes, saw amazing towns, ate delicious food, and were inspired by beautiful natural landscapes. If you are heading to Colorado, you should definitely put Boulder & Rocky Mountain National Park on your bucket list, because they are incredible! We have one more week in Colorado before we head out to see new things elsewhere.
Where We Stayed this Past Week:
- Street Parking in Boulder (40.01573, -105.28549)
- Chautauqua Park
- Moraine Campground in Rocky Mountain
Let me know if you enjoyed this van chronicles in the comments!
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