If traveling between Denver and Estes Park, it’s a great idea to drive down the Peak to Peak National Scenic Byway. This 55 mile route takes a bit longer but is well worth the time. It runs along a former narrow gauge railway route that used to connect several small mining towns. The road winds through the stunning scenery of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and a portion of Rocky Mountain National Park.
We started the drive early in the morning in the mining town of Black Hawk, which looked nice but didn’t seem to have much more than casinos. The road then went through Rollinsville and into Nederland, where we made our first stop. We spent about an hour in Nederland and it seems like a fun and quirky place.
It was still too early for most of the shops to be open, but we were able to browse through a geode and fossil store, Nature’s Own, before wandering around the small downtown.
There’s a visitor center with public restrooms right in the center of town. It sits across from a couple of cafés and the Nederland Town Hall.
We all enjoyed the covered bridge. It’s got murals painted along the inside and flower boxes lining the outside.
Nederland also has a small mining museum but it was closed during our early morning visit.
We continued on past Ward, Allenspark, and Meeker Park driving through beautiful pine forests before stopping to admire majestic Longs Peak and the surrounding scenery. Longs Peak is the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park at 14,259 feet.
The place we stopped also had a plaque commemorating the homestead of Enos A. Mills on the site in 1885. Mills was a naturalist and author known as the “Father of Rocky Mountain National Park”. His cabin nearby is open to the public as a museum. The Enos Mills Cabin Museum is open by appointment only and admission is US$20 per person. Tours last about an hour.
Next, we made a stop at Lily Lake. It’s a part of Rocky Mountain National Park that doesn’t require an entrance fee. This small, peaceful mountain lake has a couple short trails and gorgeous scenery. The first is an accessible trail that follows the perimeter of the lake at 0.9 miles. Another 1.1 mile trail goes on a ridge above the lake for better views.
The drive ended in Estes Park, where we did a little sightseeing and geared up for our camp in Rocky Mountain National Park.