Sunday, January 25, 2015

Breckenridge vs. Estes Park?

A while ago a friend from the Midwest asked for advice on where to go as she plans a summer vacation to the Rocky Mountain State.  She and the family are driving out, hoping to do some camping and hiking, but they would also like to do a couple days of nice resort-style living.  Some friends told her Estes Park "all the way," while others threw out a few resort town names, especially those in the central mountain corridor.  It's a tough call, but really it's all about what you're looking for.

If they're looking to camp and hike, Estes Park is the classic national park camping experience.  Located at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park has countless campgrounds, hikes, and outdoor activities from fishing to rafting.  Many people favor it for the YMCA of the Rockies locations, and its definitely the place in Colorado that tourists are most likely to see wildlife. Moose, elk, deer, fox, and even wolves are prominent, even in the actual town of Estes Park.  In fact, that's one of the treats - a literal treat right out of the opening scenes of the 90s show Northern Exposure.  The town is touristy in a common man sort of way.  Of course, the downside is it being isolated from the rest of the Colorado resorts, and it's potentially a little less ... upscale than the resort areas.  Some people call it rustic; others would say a little less refined.

The other main options are the I-70 corridor - mainly Summit County - with the run of ski resort areas that transition to summer activities.  In that regard, Breckenridge is the perfect mountain town to me. Of course, it is a little more ... refined, with better restaurants, shopping, and amenities.  The proximity to other resorts is also key, as you can hit Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail, Frisco, Lake Dillon, the Continental Divide, and other key spots all within driving distance.  Obviously, the resorts are not the spot for camping.  But the fishing, rafting, hiking, biking, and dining are pretty great.  I'm also a fan of Crested Butte to the south, especially in the summer.  With the Fat Tire Mountain Bike Festival followed by the Wildflower Festival followed by a great 4th of July, CB is a great place. And, of course, you're closer to Aspen as well as the southwest corner areas such as Durango and Telluride, which are a whole other story.

It's a tough call.  But I'd take the area around Breckenridge for the true Colorado experience.

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