Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Girls Trip 2014 - LA to Colorado

Mountain View from Gondola in Telluride, CO.
Courtney (and baby Cedar), Leanne, Jenni, and I
For those of you who have followed my blog for a couple years, you might be aware that I look forward to one thing every year.  No, it's not Christmas, the start of summer vacation, or even my tax return.  It's my annual "Girls Trip"! This tradition started back in 2006 when my  best friend, Leanne, and I spent our savings to go to New Zealand for a month.  Soon, our friend Courtney wanted to do a girls trip so we headed out to see some of the southwest national parks.  The trips continued - each year having a least one adventure together.  We've added girls to the group, and over time, some have left the pack.  The goal is always the same - adventure to somewhere new with a great group of girls (or should I say women).

For this years girls trip, we decided to meet up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado for a week of hiking, a trip to the annual Balloon Rodeo, and some town shenanigans.  Courtney, now carting around her baby, Cedar, lives in Steamboat, so it provided the perfect home-base to explore Colorado. With extra time, I decided to first fly to Los Angeles, where Leanne lives, and then we would road trip up to Steamboat, picking up friend Jenni on the way.  This gave us a chance to explore some more of the West as well.  My blog posts about the trip are meant to catalog my memories and photos from the trip, and also serve those who are looking for similar trips. Below you will see my itinerary as well as links to blog posts that give more detail about events, hikes, and locations.  Please contact me if you have any questions!

We drove over 2,300 miles.  Map by google maps

Venice Beach, CA
Day 1 (July 4) - Fly from Boston to Los Angeles.  Arrive in the evening and watch fireworks from a friend's rooftop apartment.

Day 2 (July 5) - Beach Day!  Get a pedicure (so LA!) at 9 am.  Drive to Venice Beach at 10 am.  Since it was early, we found free parking a few blocks from the beach.  Read, chat, swim at the beach until 2 pm.  Return to Leanne's apartment for showers and movie night.

View of Los Angeles from Cahuenga Peak hike
Day 3 (July 6) - Go for a hike up to the Hollywood Sign.  Summit multiple peaks, including the tallest peak in the Hollywood Hills - Post about it HERE.  Return to Santa Monica, eat lunch, and shower.  Head out in the evening to the Santa Monica.  Walk through downtown Santa Monica, shop, and watch street performers. Head out to the Pier and watch the sunset.  Enjoy late night burgers and drinks at The Craftsman.

Santa Monica Pier at Sunset

Day 4 (July 7) - Rollerblade from Venice Beach to Santa Monica and back.  Street parking available at 9 am.  Easy rentals at Venice Beach - mine was $15 for 3 hours (cash).  Easy Rollerblading terrain and no crowds on a Monday morning.  Pack up and drive east to Wrightwood, California (2 hour drive).  Spend the night with friend Jenni (who will be going on trip).

Day 5 (July 8) - Breakfast at the Grizzly Cafe in Wrightwood, CA and drive to Park City, Utah.  Stay at cousin Polly and Matt's house in Park City.  Dinner in Park City at Vinto Italian Restaurant.

Palm Trees at Venice Beach, CA

Dinosaur at Dinosaur NM
Day 6 (July 9) - Drive to Dinosaur National Monument (Utah Side) in Jensen, UT.  Visit the Vistor Center, take tram to Quarry Exhibit Hall, hike Fossil Discovery Trail, drive Cub Creek road.  We saw dinosaur fossils, petroglyphs, and amazing desert scenery. Around 3:30 pm leave and drive the 2 1/2 hours to Steamboat Spring, Colorado.  Dinner with friends in their home.  More about the visit on post HERE.

Hiking in Dinosaur National Monument, UT
Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Day 7 (July 10) - Hike to Strawberry Park Hot Springs ($12-$15 adults cash).  Park at Mad Creek Trail head on Routt Country Rd 129.  Walk back down road ~ 400 yards to start of trail head (not marked here).  Trail winds through meadows/farmland to forested trail marked "Hot Spring Trail No. 1169".  Trail is around 5 miles round trip and takes you straight to the hot springs. More on my Steamboat Hiking post HERE.  That night we took the Steamboat resort gondola to "Sunset Happy Hour".  $12 gets you a ride up and back, $5 off food and beverage at the Thunderhead Bar, live music, and an amazing view.

Sunset Happy Hour

Lower Fish Creek Falls
Day 8 (July 11) - Hike Upper and Lower Fish Creek Falls.  Park in US Forest Parking lot ($5) on Fish Creek Road in Steamboat.  Hike down the overlook trail to bridge (crowded on weekends).  Once you pass the the lower falls, you'll see less hikers.  Hike up through forest to the Upper Creek Falls (2.5 miles one way).  More info on my Steamboat Hiking post HERE.  After hike, clean up and head into Steamboat.  Walk around town, shop, etc and then go to Mambo Italiano for happy hour pizza and beer.  Head back to Courtney's house by free Steamboat bus system.

Day 9 (July 12) - Start the day with a hike up Emerald Mountain to view hot air balloons rising at the nearby "Balloon Rodeo".  Visit West Lincoln Park for the 40th Annual "Art in the Park" event.  Walk among vendors selling jewelry, art, and clothing.  Enjoy live music and food for sale.  Afterwards, head back to Courtney's to get tubes for a tubing afternoon down the Yampa River.  Put tubes in at Fetcher Park behind Mid Valley shopping area.  Expect some rapids and a fast moving river. We took out at 13th Street Bridge.  We had our own tubes, but many places including Backdoor Sports rent and sell tubes.  After tubing, we cleaned up and headed up to Gondola Park by free bus to see the Balloon Glow.  Unfortunately, the wind made it impossible to blow up the balloons, but we enjoyed people watching.
Art in the Park, Steamboat Springs, CO
Balloon Rodeo
Day 10 (July 13) - Wake up early for the launch of the Balloon rodeo.  Drive to Meadows parking lot at 6 am for a free shuttle to hot air balloon launch point.  Surround yourself in the color and magic as one by one, balloons take off around you.  Enjoy a breakfast burrito by the Lions Club.  Later, hike to Rabbit Ears Peak (3 miles one way).   This hike has beautiful wildflowers and stunning scenery.  It's accessed off National Forest Road 315.  Parking is free.  Trail is marked number 291 off the dirt road from the parking lot.  More information on Steamboat hiking post HERE.  After hiking, clean up at Courtney's and head back to town for happy hour drinks and delicacies along the Yampa River restaurant E3 Chophouse.  Return to Courtney's for our last night in Steamboat Springs.

Balloon Rodeo 2014, Steamboat Springs, CO

Telluride, CO
Day 11 (July 14) - Drive 8 hours to Telluride, Colorado with a stop to see Leanne's uncle in Conifer, CO.  Enjoy dinner and drinks at hotel bar Oak (near gondola) and soak in the hotel hot tub.  Amazing mountain views along the drive. Check into hotel Camels Garden.

Idarado Legacy Trail
Day 12 (July 15) - Enjoy a half day of exploring in Telluride.
 Walk Idarado Legacy Trail through town.  Trail meanders along the river and provides interpretive signs about the area.  We had hoped to hike up to Bridal Veil falls but heard from another hiker that the trail was closed due to maintenance.  Take free gondola from Telluride, to summit, and then down to Mountain village, and back.  Stop at summit and enjoy breathtaking views of Telluride and surrounding mountains.  Leave Telluride and drive the 12 hours back to Wrightwood, California - with a stop at the Four Corners Monument in UT, CO, NM, and AZ.

View from top of Gondola in Telluride, CO.
Day 13 (July 16) - Return to Santa Monica from Wrightwood.  Fly back to Boston.

View from the car in Arizona

Overall, we drove over 2,300 miles.  It was a great adventure and I look forward to more girls trips next summer!

Boots at happy hour

For other "Girls Trip" blog posts check out the following...
2012 - Newfoundland - 2 weeks hiking, camping, and exploring.  Blog magazine at http://ontherocktrip.blogspot.com/
2013 - Michigan - Upper and Lower Peninsula hiking, camping, and exploring.  Post on Freelance Adventure at
Beaches, Dunes and City Walks - HERE
Pictured Rocks Astounds - HERE