Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Estes Park Dog Friendly Hiking

Estes Park Dog Friendly Hikes

Most of our guests come visit McGregor Mountain Lodge to get out and explore Rocky Mountain National Park. And for good reason. The natural beauty is breathtaking and "The Park" offers hiking options that are second to none. But there are no dogs allowed! So how can you get out with your four legged friend and where can you go to enjoy this magnificent corner of the Rockies?!

Well, we have some perfect options for you!

Greater Estes Park

Homer Rouse Trail

On the south side of Estes Park there is a local's secret that, for some reason, hasn't made it onto the typical tourists radar. Maybe it's because it's hard to find any good info on except by word of mouth. We're here to help! The trail doesn't offer spectacular vistas, or lead you to any top secret destinations. It's a simple trail. One that invites you into a nice walk. Or a begs you to appreciate the smaller things such as the infant waters of upper fish creek. Or a song bird encouraging more steps along the trail. It's a mix of dirt road and single track trail. You'll meet locals and their dogs and enjoy views of Twin Sisters Mountain. The end of the trail spits you out at the Baldpate Inn and Lily Lake. A delightful trail that you'll make a staple for you and your pup when you visit.

Distance (RT): 3 miles
Elevation Gain: 350 feet 
Difficulty: Easy/Beginner

Red Tape: None. Just know that when you reach Lily Lake you are now on National Park Property and dogs are not allowed on trails.

Daisy enjoying the Lily Mountain Trail on a warm March day!

Lily Mountain

This easy to moderate trail is located just south of Estes Park on HWY 7. It's a short but somewhat steep trail that offer wonderful views and is a fantastic option with your pooch. This is a must-hike every year for many who bring their four legged friends the Estes. The trail can fool you though as it starts off uphill, then it descends a bit before turning uphill steeply and winding through the forest to the summit. The summit block is quite slabby and blocky, so it may pose issues for smaller dogs. 

Distance (RT): 3.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1466 feet 
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Red Tape: None. 

Enjoying a swim in Lake Estes after a warm hike!

Lake Estes

Lake Estes has a great paved trail all the way around it! If you do the full loop it's 3.75 miles. There are several parking options on any and every side of the lake but we find it better to park at the dog park so you have a couple of options for your pooch. You can head into the dog park and let your dog run and swim free, or you can keep the leash on and hike or jog your way around the lake. It's a win win! This one's pretty self explanatory and is a go to option when all else fails. Beautiful scenery, easy trail, super close, etc...

Distance (RT): 3.75 miles
Elevation Gain: 100ish feet 
Difficulty: Easy/Beginner

Red Tape: None. 

Pole Hill Road

Pole Hill Road is a 4x4 road that can get you all the way to Loveland. It's rugged and a favorite spot for some serious off road enthusiasts. But it's also a perfect spot for a hike or run with your dog! There are many options on this road with several roads intertwining and intersecting up there. Bring a map and pay attention. It's not that you could really get lost, but, if you're not too familiar with the area, you could get turned around a bit. Don't let that scare you off though! It's beautiful up there! The views are great and in the autumn there are some perfect aspen groves! If you can find you way, go check out the fire tower on the summit of Panorama Peak!

Distance (RT): 1 mile to 7+ miles
Elevation Gain: 250 feet to 1,500+ feet 
Difficulty: Easy/Beginner to Moderate

Red Tape: None. The trail is always open to hikers even if it is "closed." It is usually designated as closed from Dec. 1st until the snow melts. Be aware of adjacent private land.

Indian Peaks Wilderness

Daisy en route to Pawnee Peak, just below Pawnee Pass

Pawnee Peak

In the heart of the Indian Peaks Wilderness lies Pawnee Peak just above and to the north of Pawnee Pass. This is a spectacular summit in an equally spectacular setting. The summit is reached via a 4.55 mile (9.1 mile, roundtrip) trail that gains roughly 2,500 feet, topping out at 12,943 feet. But if you don't want to make the trek all the way tot he summit, you can turn back at many of the worthy destinations along the way. Such as Long Lake, Lake Isabell, and Pawnee Pass. This trail begins at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area.

Distance (RT): 9.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,400+ feet
Difficulty: Strenuous

Red Tape: $10.00 per vehicle entrance fee per day. You simply pay at the entrance. Easy and obvious.

Mt. Audubon

Another wonderful summit, and probably one of the most popular in Indian Peaks Wilderness, is Mt. Audubon. While the trail is shorter, only 7.9 miles round trip, it is certainly steeper. It gains 2,800 feet in that shorter distance. So get your uphill legs ready! The views are spectacular and well worth the effort, so don't let the fact that it's a tougher trail scare you off. The summit reaches 13,233 feet and also begins at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, but at the Mt. Audubon Trailhead.

Distance (RT): 7.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,800+ feet
Difficulty: Strenuous

Red Tape: $10.00 per vehicle entrance fee per day. You simply pay at the entrance. Easy and obvious.

Tanner likes to get out in any weather!


Friday, December 23, 2016

Tree Cutting Day - 2016

Time to cut!
It's the big day for those who purchased our Old Fashioned Christmas Package! Tree Cutting Day!

We all load up in our cars and head into the mountains just outside or Roosevelt National Forest. The road gets steep and the snow gets deep. Those with two wheel drive have to bail out and pile in the lodge truck or in one of our four wheel drive vehicles. We keep winding up into the forest and finally arrive! The hot cocoa comes out, the donuts are unboxed, we pass out the saws and point everyone in the right direction... It's time to cut your tree!

This is a truly wonderful experience for families spending their Christmas here at McGregor Mountain Lodge. Traipsing through the snow with your loved ones to find that perfect tree that will add that ever-so-important Christmas cheer to their cabin. Once they pick their tree most families take a family photo in front of it, then take it back to the truck where we label it, and load it up!

After some time playing in the snow and finishing off the donuts and cocoa, we head back to the lodge to deliver the trees to their respective cabins. Our staff follows behind and sets the trees up in our guests cabin(s) all ready for the family's decorating expertise! Most families choose to head out into the park for a day of snowshoeing and maybe some more sledding before coming back to the lodge to begin the decorating!

If you're interested in booking the Old Fashioned Christmas Package, give us a call at 800.835.8439 for more details, or visit our Specials and Packages page on the site here: Packages.

 A few more photos from the day...

Video from the 2015 Tree Cutting Day!

Thursday, December 22, 2016


As you may know, we host one of the most famous elk to ever walk the Estes Valley. With the exception of Samson, Brat is the biggest "Elk Star" in Estes Park history. He's had his own section of the local paper, he is sought out by guests not even staying at the lodge, and he's had bloggers and newspapers across the country write stories about him.

Brat being Brat.

He showed up about 8 years ago as a majestic bull in his prime. We've seen him every year since. He shows up on the property between the end of October and the end of November, and stays with us, for the most part, until the grass begins greening in May/June. The past few years he has been on a slow decline, for lack of a better word. It's just obvious that he's getting older. He bows out of the rutting festivities earlier and earlier each year, some years he's returned with some gruesome injuries, and his rack has been getting smaller for the past three years.

Making himself at home in front Columbine Cottage #6

Guessing that he was 7 years old, give or take, when he first arrived, that would put him around 15 years old this year, which is quite old for a wild elk. Their average life span is 10-13 years. But without any real natural predators and being protected from hunting in the National Park, the elk here can live a bit longer than their species' average life span.

You can usually find Brat lounging on our mountainside, sometimes directly in front of a cabins door! While he seems to be a gentle giant, we always respect his size, speed, and strength and give him plenty of room. Occasionally, he'll live up to his name and get quite ornery with us and/or guests. A few signs that you're *way* too close: Lowered head, curled (snarled) lip, teeth grinding, hissing, and other vocalizations. He's pretty good about giving subtle clues when he's unhappy. But as a rule, just give him, and all wild animals, a wide berth.

Brat is easy to identify with his mangled left ear. An injury afflicted during the rut a few years ago.
Many ask how he got his name. When he first arrived, he wasn't the dominant bull on the property. We had another beloved "resident" named Lefty who was a massive bull and ruled the property. Brat played 2nd fiddle for sure and had to get when the getting was good. Brat knew he was bigger than us, so when Lefty would run him off of the bird feeders, Brat would follow Steve around in the golf cart and eat birdseed out of the back of the golf cart. We couldn't shoo him away if we wanted to! Brat must have been on edge when Lefty ruled the roost as he could be quite aggressive with us. There were several time we had to run him off the property with a vehicle.

But over the years, and after Lefty failed to return one year, Brat settled into his role as the dominant bull in the valley. This must have given him a bit of comfort as we really calmed down and made himself at home on the property. He was no longer a nuisance, and became a wonderful addition to our regular wildlife visitors which included Mama (a mule deer who would bring her fawns by every spring), Tippy (a beautiful red fox and her kits), and Shadow (another beautiful mulie).

So here we are. Brat is most likely in his final couple of years with us and the new generation is patiently waiting. Many of you know Sven as well. He is a younger bull just hitting his prime. Massive wide rack, healthy coat, quick and agile steps. While we hope to have Brat around for years to come, we are sure happy to see Sven settling into his role here at the lodge.

If you happen to be in Estes Park, and not staying at McGregor (why in the world would you stay anywhere else ;) be sure to swing by and say hi to our resident elk and one of Estes Park's most famous residents.

Silly ole Brat.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Winter finally arrives!

We have had an unusually long autumn with warm, almost summer-like days, and little to no wind. But yesterday our winter weather finally arrived, even if it was about a month behind schedule. We awoke to cool temps and an overcast sky. The air just smelled of moisture. Late morning was when the snow started falling here at the Lodge and in Rocky Mountain National Park. The day before had seen temps around 70F so the snow started by sticking to the rooftops and the trees, but just making the roads wet. When the temps dipped form 35 into the mid 20's is when the roads started to get a bit icy and the winter wonderland really took over!

Sven enjoying the nice chilly morning.

We went to sleep yesterday with light flurries falling and a fire crackling in the living room. This morning was truly spectacular! Some low clouds but otherwise bright blue skies greeted us as the sun rose higher int he east. Everything was coated in a nice 3"+ thick blanket of fresh white stuff, and the wildlife was moving around thick! Just one of the perfect winter like mornings here at McGregor!

It looks like it will warm up a bit for the next few days then another chance of snow early next week... we'll keep the camera handy! Enjoy the pics...

The large outcropping just above the lodge on the slopes of McGregor Mountain.
Deer Mountain
The chimney of the Old Caretakers Cottage and Deer Mountain

A busy woodpecker

Looking west from the Columbine Cottages at Sundance Mountain.

Trail Ridge Road as seen from the lodge.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Autumn, the First Snow, and BRAT!!

Seasons are Changing!

This is always a special time of year as the seasons really begin to transition from warm summer-like temps to chilly winter weather. The trees have been putting on quite the show this Autumn and the high country has already had a few small snowstorms rip through bringing the winter chill back to the tundra. 

Here at the lodge, the aspen start to turn in mid/late September and the ground covers displays brilliant reds and yellows to add to the fall atmosphere. The mornings become crisp and we all pull our jackets out of the closet for our morning rounds. Smoke starts rising from the chimneys as a crackling fire certainly adds to the ambiance as guests enjoy their morning coffee and the spectacular views from their cabins. 

On the slopes of Deer Mountain, across the Fall River Valley, the aspen put on one last display before their winter dormancy. We know that the first snow is only days away and our winter preparations get going. We get the plow ready, we order or sand for sanding the driveway, we stock up on firewood, and get jackets/hats/gloves ordered for staff to make sure they are warm enough out and about during the winter months. 

The wildlife also starts behaving a bit differently. Bears are frantically downing as many calories as possible. The mule deer are constantly foraging as their winter coats start coming in and the elk begin take part in the annual rut which, if you've never witnessed it, is a truly magical thing to witness. The bull's bugles fill our valley with enchanting sounds that help to welcome winter once again. 

First Snow

And then the first snow comes! The pics above were taken yesterday (October 5, 2016). It was a bluebird day, sunny, mild, and beautiful! We awoke to snow falling and an inch or so on the rooftops, trees, and grass. The low storms clouds were hanging below the visible summits  revealing only the occasional ridge lines and outcroppings. We are certainly looking forward to the beautiful winter ahead!

Brat is Back!!!

He's back! Your favorite elk is now back "home!" He showed up this morning, gave us a few bugles, raked some bushes with his antlers, then settled in to chew his cud in front of our Knotty Pine Rooms! As always, it is so good to have him back with us! He has called McGregor his winter home since the autumn of 2008, and has been back every year since! At that point, he was already a large and mature bull, probably 7 or 8 years old. So we guess that he's 15 or 16 at this point. Be on the lookout for a lot more Brat pics on our Facebook and Instagram pages and here on the blog!

Thanks for reading and we hope to see you soon!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Rooftop Rodeo Parade

July 6, 2016
10:30 AM


90 years ago, the Rooftop Rodeo was established here in Estes Park and has been a beloved fixture in the town ever since. It boasts world class, professional competition while retaining a great small town rodeo feel. Truly a wonderful time for families who have never been to a rodeo or seasoned veterans!

It always kicks off with the Rooftop Rodeo Parade that winds down Elkhorn Ave in the heart of Estes Park. Spectators line the streets and enjoy all the fun floats, local clubs and organizations, and impressive equestrian displays.

The parade lasts about 30 minutes and a great place to watch is on the south edge of Bond Park right downtown. You can grab some coffee beforehand, enjoy some shopping after the parade, and then grab lunch at one of the many places nearby.

Here are a few pics from the parade...

And here is a short video from this years parade:

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Summer at McGregor Mountain Lodge!

Poppies exploding next to the Old Caretakers Cottage.

It's finally here! With the summer solstice, and the longest day of the year, yesterday, we are in full summer mode! The Spring season was one to remember with early snows, ample rain, and a literal explosion of wildflowers! The animals have been enjoying the greening of the flora and we've seen everything from elk, to deer, to bobcats, to moose, and now all of the babies joining the herds... This time of year is truly incredible! 

As summer gets underway, the snow continues to melt in the high country 'opening' the higher trails in and around Rocky Mountain National Park. World class hiking is right out your door! The tundra is coming alive for its brief appearance, and the small alpine wildflowers are already in bloom!

Around the lodge, our flowers are the centerpiece for the grand scenes all around us. We have such a huge variety of flowers blooming right now so figured I'd snap a few pics from my rounds of the property this morning. 

Many of the early spring bloomers have already gone to seed, but the summer blooms are kicking in and our landscape it dotted with beautiful and intense colors!

Enjoy the photos and subscribe to McGregor Mountain Blog... a lot more content coming soon!

Chalet Suites in the morning sun!

Wildflowers and a little fly

Old Caretakers Cottage

Bees on a Poppy

Annnnd, more Poppies!