Hiking. There are some who will salivate over the image that is created by that word, especially when the hiking would begin in Estes Park – the stunning gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. The idea of hiking in such beauty is a dream that many would like to see come true. But, yes, there are others who wish to see this beauty through the huge windows of their room – as they stare out at it from their place in The Stanley Hotel – overlooking the valley that Mother Nature worked her proverbial behind off to create.
Who wouldn’t want the latter, actually? Especially after witnessing the incredible and magnificent Stanley Hotel. This is a location that would be locked in your mind forever once you are lucky enough to stay there. Known for its amazing architecture, not to mention its famous visitors. This inspirational hotel IS already locked in the memory of many, simply because this is THE onscreen Overlook Hotel that played home to the frightening creations that came from the mystical depths of the mind of Stephen King. That’s right! This hotel is the star of his masterpiece, “The Shining.”
The Stanley Hotel has been featured as one of America’s most haunted hotels, and with the numerous stories from visitors and staff over the years, it not only is haunted, but is also the ultimate in accommodations and beauty.
First opened in 1909 by F.O. Stanley who was forced to move West because of poor health, his famous Steamer arrived in Estes Park and he saw the magic this area could provide to the world. On 160 acres that he purchased from Lord Dunraven, Stanley built the main building of the hotel, one of eleven buildings in the original complex. Construction of the Main Building began in 1907 and took two years to complete, and is the most stunning piece of architecture that the West provides.
Estes Park offers it all. From elk watching in the Fall to the Autumn Color and Sound Show (which is truly stunning), to snowshoeing, romantic getaways, hiking tours, rock climbing, mountaineering, art walks, craft shows, flyfishing, scenic drives – AND the ‘haunted hotel’ that makes the mind wander and the skin tingle just at the very sight of it.
As you enter the Rocky Mountain National Park, you can explore the back country for an hour, a morning, an entire day, or several days of your life depending on just how much energy was passed down to you through your DNA. With more than 355 miles of hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, the outdoor experience is a must!
So…on our recent excursion, we decided to depart from the hotel that literally is one of the best in dining, accommodations and exquisite history in this country, and be part of the ‘group’ who wanted to explore. Well, we may not have exactly chosen to hike, but that’s another story.
After a full day of hiking (which is beautiful and not easy by any means), we thought we would cool down with a beer. Yes, I know, after all that work and exercise and weight loss, we chose the Estes Park Brewery. BUT, we earned it. Although, what we didn’t know at the time is that we’d earned far better.
The Brewery’s entrance leads right into their gift shop/tasting room. After looking over all of the shirts and taking a gander at the brewing set-up, we headed to the tasting bar (which, I believe, is a room we all should have in our own homes), and picked out four samples the Brewery lets you have for free.
Now hiking gives you a powerful thirst, especially when you do not think things through. Such as, being a person who decides they can hike without bringing any water with them. Hello?
Suffice to say, the samples were not what we were looking for – a tad bit bland. But, considering we were probably dehydrated from our poor choices, we were willing to assume it was just us.
Heading upstairs to the main bar and dining area to have a look around, we were happy with the ambiance. It was a lovely representation of the area and even had a balcony overlooking the brewing room which was incredibly interesting.
Our waitress, who’s name escapes me at the moment (probably because the dehydration addled my brain more than I care to know) was great. I do remember that she was friendly, attentive to our needs, and had a great understanding of service and what the Brewery offered.
When our food and beer arrived…we just sort of stared. Yes, we’d given the whole experience thus far the benefit of the doubt, but unfortunately the plates lacked presentation, and as far as tavern food goes – it was not good. The burger was a chunk of processed meat with no flavor, and the burrito was missing ingredients that the menu advertised would definitely be on it.
In the end, this excursion is filled with beauty and ambiance. Estes Park is the place to be, The Stanley Hotel is THE place to visit, and Rocky National Park is a true ‘perfect’ location for any hiker. Unfortunately, when it comes to the Estes Park Brewery, from the building to the food to, unfortunately, the beer – it lacked luster and quality. All I can think is the ghosts and goblins from The Stanley put a curse on the place.
So, in the end – hike, have fun, congregate at the master of horror’s unforgettable hotel, but stay away from Estes Park Brewery. In fact, I highly recommend driving down the mountain to Lyons, Colorado!
But that’s another story…