Let’s Hit the Road

Road trips are a favorite American pastime, because let’s be honest: There’s nothing like that rush of freedom when you grasp the wheel and let the road ahead unfurl. Did a beguiling coffee shop, a bend in the river or a cool rock formation beckon as the miles ticked by? They’re easy to check out when your expedition is driven by you.

The following itineraries interlace Northern Colorado and Wyoming, spotlighting sights, places for bites and where to find a pillow when you’re weary.

Fort Collins to Walden – Exhilarating experiences, quiet moments

North of Fort Collins, one of Colorado’s 26 scenic byways begins where a bucolic section of U.S. 287 intersects Colo. 14 in Laporte. The curving blacktop winds through rugged rock formations in the Poudre Canyon, dropping into Walden in North Park after 88 miles.

Before heading up the canyon, stop at Vern’s Place, a roadside diner in Laporte that’s served hearty breakfasts, famous cinnamon rolls and homestyle lunch and dinner options since 1946. Another tasty spot is Morning Fresh Dairy’s Howling Cow Cafe in Bellvue, which offers espresso drinks, bagel sandwiches and smoothies.

Kind Bean Coffee Cart

The Cache la Poudre-North Park scenic byway’s 101-mile route traces the trail that settlers once followed between Colorado’s northern plains and Utah’s Green River, according to colorado.com. It borders the Cache la Poudre River, whose turbulent waters are federally designated as a Wild and Scenic River.

“The river is unique because the majority is public water, which is uncommon these days,” says J. Pearson, fly fishing guide and co-owner of Liarflies, a fly fishing company that offers guided trips on the Poudre and Big Thompson rivers.

Hike—or simply sit and marvel at—the rugged rock outcroppings and trails in the canyon. Wildlife sightings are plentiful, including bighorn sheep and black bears. After summiting Cameron Pass and heading into North Park, you can spot moose, coyotes and elk.

The byway remains mostly undeveloped, an unusual distinction in a state known for tourism, but there is Poudre Park, an unincorporated village in Larimer County that was home to Columbine Lodge beginning in 1928. The Lodge offered cabins, horseback rides, trout fishing and a restaurant, according to Historic Larimer County.

Riverside Colorado. Photo by Allyce Carlson.

The property recently sold to nearby Mishawaka Amphitheater owner Dani Grant and Fort Collins real estate broker Mike Jensen, who re-conceptualized it into Riverside Colorado. They’re open as of June 1.

At Riverside, Columbine’s original nine “tiny” cabins were renovated and are bolstered by nine tiny houses and 18 solar-powered, four-season tents in three sizes. The cabins and tiny houses are equipped with kitchenettes, and two common areas have propane fire pits, a pizza oven and grills. There is a two-night minimum stay, and summer season prices start at $125 per night.

“The tiny cabins are quirky with vintage charm, and the tents have real beds, seating and wooden decks,” says Jeannine Little, general manager at Riverside Colorado. “The cabins are named after trails in the area, and the tiny houses are named after peaks to honor them. Many of the tents are along the river, so the sound lulls you to sleep.”

A new general store, Poudre Park Market, sells burger patties and other meats (like game and bison), salads, grab-and-go foods, beer, wine and fishing and hunting licenses. The onsite Kind Bean Coffee Cart, a converted Airstream camper, sells specialty lattes and other beverages in addition to Mishawaka’s breakfast burritos and pastries from Laporte-based Me Oh My Coffee and Pie.

The Poudre Park Market can schedule whitewater rafting trips with Rocky Mountain Adventures and guided fly fishing trips with Liarflies. The fishing company’s name has a backstory, Pearson explains.

“When you’re fly fishing, we use stoneflies, mayflies and caddisflies,” he says. “Since everyone who fishes is a liar (exaggerating the size of fish they catch), we called it Liarflies.”

Three miles up the road is the Mishawaka, a rustic roadhouse dating back to 1916. Its open-air amphitheater draws concertgoers to enjoy music on a stage anchored to an early 20th-century water wheel, originally placed to generate electricity.

Mishawaka’s year-round, all-day restaurant serves chicken and waffles, huevos rancheros, burgers, sandwiches, blackened ahi tuna, steaks, vegetarian options and more. Breakfast burritos are available daily until noon, and the full bar serves craft beer and cocktails.

Follow Poudre Canyon Road to Walden and the Antler’s Inn. This hidden gem on Main Street provides a gathering room with hand-hewn wooden beams, a massive fireplace and a place to share travelers’ tales. The inn’s cozy accommodations and hearty, all-day dining at the timbered River Rock Cafe make it a relaxing destination. Rates range from $109-228 per night.


Estes Park – Pockets of zen in an outdoor playground

A visit to Estes Park often dwells on Rocky Mountain National Park, with 415 square miles for breathtaking outdoor adventures, or the haunted Stanley Hotel, popularized by Stephen King’s “The Shining.” But there are pockets of tranquility everywhere. After shopping along Elkhorn Avenue, enjoy some serenity at these out-of-the-way places.

From Loveland, head west on U.S. 34, stopping at Colorado Cherry Company for homemade pies, cider and jams. Continue to Drake and turn right on County Road 43 (Devil’s Gulch Road), an alternative route to Estes Park, and park at The Inn of Glen Haven.

The Inn of Glen Haven

The 100-year-old property began as a mercantile, supporting a nearby sawmill, says current co-owner Chris Richmond. “Ira Knapp was the initial founder of the area. He built the store, inn and a post office in one building in the 1920s,” Richmond says. “A second floor added a restaurant, and it became a lodge in the ’30s or ’40s. There was also a brothel back in the day.”

Chris and his wife, Emma, purchased the property in 2021. The six-room bed-and-breakfast has an Old English theme and antique furnishings in rooms named after notable people, including Charles Dickens, Sherlock Holmes and Queen Victoria.

Chef Tim Hutton runs the kitchen and is known for his steak Escoffier, themed weekend dinner buffets and Sunday brunch. The full bar offers scotch selections for room and dinner guests. Room rates are $195-235 per night, including breakfast.

Estes Park

Nearby, fish the Big Thompson River or hike the 9.9-mile, out-and-back trail to the top of Crosier Mountain for views of Estes Park and the Continental Divide.

Closer to RMNP, Taharaa Mountain Lodge is five miles from Estes Park off Colo. 7. Built in 1997, the exclusive bed-and-breakfast-style lodge was purchased by Sandra Huerta and her husband, Thad Eggen, in 2019 with plans to move their popular Twin Owls Steakhouse from its longtime location at Black Canyon Inn.

“Taharaa had a larger event space for the restaurant, which is what attracted us to the lodge,” Huerta says. “Being situated on a cliff with all the guest rooms overlooking the Estes Valley makes it a standout location.”

Taharaa’s 18 rooms include standard king and queen rooms, suites and premium suites. Summer prices range from $319-499 per night. The lodge is intended for adults seeking upscale accommodations and romantic getaways. Children under 13 are not allowed.

Relax at the spa and enjoy the dry sauna and a massage. Twin Owls Steakhouse, run by Chef Richard Sickler, prepares traditional steakhouse entrees with an a la carte menu to design your meal.

The lodge is close to the Lily Lake and Longs Peak trailheads as well as the main entrance to RMNP, horseback riding, golf, biking and guided fly fishing excursions on the Big Thompson River with Liarflies.


Cheyenne to Cody, Wyo. – Explore the history of the cowboy state

The Wild West is close at hand as you traverse Wyoming’s windswept prairies. Visit Cheyenne, the state capital, and continue northwest to Cody, the gateway to Yellowstone National Park.

Direct routes to Cheyenne are via I-25 or U.S. 85. Cheyenne Frontier Days, held this year from July 19-28, corrals the fast-paced excitement of professional PRCA rodeo cowboys and bull riders, premier western entertainment, a carnival and hearty eats. Discover the western trail at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, tour the beautiful Wyoming State Capitol (a designated National Historic Landmark) and check out the Historic Governors’ Mansion. Then, admire the landscape and navigate a labyrinth at Cheyenne Botanic Gardens.

Catfish Brown, Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Photo by Jackie Jensen Photography.

Absorb the city’s rich history with a stay at the Nagle Warren Mansion Bed & Breakfast. Known as “The Duchess of Cheyenne,” the home continues to be a gracious symbol, echoing the vision of leaders who sought a vibrant community on the high prairie.

When it was built in 1888, the $50,000 mansion was the most expensive house in America, says innkeeper Jas Barbe. The home and state capitol were designed by David Gibbs and built by John Adam Ficke, two Ohio men who Nagle (a local merchant who settled in the area in 1867) brought west to build the grand structures, according to Barbe.

“The interior of the home has double-bricked walls beneath lathe and plaster, hand-carved woodwork, period antiques and original light fixtures,” he says.

Barbe markets the 18-and-up bed-and-breakfast as a historic immersion experience, combining history and romance. As an innkeeper with 55 years in the hospitality business in Wyoming and Europe—in addition to being a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants—Barbe hosts weekly teas and special birthday or anniversary parties. He also officiates weddings on the property.

The mansion’s 13 rooms feature architectural treasures, including fireplace mantels from homes that formerly graced 17th Street in the city’s center. Gourmet breakfast, including soufflés, frittatas and poached fruit, is included with every stay. Prices range from $230-375 per night.

Devils Tower

From Cheyenne, drive 392 miles northwest to Cody, a town founded by “Buffalo Bill” Cody, who was a scout for the U.S. Army as well as a buffalo hunter, entertainer and irrigation pioneer. Take a side trip to see the Devils Tower National Monument, an 867-foot-high geological structure etched with hundreds of vertical lines, giving the impression of corduroy carved in stone.

In Cody, spend a day at the remarkable Buffalo Bill Center of the West, where five museums under one roof explore the American West, Plains Indian cultures, art and natural history.

Stay the night at the Chamberlin Inn, a red brick structure that preserves a moment in time, back to its beginnings when Agnes Chamberlin and her dentist husband, Mark, built a boarding house in 1904 on an empty lot across the street from the Cody Enterprise, the newspaper where she worked for Buffalo Bill, according to the Inn’s website.

Chamberlin Inn
Photo by Kathy Singer Photography.

The building incorporates several other red brick properties, including Park County’s first courthouse.

“After Cody died in 1917, Chamberlin got a big inheritance, which may have been a factor of Agnes and Buffalo Bill’s close relationship,” says Robyn Anliker, the inn’s director of sales. “Agnes was a strong community figure and helped found several churches and the Cody Music Club, and she donated property for the Cody Municipal Airport (now the Yellowstone Regional Airport).”

Rooms include modern amenities, natural fibers, claw foot tubs and antiques, and rates range from $199-399 per night. The hotel has hosted celebrated guests: Ernest Hemingway, after which a room has been named, is said to have finished his manuscript, “Death in the Afternoon,” during his stay and, after several days spent fishing the Clark Fork River, mailed it to his publishers from Cody.

Nibble on appetizers at the inn’s award-winning bar or amble over to several nearby fine dining establishments, including Trailhead, which serves wood-fired pizza and upscale grilled meats. Proud Cut Saloon, which is known for its cowboy cuisine (think steaks and burgers), has bullet holes in the walls that date back to Buffalo Bill Cody’s days.

Get the full Yellowstone experience and ride the exclusive, guests-only Old Faithful Express, a partnership between the Cody Shuttle and the Chamberlin Inn, for full-day trips packed with scenic stops to view wildlife, Old Faithful, bubbling mud pots and more ($190 per person, lunch included).