1. Rainbow Trout: The Sundeck Restaurant
915 Moraine Avenue, Estes Park, sundeckrestaurant.com
Nothing tastes quite as good after hiking the high country as a freshly caught trout from the waters of the Rockies. The Sundeck doesn’t look fancy from the outside, but we like the way they prepare the rainbows here: easy on the spices and sauces to let the natural flavor shine, and filleted at your table steaming hot. And the prices won’t kill your vacation budget. Open from May to September each year.
2. Root Beer Float: Hayley’s
102 East Elkhorn Avenue (US 36), Estes Park, (970) 586-4207
Ice cream stores are a dime a dozen on the town’s touristy main drag, but Hayley’s one-ups the competition with homemade root beer and ice cream that, combined in a tall glass, is one of the tastiest floats anywhere.
3. Brunch: Chautauqua Dining Hall
900 Baseline Road, Boulder, chautauqua.com
You won’t regret the hourlong drive from Estes Park to dine in this historic structure at the foot of the Flatirons. The all-you-can-eat Sunday buffet is hearty, the scenery spectacular. Combine a meal with shopping on the Pearl Street pedestrian mall (downtown) and tours of the University of Colorado and/or the Celestial Seasonings tea factory for a full day.
4. Burger & Beer: Oskar Blues
303 Main Street, Lyons, oskarblues.com
Grab one of the loaded free-range bison burgers, upgrade to the sweet potato fries, and sip one of this microbrewery’s award-winning brews. Love your beer hoppy? Try Dale’s Pale Ale, voted the “best canned beer in America.” The brewery also has an outpost (Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids and Solids) in Longmont, 50 minutes southeast of Estes Park.
5. Donuts: Donut Haus
US 36 at Moraine Avenue, Estes Park, www.thedonuthaus.com
On the rare occasion when we order something other than this small shop’s delectable bear claw ... no wait, we’ve never ordered anything else. That’s how tasty and filling this hunk of deep-fried, apple- or raspberry-packed dough is. More adventurous donut fans tell us the other flavors and frosted styles hit the spot, too.
6. Margaritas: Pancho & Lefty’s
1120 Grand Lake Avenue, Grand Lake, panchosgrandlake.com
This lively Mexican joint on the shores of Grand Lake is the place to be on summer evenings, when locals and travelers alike pack the place for huge platters of cheesy goodness (we like the enchiladas, and nachos always satisfy after a day in the park) and generous margarita pitchers. Smart move: Walk there.