A Handshake & Decades of Memories

(Photo Credit: Rachel Estabrook)

Cascade Cottages sits on 42 acres of privately owned land just inside the Fall River entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. The collection of 14 cabins is by far the largest privately owned properties left inside the park's boundaries, but it won't be for long - soon the National Park Service will acquire the land they sit upon, thanks to a handshake-deal made back in 1941.

The sole person overseeing the Cascade Cottages never intended to be 'last man standing.' Richard Sipe fell in love with Grace Davis, the woman who worked the front desk and whose parents were the original owners of the land and cabins. For nearly two dozen summers following their marriage the couple lived happily at Cascade, maintaining the cabins and befriending visitors.

(Photo Credit: Rachel Estabrook)

Sipe explains that his father-in-law wanted the property because he was a conservationist at heart and truly loved the outdoors. "His philosophy was that he wanted to be a friend of man and live by the side of the road, and he truly fulfilled that obligation," says Sipe.

(Photo Credit: Rachel Estabrook)

After Grace passed away in 2014, her remaining family members decided to sell the property. Between their own families and lives, they simply couldn't justify the maintenance and time required to keep the cabins running. Though certainly a bittersweet end to what became a big, beautiful part of his life, Sipe is at peace with the decision. "It's emotional, but I feel honored that I happened to be here."

Thanks to a promise and a handshake that Grace Davis' parents made decades ago, the National Park Service was given the first opportunity to buy when the family was ready. "I'm so thankful for the family and honoring the commitment that was apparently just a handshake between L.V. Davis and whoever was superintendent at that time. I don't even know who that was," Larry Gamble admits, as current Park's Chief of Planning and Compliance.

(Photo Credit: Rocky Mountain Conservancy)

Grace Davis' family will receive $3.4 million in the purchase but the park will only shell out $1.65 million after the Rocky Mountain Conservancy had their say. The Trust for Public Land also assisted in paying the park's portion upfront. At this point, the sale is expected to be complete by spring of 2017.

Gamble cannot say with certainty what the park will do with the land, or even if the cabins will stay standing. But the park has assured it will ask for comments from the public before making any final decisions. "I can totally understand the incredible connections to this place," he says about Cascade Cottages. "It's surrounded by Rocky Mountain National Park, so it brought a lot of people here to an incredible setting and generations of attachments. And I can understand the sense of loss, and I think what we do offer is that it will be preserved for future generations to come and enjoy."

Cabins and Cottages and Glamping, Oh My!

The Urban Dictionary defines "glamping" as:

Going camping, but with glamour. A combination of the two words. It's like regular camping , but with nicer things than usual, being warmer, and more comfortable. Glamping isn't done by usual outdoor types who climb mountains.

It's a relatively new concept that's taken off in rugged settings across the country. Glamping isn't only for the high maintenance; it can offer an outdoor, nature-filled experience for those who normally wouldn't consider trekking into the middle of the woods. Families with young children, older people who simply cannot sleep on the hard ground and function the next day, and those who simply want a brand new twist on the favorite American pastime of camping.

If you're still a skeptic, hear us out! Have we ever been glamping? Well, no... But we might consider it if we could visit one of these amazing spots on the edges of RMNP. Whether you only have time to jot up to Estes Park for the weekend or want to make a trip clear out to Grand Lake on the west side of the boundary, these glam camping spots provide beautiful scenery and comfy bedding.

Estes Park Glamping Sites

Mountain-Encircled Family Log Cabin

1 Unit | 3 night minimum stay | No pets | $206.70 per night

Estes Park, CO

Yes, it is a log cabin - but it's nestled in a spot that offers amazing views of the entire park! There is only one cabin with one spacious bedroom, one bathroom, and the ability to accommodate a maximum of 4 guests. The kitchen is fully equipped so guests can cook their meals conveniently, so this location is ideal for a family looking for seclusion in the mountains without giving up proximity to local shops, restaurants and attractions. Comes with a fireplace, jetted bathtub and a sitting patio area.

Riverside Cabins with Decks

4 Units | 3 night minimum stay | From $254.40 per night

Estes Park, CO

If river-side is your style, look no further! These cabins sit on 29 acres along Fall River, amidst the trees in Estes Park. Spotting elk out the window in the mornings aren't uncommon at all. Though open all year round, summer is the most popular season with activities such as horseback riding, hiking, whitewater rafting down the Poudre River, and sampling ice cream in downtown Estes. Fall brings about color changes in the aspen trees and inspires the elk to enter rutting season. Winter offers many festivals, cross country skiing and an opportunity to curl up in front of the fireplace. Spring is often slow (and snowy) to start, but beautiful!

Grand Lake Glamping Sites

Remote Cabin Nestled in Nature

Grand Lake, CO

1 Unit | 3 night minimum stay | No pets | $222.60 per night

The pond that this cabin overlooks if frequently visited by moose and elk, which match the country decor to a T! Because it sleeps up to 8 people, this location would work well for a small family gathering or as a nature retreat for friends. Between a fully equipped kitchen, fireplace, outdoor deck, the average glamper should have everything they need.

Cozy Cabin Overlooking Stunning Lake

Grand Lake, CO

1 Unit | 3 night minimum stay | No pets  | $530 per night

In true glamping style, this cabin has been newly remodeled to keep visitors comfortable. Do you have a boat? Bring it! There is a boat dock and a small private beach just a short walk from the front door. Because there is plenty of space for 8 inside the home, there is also a fire pit outside if you decide to bring the party out into the night!