On the edge of Estes Park, Colorado, Lake Estes is a 185 acre (75 ha) water reservoir held up by the Olympus Dam. Lake Estes sits at 7,522 feet in elevation with approximately 4 miles of shoreline within Larimer County.
Although it was constructed as a part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project to divert water eastward, Lake Estes has become a popular destination for picnics, fishing and wake-less boating.
Lake Estes History
Lake Estes was built to provide the main drinking water source for the growing town of Estes Park, Colorado. The 70’ high Olympus Dam was completed in 1949 along the Big Thompson River. The following year, the Estes Power Plant began producing hydroelectricity on the west shore of the Lake. The Bureau of Reclamation created and maintains the dam and water levels as a part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.
Activities at Lake Estes
Estes Park, Colorado is widely known as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. In addition to many places to eat and stay in the area, Lake Estes offers visitors a variety of outdoor activities to enjoy one of Colorado’s most picturesque mountain towns.
Birding: Lake Estes is home to a variety of native and migratory bird species. Depending on the season, birders may be able to spot Mergansers, Goldeneyes, American Dippers, Violet-green Swallows, Warblers and more.
Boating: Non-motorized boats as well as boats with small motors are permitted on Lake Estes. Boaters must maintain wake-less speeds on the water. Pontoon boats, paddle boats and stand-up paddle boards (with wetsuits) are available to rent at the marina. All boats must be launched in the area near the marina on the north side of the lake. Fees may be required.
- Lake Estes Marina – Boat rental rates are available by the 1/2 hour or hourly. Watercraft includes large 10-passenger and 7-passenger pontoon boats, fishing boats, paddle boats, canoes, kayaks and stand up paddle boards. Swimming, jet skis and ice fishing are not permitted on the lake.
Camping: The Estes Park KOA is located on the northeast side of Lake Estes, across the street. The campground has sites for tents and RVs as well as nightly cabin rentals.
Fishing: Lake Estes is stocked by the Colorado Department of Wildlife. Licensed anglers will most likely be able to catch rainbow and brown trout, with a daily limit of 4 total between the species. Additionally, large lures may attract the occasional tiger muskie. Fishing from both the shore and aboard a boat is permitted.
Hiking, Biking, and Walking: The Lake Estes Trail circumnavigates Lake Estes with a 3.8 mile flat, paved path. The trail can be enjoyed by joggers, walkers, road bicycles, and those with strollers and leashed dogs. There is not much shade along the path, but the views are breathtaking both early and late in the day.
Picnicking: There are picnic tables located on the south, north, and east sides of the lake. Close by, free bathroom facilities are also available for visitors. For larger gatherings, the Lake Estes Marina Pavilion is also available to rent for weddings, reunions, and other celebrations.
Swimming: Swimming is prohibited in Lake Estes. However, there is a sandy beach located near the marina on the north side of the lake. Here, wading is permitted so that visitors can dip their toes in the cold Rocky Mountain water.
Wildlife Viewing: Nearly every visit to Estes Park, Colorado includes an encounter with a large herd of elk. With that said, spending time at Lake Estes nearly guarantees the opportunity for careful spotting of elk, mule deer, and the occasional moose.
Address: 1770 Big Thompson Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
Phone: 970-577-9900 / 800-443-7837 (Estes Park Visitor Center)
Season: Year Round
Marina Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM
Fees: Private Boat Permitting Fees, Vehicle Day Use Fees
Maps: Map of Lake Estes (PDF)