Estes Park is a picturesque mountain town situated by the eastern entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. Downtown has several nice blocks of restaurants, shops and lodging.
It’s a charming town year round no matter when you visit. The elk are known to take over the streets throughout the year. There is even an Elk Fest held annually in the fall. It’s located less than an hour and half from Denver, and even closer to the other northern front range towns of Loveland and Fort Collins.
Rocky Mountain National Park – Headquarters of the park is located in Estes Park. This scenic park has everything in terms of recreation, from hiking and fishing to camping and biking. Take a scenic drive over to Grand Lake on the opposite side of the Continental Divide and RMNP via Trail Ridge Road.
Lake Estes – A beautiful alpine lake at the edge of town. Lake Estes is open to wake-less boating and fishing. There is a sandy beach which allow wading in the water, but no swimming.
- Lake Estes Marina – Boat rentals including a 1-passenger kayak and 9-passenger pontoon boat. Open May to October. 1770 Big Thompson Ave
Stanley Hotel – Stay the night at the spooky Stanley Hotel. This historic hotel was built in 1909 and was the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining. It’s an upscale 4 star hotel, so expect a bit of luxury with your haunting.
YMCA of the Rockies – This is one of the best kept secrets in Estes Park according to Colorado.com. It’s full of outdoor adventure, from hiking and fly fishing to a thrilling challenge course and disc golf. Stop by for the day or spend the night in a variety of lodging, includes both cabins and larger vacation rentals, as well as both hotel and hostel-style rooms, to accommodate all travelers and budgets. You’ll well fed too with a variety of dining options on-site.
- Rocky Mountain National Park has five drive in campgrounds. The Moraine Park Campground has 245 sites and is only ten minutes from downtown Estes Park.
- Campgrounds and primitive campsites can be found in the surrounding Roosevelt National Forest.
- Lake Estes is the closest bet, located right in town. Ice fishing is common in the winter. Open to bait, flies and lures.
- Rocky Mountain National Park has many lakes within in, but not all contain fish. If it’s too cold for too much of the year, the fish won’t last. Only about 1/3, or 48 of the 156 lakes have reproducing populations of fish. Some lakes are stocked.
- Although you’ll pay for a day (or annual) pass, Rocky Mountain National Park is far worth the price of admission. There is recreation galore, especially for hikers. All levels will find something they enjoy. There are numerous waterfalls within the park, some very short hikes, some longer.
Read about the Top 14 Cool Hotels in Estes Park.
Hotels and lodging:
- Stanley Hotel – Historic 4 star hotel that was the inspiration for The Shining movie. Some say it’s haunted. Do you dare stay at the most famous hotel in town?
- Wind River Ranch – Christian dude ranch open from late May to mid October. They take care of room, board and a slew of family-fun activities.
- YMCA of the Rockies – A myriad year round activities, with something special for each season. There’s also a rang of accommodations, from hotel style lodging, to hostel, cabins and larger vacation rentals.
Jan – Estes Park Winter Festival – Held every winter over the Martin Luther King Jr holiday weekend, the town gathers in downtown Estes for beer, chili and music!
May – Estes Park Duck Race Festival – Charity rubber duck down Fall River in early May.
Jun – Scandinavian Midsummer Festival – three days honoring the summer solstice in June. Expect Scandinavian, think Denmark, Sweden and Norway, music, dancing and food.
Aug – Handmade In Colorado Expo – Weekend of local Colorado artists selling their crafts in Bond Park, held in late August.
Sep – Longs Peak Scottish-Irish Highland Festival – Four day celebration with Celtic bands, Irish and Highland dancers, bagpipes, dogs, jousting and a parade thru downtown Estes, held in early September.
Sep – Elk Fest – Come fall, the bull elk’s breeding call can be heard from afar. Celebrate the annual elk rut at Bond Park, held late September. Events include bugling contests, educational exhibits, elk seminars, a Mountain Mountain Rendezvous, Native American music, dance and storytelling. Bus tours dispatch around 5pm to the best elk viewing spots. Food and art vendors sell elk cuisine and elk-ivory jewelry.
Activities near Estes Park
- Arapaho National Forest
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness
- Roosevelt National Forest
- Fort Collins Municipal (41mi)
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