Estes Park is a beautiful mountain town in Colorado, and with 82 inches of snowfall on average every year, no wonder it’s considered a sparkling winter wonderland!
However, it’s a great place to visit in the summer too, thanks to how close it is to the Rocky Mountain National Park.
There are activities in Estes Park to suit everybody, whether you enjoy learning about history, taking in natural beauty, getting adventurous in the great outdoors, or simply relaxing with delicious food and drink and great views, there will definitely be something to delight you in Estes Park no matter the season!
Best Estes Park Attractions
The Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the famous and popular national parks in the country and is a couple of minutes away from downtown Estes Park.
Needless to say, the Rocky Mountain National Park is the heart of Estes Park tourism. While there are plenty of things to do in the national park, hiking is one of the most popular.
You can snow tube, cross country ski, and more at the Rocky Mountain National Park. During the summer you can go camping (Also check out these Camping Games For Kids and Adults), hike, or spot the beautiful wildlife. Because there is plenty to do in the Rocky Mountain National Park, it’s worth spending a couple of days there.
Plus, if you have a National Park Pass then you can have free entry to the park!
Taking a hike along the Kruger Rock Trail is a great, simple way to enjoy the great outdoors, as it is located just 15 minutes southeast of Estes Park. This 4-mile hike has just 977 feet of elevation gain so is considered moderate. Make sure to buy your pass ahead of visiting the park, so you can take in the stunning scenery at the trail’s peak.
Trail Ridge Road is within the Rocky Mountain National Park, and is probably the most beautiful and exhilarating drive you’ll ever make!
You can drive down the Trail Ridge Road in the summer, normally between May and June. The reason this road is so infamous and exhilarating is that it’s because it is 48 miles long and 12,183 feet in the air.
Because the highway is so potentially perilous, it is totally shut in the winter, and is only plowed up to the viewpoint at Many Parks Curve. But when this twisty-turvy road is closed in the winter it is instead open to snowshoers and cross-country skiers.
Before you hit the road you should always check the conditions with Rocky Mountain National Park.
Now we’ve talked about one of the most thrilling attractions in Estes Park, let’s talk about something a little calmer but just as fascinating.
In the Estes Park Museum you can learn about the important history of homesteaders and Native American tribes, and the formation of the Rocky Mountain National Park in 1915.
Estes Park is a beautiful town that is also full of history, and a visit to the Estes Park Museum is a great way to learn all about it. Plus, it’s totally free to visit! If you want to learn more about the history of Estes Park, then this museum is well worth a visit.
Hidden Valley Snow Park is a gem of the Rocky Mountain National Park and is only a short journey from Estes Park.
Once called a paradise for backcountry skiers due to its history as a ski resort in the ‘50s, nowadays, you can take on the bunny hill from the historic ski resort for tubing and sledding.
While Hidden Valley Snow Park is a great place to visit with your family, the truth is that it can be enjoyed by groups of all ages.
If you’re visiting Estes Park in the winter it’s well worth booking in some snow tubing and unleashing your inner child. Some mountain shops rent out sleds and tubes, or you can buy a budget-friendly option at a local store.
If you’re visiting in the summer, this is still a great spot to hang out and enjoy a scrumptious picnic while being surrounded by nature.
Grab a couple of snacks from the stores in downtown Estes Park and head to Hidden Valley Snow Park. It’s a great way to end a day of hiking!
However, if you are travelling to Estes Park in the summer be mindful of bears. Remember to take away all your food and leave no trace of it behind.
If you want to get your heart pumping why not pay a visit to the Open Air Adventure Park? This is a one-of-a-kind park where you can face 32 challenges at 21 feet in the air!
There is something to do no matter how old you are, so it’s fun for all the family. You also have the freedom to create your own route, with routes normally lasting around 90 minutes.
If playing in the air isn’t your thing, no problem! Axe throwing is another fun activity you can do at the Open Air Adventure Park.
Lily Mountain Trail is just 5 miles south of Estes Park, and is a 4-mile hike with an elevation gain of 1,180 feet.
Needless to say, it’s pretty steep! It’s considered one of the more difficult hikes, but is well-worth it for the sublime wildflowers that bloom in late spring.
Due to its steep incline and rough terrain, you have to be prepared before hiking the Lily Mountain Trail and be a pretty seasoned hiker.
The key to conquering this trail is taking your time. That way you can really soak in the stunning beauty around you. Make sure to take plenty of photos!
Probably one of the most famous – and definitely the spookiest – attraction in Estes Park is the iconic Stanley Hotel, made famous by the Stephen King novel, The Shining. King was inspired by an overnight stay at the hotel in the ‘70s.
So if you’re looking for some thrills then we recommend staying in the hotel’s main building, which is known for its paranormal activity.
It’s no wonder that the Stanley Hotel is so popular with ghost hunters! If you’re really feeling brave you can book a stay in a ‘Spirited’ room that is said to have lots of paranormal activity.
If you don’t want to stay in the hotel, you can still pay a visit to the Stanley Hotel and go on a day tour with guides who will take you through the ghostly history of this eerily beautiful hotel.
9. Longs Peak
Colorado is known as the home of 58 14er hikes. Don’t know what a 14er is? Well, it’s when a peak of a mountain is over 14,000 feet.
These hikes also have varying degrees of difficulty from easy to challenging. Not only is Longs Peak challenging, but treacherous.
More than 20,000 people visit Estes Park each year wanting to take on Longs Peak, but 50% of these climbers don’t reach the top, hence its claim as ‘the most tried and failed mountain in the state.”
If you do feel brave enough to take on this mountain, you need to be 14er prepared with plenty of layers, proper food, and plenty of water to keep you hydrated.
Dramatic changes in weather are to be expected at higher elevations, especially on large mountains. You should make sure to consult with local rangers before you attempt your climb.
If you don’t want to climb Longs Peak you can still enjoy it from the bottom of the mountain and hike the Chasm Lake Trail instead.
Paying a visit to Longs Peak is always worth it, even if you don’t want to take on the challenge of climbing to the peak.
With over 30 activities for you to enjoy, the YMCA Of The Rockies is a great place to begin your journey of Estes Park if you’re unsure where to start.
They provide guided hiking tours, as well as activities as archery, skiing, and snowboarding. If you’d prefer a more laidback activity, they also provide astronomy classes where you can stargaze at the wide, twinkling Colorado sky.
If you want to connect more with your tranquil surroundings, then you can take a yoga class that takes place outdoors during summer if the weather is right. The YMCA Of The Rockies really has something for everyone!
If you’ve brought your dog along, they also have a dog park that has plenty of space for your canine buddy to run around and have fun.
If you’re a keen mountain biker then you need to go to Stanley Park Bike Park made for cyclists and mountain bikers with a 1.25 unpaved trail for running and biking.
There is also a skills loop in the park where you can practice jumping on dirt terrain, and learn some mountain biking basics. No matter your skill level, everyone is welcome at Stanley Park Bike Park, as there are both beginner and expert spots.
12. Lake Estes
Lake Estes is one of the first things you see as you drive into Estes Park, and is a reservoir with a surface area of 184 acres and a 4-mile shoreline.
Swimming is prohibited in Lake Estes, but there is still lots to do! You can head to the picnic area and enjoy a delicious cookout, or take a nice walk around the lake while soaking in all the stunning Rocky Mountain views.
Located in Downtown Estes Park, the Riverwalk is famous for its variety of shopping and dining options, from cafés, to BBQ, to local elk burgers, and fudge and candies you can take home!
Be sure to take a look in one of the Estes Park themed shops to support local business.
The Riverwalk is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park and is a great way to start your day at the park or end your day at the park. If you’re a foodie, then the Riverwalk is the place to be in Estes Park.
The Peak to Peak Scenic Byway is one of the most scenic drives Colorado has to offer! The road takes you from Estes Park to Black Hawk, known for its casinos and is about a two-hour drive including stop-offs.
While the sunny, verdant views are amazing in summer, we think that fall is the best time to hit the road so you can see the Aspen trees turning bright yellow.
If you or anyone else in your group loves photography, this drive is a real treat and is a great addition to anyone’s bucket list.
Mountain Blown Glass is one of the most creative attractions in Estes Park and is a family-run business.
This is a unique store that has been in business since 2000 and is famous in Estes Park for creating gorgeous, bespoke glass pieces.
It’s well worth visiting the Mountain Blown Glass studio and becoming mesmerized by the glassmaking process! Plus, watching the demonstrations is completely free.
Still, we would recommend buying one of their stunning, unique items as a souvenir.
Found on the the Big Thompson River, the Red Rose Rock Shop & Dick’s Rock Museum is a quirky store with a wide variety of fossils, jewelry, minerals, and rocks on offer.
The store was founded by a geologist named Dick Siebenaler, who created the museum in 1964.
Today it is considered a landmark in Estes Park! As well as learning about fossils and rocks, you can buy some to take home and commemorate your time in Estes Park.
Hermit Park Open Space is located 2 miles southeast of Estes Park and is where you’ll find some of the most exciting activities in Estes Park.
You can take a high through the beautiful Ponderosa meadows and forests, and this is a particularly popular place for camping during the summer.
The Macgregor Ranch Museum was founded in 1873, and takes you through the history of three generations of the Macgregor family.
If you’re wondering who the Macgregors are, they’re a homesteader family that played a massive role in the development of Estes Park.
The museum spans across the famous ranch, and visitors are given access to the milking shed, root cellar, and other buildings that the family used in their everyday lives.
As well as enjoying these interactive experiences, you can listen to the knowledgeable volunteers tell you all about the fascinating history of the Macgregors.
If you’re looking to learn more about the history of Estes Park, then we highly recommend visiting the Historic Park Theater and Café.
It is a famous local landmark that was established in 1913, giving it the honor of being the US’s oldest motion picture theater.
It’s a beautiful and quaint spot with stunning architecture that takes you right back to the turn of the century.
Although it’s an old building, the Historic Park Theater and Café has kept up with the times, with neon lights across its amazing facade and the latest surround sound and advanced digital production.
No matter what you like to watch, the Historic Park Theater and Café has it! From blockbusters to documentaries, from independent movies to live theater, the Historic Park Theater and Café has something for everyone.
Colorado is famous for its dark, open skies and its crystal clear views of the horizon, making it one of the best places in the country to stargaze.
And the Estes Park Memorial Observatory is an amazing place to make the most out of the starry Colorado sky! Estes Park Memorial Observatory is beloved by both tourists and locals as an educational and community resource.
The Estes Park Memorial Observatory is a great place to take in breathtaking, stunning views of the stars and celestial bodies.
The observatory is full of knowledgeable, voluntary staff that coordinate viewing events for private and public capacity and provide educational information. The observatory also holds lectures on astronomy, astrophotography, and cosmology.
21. Seven Keys Lodge
For a really unique and quirky experience in Estes Park, we recommend you pay a visit to the Seven Keys Lodge of Colorado.
Established in 1917 and originally called the Baldpate Inn, the Seven Keys Lodge is the world’s largest collection of keys, and is home to over 20,000 keys.
The Seven Keys Lodge is also a quaint bed and breakfast, with ceilings and walls covered in keys! Plus, their key collection is growing as numerous keys get donated to the lodge each year.
The lodge is home to fascinating, famous keys, such as the keys to robbed banks, keys to the dressing rooms of Hollywood actors, keys to a Peruvian monastery, keys to the Pentagon, keys to a piano, the keys to Westminster Abbey, and even the keys to the White House!
As you can tell, the keys at the lodge hail from all across the world, and to better learn about the keys they’re organized by country and location.
The key collection at the lodge has been growing since World War II, and the voracious collection of keys was inspired by the mystery novel Seven Keys to Baldpate. If you have a key you don’t need anymore, why not donate it to the Seven Keys Lodge?
Best Things To Do In Estes Park
Colorado is a famously snowy state where cross-country skiing has thrived. It’s also a great way to get a workout in the snow!
When on a trip to Estes Park, why not take your skis to Sprague Lake Glacier Basin Campground Loop? If you’re a beginner, you’re in luck, as this known for being a great place for beginners.
Sprague Lake has a minimal elevation gain of 246 feet and stays pretty flat. The loop is 2.7 miles and takes you around the calm lake and into a beautiful, verdant forest.
If you’re not an owner of cross country skis, this isn’t an issue, as they’re available for rent at the Estes Park Mountain Shop, where you can also rent winter clothing such as hats and gloves.
Colorado weather is known for being extremely unpredictable and sometimes very harsh.
In between winter storms it remains fairly sunny, but sixty degree days are not unusual, as are blizzards and twenty degree days. It’s important to check the weather forecast before you hit the slopes.
23. Take A Jeep Tour
When you’re on vacation why not let someone else take the wheel? Estes Park’s Wildside 4×4 tours turn your vacation into a thrilling adventure!
The 4×4 photography tours take you to a wide range of beautiful, picturesque places, the Panoramic Photo Tour lets you stop and take pictures to your heart’s content!
The tour concludes at a private viewing tower with amazing views of the Rocky Mountains. This is an ideal option for those who would like to slow down, take in the views, and enjoy the ride.
The Not So Mellow Marshmallow Tour is an evening tour where you can watch the sunset over the mountains. Imagine the photo opportunities!
The tour concludes around a campfire on top of the mountain where you can roast some marshmallows before you return to Estes Park.
Viewing wildlife in Estes Park is a popular activity, and something you won’t want to miss! In fact, spotting elk and moose crossing the street is a pretty common occurrence.
They are a regular sight around town, and are like unofficial mascots of the town. Moose are normally seen in the west side of the national park.
However, it’s becoming more common to see them on the east side of the park as time goes on. They are also visible throughout the year, so there is no perfect time to see them. You can spot them pretty much anywhere if you’re lucky!
Visiting the Rocky Mountain National Park is also a great place to spot other Colorado critters such as beavers, bears, coyotes, and raccoons.
However, it’s important to remember to stay back from the wildlife, regardless of how friendly they appear. Driving around the park and spotting wildlife is many tourists’ favorite way to spend their time in Estes Park.
25. Horseback Riding
Estes Park is regularly referred to as Cowboy Country, with many horseback riding options on offer. Sombrero Stables are a beloved option for locals and tourists alike, and were established in 1958.
They offer horseback rides lasting 1–2 hours that take you through the gorgeous Rocky Mountain scenery. On the 2-hour ride you get a steeper journey, going as high as 900 feet.
You can also opt for a 30-minute ride if you don’t have a lot of time, or if you’re new to horse riding. Booking a horse ride is easy, you can book directly from their website and leave a review of your experience afterward.
26. Renting Cabins
For an authentic Colorado experience, why not relax in a rustic Rocky Mountain cabin? Estes Park has a wide variety of beautiful, cozy cabins to rent. Some cabins are located by cascading rivers, while others can be found in more remote, secluded areas.
The Inn on Fall River & Fall River Cabins has some of the most highly rated cabins in Estes Park! What better way to finish a day exploring around Estes Park by stargazing from your own hot tub?
The cabins are located near the Rocky Mountain National Park and downtown Estes Park making it a fabulous base for all your excursions.
27. Meadow Mini Golf
Meadow Mini Golf is a great family-friendly day out! The pretty course is bursting with fragrant flowers and has plenty of mountain views to take in.
The mini-golf course is open only in the summer, so if you’re visiting Estes Park any other time of year, unfortunately this will be unavailable to you.
It was once called the Tiny Town Mini-Golf Course, and has been running for more than 60 years.
The Alligator Hole and the windmill are famous courses on the green, and you get to enjoy a fun game of golf while taking in the beautiful views of Longs Peak. Plus, if you get a hole in one, you can play a round of golf for free!
For all you thrill-seekers out there, why not try whitewater rafting? The Estes Park outfitters at Rapid Transit Rafting will guide through either a half-day or a full-day on the water.
The half-day excursion takes you down the Cache la Poudre River. A scenic drive along the Trail Ridge Road is included in the full-day trip, and you also get to take a fun ride along the Colorado River. Prepare to get soaked!
29. Motor Sports
Estes Park ATV Rentals is a fun and exciting way to experience Estes Park. Renters can explore the town unguided at their own pace, and take in the mountain views on thrilling 4×4 trails.
If you’re not too knowledgeable about the area, don’t worry. They have knowledgeable, helpful staff who can teach you all about the GPS map system and recommend routes to ensure you have a safe, fun time.
Food & Drink In Estes Park
Snowy Peaks Winery is beloved by Estes Park locals and is a famous downtown eatery. At Snowy Peaks you can do a wine-tasting flight of local wines while taking in gorgeous views of the snowy Rocky Mountains.
They have an extensive wine list with options for every palate, including Viognier, Riesling, Syrah, and Merlot.
Snowy Peaks also has a gourmet cheese menu that is just to die for! You can enjoy your wine and cheese outside or inside, as well as buy some homemade chocolates and jams.
Their testing room is also open all year round and seven days a week, so no matter what time of year you visit Estes Park, Snowy Peaks will welcome you!
Their patio is a great place to spend an evening in summer, and their heated tasting room is a cozy place to spend an evening in winter.
31. Bird & Jim
One of the most highly rated restaurants in Estes Park, Bird & Jim is famous for its locally-sourced meats and produce. Buffalo burgers, Colorado lamb T-bones, and frontier trout are some of the hearty dishes you can enjoy at Bird & Jim.
There is also plenty for vegetarians too, with offerings such as veggie paella and stuffed eggplant. You can enjoy your meal with a cocktail or wine, but make sure you have enough of an appetite for dessert, as diners rave about the bread pudding.
It’s impossible to see the taffy being pulled and stretched in the window of the Purple Mountain Taffy Company and not walk inside! And once you’re inside, it would be rude not to try this taffy for yourself.
The store specializes in caramels and saltwater taffy. We recommend trying the bing cherry vanilla, caramel apple sauce, huckleberry, and salted caramel.
There are many exciting, stunning places to visit in Colorado, but Estes Park is an amazing destination because of its beautiful, unrivalled views of the Rocky Mountains and its charming and vibrant downtown area. In Estes Park, there is something for everyone!
You can immerse yourself in the great outdoors by setting off on one of the town’s many hiking trails, kick back and relax in a secluded cabin, take in the history at the Estes Park Museum, or get to know the friendly locals by visiting the delicious restaurants and unique stores.
There are endless possibilities for fun in Estes Park, with activities to delight you all year around. So what are you waiting for? Book your trip to Estes Park today and experience all it has to offer!
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