Looking for a weekend getaway that offers plenty of activities, natural beauty, and tasty food options? Look no further than Estes Park, Colorado! This charming town is located at the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park and offers visitors plenty of things to do.
Estes Park has something for everyone to enjoy, from hiking and biking trails to delicious restaurants and quaint shops. You might even see massive Elk walking through town when you’re there!
Where is Estes Park?
Estes Park is located in Northeastern Colorado, about an hour and a half drive from Denver. The town is about 10 minutes from the main entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park.
The best way to get to Estes Park is by car. If you’re coming from Denver, take I-25 North to US 36 East. From there, it’s a straight shot into town.
Things to do in Estes Park, Colorado
1. Riverwalk in Downtown Estes Park
Estes Park is known for its magnificent mountain landscape and diverse array of outdoor activities. However, there is one particular site in the town that has become a beloved destination for both locals and tourists alike: the Estes Park Riverwalk. This charming pathway along the river offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and lush foliage, as well as opportunities to explore local art and history displays year-round. Whether you are looking to enjoy a scenic stroll or find inspiration for your next creative endeavor, the Estes Park Riverwalk is a must-visit destination in this beautiful mountain town.
Pro Tip: Be sure to check out Mountain Blown Glass, where you can watch glassblowers create beautiful pieces right before your eyes!
2. Estes Park Ariel Tramway
The Ariel Tramway is a must-do if you’re looking for a more adventurous activity. This aerial tram takes visitors up to the summit of Prospect Mountain for stunning views of the area. It’s definitely worth it to go on a clear day so you can see as far as the eye can see!
The tramway is open from Memorial Day through the end of September and closes during the winter season. During the open season, you can visit from 10am – 6 pm.
3. Downtown Estes Park
As mentioned before, downtown Estes Park is a great place to spend an afternoon. There are plenty of shops and restaurants to explore, and you can even ride the historic Stanley Steam Train.
Estes Park is home to a variety of unique stores, souvenir shops, art galleries, and restaurants in downtown Estes Park.
Throughout the year you’ll find many festivals and events in downtown Estes Park.
Fall Festivals in Estes Park
- Rails in the Rockies
- Mountain Craft Spirits Festival
- Pumpkins and Pilsners
- Elk Fest
- Scottish Irish Highland Festival
Winter Festivals in Estes Park
- Tree Lighting Ceremony
- Catch the Glow Holiday Parade & Celebration
- Holiday Wine Festival
- Wine and Chocolate Festival
Spring Festivals in Estes Park
- Whiskey Warm Up
- Bigfoot Days
- Jazz Festival
- Duck Race Festival
Summer Festivals in Estes Park
- Rooftop Rodeo
- Free Summer Concerts
- Scandinavian Midsummer Festival
- Wool Market
Be sure to check out the event calendar on the Estes Park website so you can plan your visit around some of the fun events happening in town!
4. Rocky Mountain National Park
Of course, no trip to Estes Park would be complete without a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park. This stunning park offers visitors plenty of opportunities for hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing. You might even see some moose or deer grazing in the meadows!
The most popular thing to do in Rocky Mountain National Park is hiking. There are several short and beautiful hikes along the Bear Lake Corridor.
If you aren’t a hiker, you are still in luck, because Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the best National Parks to drive through! You can drive through the Bear Lake Corridor, which is especially beautiful in the fall.
Old Fall River Road
Old Fall River Road is a dirt road, that is an incredibly scenic drive. It is the original road that was cut through the park in 1913. While beautiful, it’s not for the faint of heart! There are many twists and turns, and no guard rails.
Trail Ridge Road
Trail Ridge Road is the most popular drive in the park. This is the only road that crosses the park and leads from Estes Park to Grand lake. Trail Ridge Road will also lead you to the Alpine Visitors Center. The visitor center is almost 12,000 feet, which is the highest elevation for a visitor center in all of the National Park System.
It takes about 90 minutes to drive Trail Ridge Road without stopping. Plan on at least 3 hours with all of the stops.
Once you get to Grand lake, you can explore some of the hikes on that side of the park, and see the origin of the Colorado River.
Know Before You Go
Ideally, you should plan on dedicating 3 or more days to exploring Rocky Mountain National Park, but if you only have one day, use this perfect one day Rocky Mountain Itinerary to maximize your time in the park.
Keep in mind, you will need a timed entry permit to visit the park during the summer.
The park is open year round, and in the winter, you do not need a permit. If you do visit in the winter, Trail Ridge Road, Old Fall River Road, and the Alpine Visitor Center will be closed. In addition, some trails will be closed due to heavy snowfall, but it can still be a beautiful experience in the winter.
5. Go-Karts and Mini Golf
Estes Park Ride-A-Kart is the premier destination for outdoor fun in the Colorado community of Estes Park. Here, you can enjoy a variety of exhilarating experiences tailored to suit every age and ability level.
Whether you’re looking for a traditional go-kart race or want to try your hand at something a bit more extreme, such as a buggy tour through rugged mountain terrain, you’ll find it all at Estes Park Ride-A-Kart. This family-friendly attraction offers go-karts, mini golf, laser tag, and bumper boats – perfect for hours of fun!
6. Look for Elk
Elk can be seen in Estes Park year-round, but they are most visible in the fall and winter. You can find them wandering around town, or grazing in the meadows near Rocky Mountain National Park. Be sure to keep your eyes open – you might get lucky and see one up close! The golf course is a great place to see Elk during the rut, which is the mating season for these majestic creatures.
Pro Tip: Never approach, harass, or feed Elk, as they are wild animals and can be dangerous. The bulls are especially aggressive during the rut. You will hear them bugling (calling their mates) from miles away.
7. Bring your Dog
Estes Park is super dog friendly! There is even a dog park with an agility course so your four-legged bestie can run and play. Most of the hotels in the area are pet friendly too! There are plenty of doggie daycare facilities available where you can leave your dog while you visit Rocky Mountain National Park.
Where to Eat in Estes Park
There are great places to eat in Estes Park for all budgets! You can find everything from casual cafes to fine-dining restaurants. Some places you definitely shouldn’t miss on your trip to Estes Park are:
- You Need Pie
- Eds Cantina
- The Egg of Estes
- Daves BBQ
- Cinnamons Bakery
- Antonios NY Pizza
- Twin Owls Steakhouse
Where to Stay in Estes Park, Colorado
There are many options for staying in Estes Park, depending on your budget and what kind of amenities you are looking for. There are hotels, motels, cabins, Airbnb’s, and even glamping!
Some popular places to stay in Estes Park are:
The Stanley Hotel: This iconic hotel is said to be haunted and is a must-see for any horror movie fan! This is where Stephen King stayed that inspired the Shining.
The YMCA of the Rockies: This is a great option if you are looking for affordable lodging with access to amenities like a swimming pool, dining hall, and recreation activities.
Downtown Estes Park Condos: These condos offer stunning views of Rocky Mountain National Park and are within walking distance of all the shops and restaurants in downtown Estes Park.
Aspen Brook Vacation Rentals: These rental cabins are located on the Big Thompson River and offer a variety of amenities like hot tubs, fireplaces, and private fishing access.
Best Time to Visit Estes Park, Colorado
There is no one perfect time to visit Estes Park – the park is beautiful and enjoyable all year round! However, if you are looking for the best views of the Rockies and fewer crowds, then autumn or winter are definitely the best times to visit.
The aspens will be changing color in the fall, and the ski slopes will be open in the winter. Spring and summer are also great times to visit, but the park will be more crowded as this is the peak season.
No matter when you decide to visit Estes Park, you are sure to have a memorable trip! This charming town has something for everyone and is the perfect place to explore the beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park.
If you’re looking for a charming mountain town to explore the beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park is the perfect destination. There is something for everyone in this town, from great places to eat and stay, to outdoor activities and attractions.
There are plenty of activities and attractions for all ages, and the town is dog-friendly too! You can find great places to eat and stay in Estes Park, no matter what your budget is.
So pack your bags and head on over to this beautiful Colorado town – you won’t regret it!
Featured Photo Credit: [@mkopka/DepositPhotos]
Hi! My name is Chantelle. I grew up in Northern California and now live in the Pacific Northwest. I have 3 boys, 2 dogs, and a bird! The blog name “Flannels or FlipFlops” encompasses both my “homes” and also my desire to travel anywhere. Cold, warm, I don’t care… let’s go!