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Nestled serenely at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Estes Park is a scenic, postcard-worthy town that’s well worth a visit. Resting at an altitude of over 7,500 feet, Estes particularly comes alive in the summertime, when tourists descend on the town to explore its kitschy boutiques, restaurants, ice cream parlors, candy stores, and regional toy shops. Though the streets may be stuffed with touristy businesses, Estes still retains a singular beauty and charm, mostly due to its majestic location — the town is just minutes away from one of the country’s most popular mountain playgrounds: Rocky Mountain National Park. Visitors should reserve at least two full days, if not more, for exploring the park, and a thrilling drive up Trail Ridge Road — the highest continuous paved road in America. Then, after a day spent hiking through alpine meadows, lush forests, and mountain trails carpeted with colorful wildflowers, stop by the Rock Inn for some local brews and live bluegrass. It’s the Colorado way. Below, all the places to rest your head between outdoor pursuits in Estes Park.
Best Overall: The Stanley Hotel
Steeped in rich history and boasting a highly unique legacy, the Stanley Hotel is perhaps best known for its starring role in The Shining, the novel by Stephen King which was later turned into a nightmare-inducing film by Stanley Kubrick. King was inspired to write the novel after a brief visit to The Stanley, and over the years, guests have reported dozens of ghost sightings and other spooky occurrences (you can even elect to stay in a historic “spirited room,” if, well, the spirit moves you).
Paranormal activity aside, the hotel is also known for its world-class architecture, entertainment, and amenities. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Historic Hotels of America, the four-star Stanley features 140 luxurious guest rooms, all of which are decked out with classic yet comfy furnishings, large flat-screen TVs, pillow-top mattresses, king-sized beds, plush linens, and other basic amenities. The stately, impressive Stanley Hotel is an Estes Park landmark, and it’s without a doubt the best (and most iconic) place to stay in town.
Best Budget: Columbine Inn
For travelers seeking affordable lodging that doesn’t skimp on style and comfort, it doesn’t get much better than the Columbine Inn. Located a mile east of downtown Estes Park, the Columbine Inn is near plenty of local attractions including the ultra-picturesque Lake Estes Marina, as well as restaurants, shops, horseback riding stables, and more. Accommodations here are immaculate and the amenities list is lengthy (especially considering how inexpensive rates are), all rooms include satellite TV, refrigerators, microwaves, ironing boards, coffee makers, and hair dryers. In addition to standard single and double rooms, the Columbine Inn also offers additional rooms with kitchenettes, fireplaces, and decks. Guests will undoubtedly enjoy soaking in the outdoor jacuzzi suite and picnicking in the garden gazebo. Penny-pinching travelers will also appreciate the free continental breakfast offered in the lobby each morning.
Best Boutique: The Maxwell Inn
The Maxwell Inn provides the perfect mountain escape. The charming boutique was built in the late 1930s as a single-family home, and over the years, it’s been renovated and remodeled into the quaint, rustic-chic lodge that it is today. With a woodsy charm all its own, the family-owned Maxwell provides a great home-base for exploring Estes Park; the city center is just a 10-minute walk away, via a paved path along the river.
The inn features 17 rooms that each come equipped with a 32-inch flat-screen TV, a Serta Signature Plush mattress, microwave, mini-fridge, and coffeemaker. There’s a lovely continental breakfast with cereals, oatmeal, pastries, and fresh coffee offered every morning, and most guests like to enjoy their meals on the back patio while taking in the crisp, fragrant mountain air. Relaxing by the natural gas fire pit (open year-round) with a tasty hot toddy in hand is the perfect way to spend a chilly Colorado evening.
Best for Families: YMCA of the Rockies
When it comes to family-style lodging, there’s no better place to be than the YMCA of the Rockies. Kiddos will all but lose it when they spot the zipline, horse stables, miniature golf course, craft shop overflowing with art supplies, volleyball courts, and library stocked with children’s books and games. In addition, there’s a plethora of family-oriented activities and scheduled programming offered here, from classes on local wildlife and fire building to guided hikes through Rocky Mountain National Park to archery and fly fishing lessons. In terms of accommodations, the YMCA offers two- and three-bedroom cabins, lodge rooms, and vacation homes which offer amenities like fireplaces and full kitchens (PS: some are also pet-friendly). Best of all, the property is bordered on three sides by snow-capped peaks and idyllic mountain scenery you’ll never tire of waking up to.
Best for Romance: Boulder Brook on Fall River
Couples on the lookout for romantic lodging options should look no further than Boulder Brook on Fall River. This luxury resort, nestled alongside the tranquil waters of Fall River, is one of the top-rated hotel destinations for honeymooners and couples vacationing in Estes.
Boulder Brook has 19 intimate, adult-only suites with riverfront decks, two-person jetted tubs, cozy fireplaces, and vaulted ceilings; other property amenities include an outdoor hot tub, BBQ facilities, riverfront sitting areas, a well-stocked library with DVDs and books, fishing spots, and a gazebo strung with lights. Guests can also enjoy in-room massages or select one of the hotel’s special romantic packages which come with chocolates, flower arrangements, and spa services. Boulder Brook on Fall River is conveniently located between Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park’s bustling downtown area in a quiet, woodland setting. Couples will adore relaxing on their private deck, watching for elk, and listening to the soothing sounds of Fall River.
Best for Luxury: The Estes Park Resort
Situated on five sprawling lakefront acres, this sumptuous mountain getaway is the only lodge of its caliber in town, rendering it the perfect choice for luxury-minded travelers. Thanks to its 54 palatial guest rooms and suites, panoramic views of the Rockies, and truly decadent amenities, Estes Park Resort has garnered a reputation for excellence. The hotel also offers a variety of wonderful spa treatments in the form of hot stone massages, facials, whole-body care, and lavender hot poultice massages. Rooms are outfitted with mini-fridges, coffee makers, down comforters, pillowtop mattresses, flat-screen TVs, and other basics. In addition, guests love dining at the on-site Waterfront Grille, one of the most beloved restaurants in town, both for its food and stellar location — the magnificent view of Longs Peak, the tallest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, is particularly breathtaking from here.
Best for Business: Murphy’s River Lodge
Just two blocks away from downtown Estes, right on the Fall River, Murphy’s River Lodge is favored by many business travelers for its affordable rates, convenient location, great amenities, and functional meeting rooms and business facilities. The lodge offers a variety of queen and king rooms, a complimentary expanded continental breakfast, Sealy mattresses, flat-screen TVs, and an indoor pool and hot tub. Other amenities in each room include ultra-fast Internet access (a must for business travelers) and cable TV service. In addition, Murphy’s River Lodge frequently offers special discounts, group rates, and packages to new guests.
Best B&B: Sonnenhof Bed and Breakfast
The ever-charming Sonnenhof Bed and Breakfast is a secluded retreat located roughly seven minutes from Estes Park and 10 minutes from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, on eight acres of pretty pine forest. Guests will marvel at the view of the surrounding peaks and pristine Mary’s Lake, and appreciate hosts Hilde and Rudy who are warm, welcoming, and very helpful. There are three different suites to choose from: the Alpine Flower Suite, the Romantic Rose Suite, and the Golden Aspen Suite. All three boast private bathrooms, intricate handmade oak furniture, custom woodwork, and jacuzzi tubs. But it’s the property that’s truly astounding: Sonnenhof is nestled on the loveliest land imaginable, with meticulous landscaping, dense thickets of Ponderosa pines, clusters of brightly colored wildflowers, and peaceful wildlife visitors.
Best for Nightlife: Silver Moon Inn
The Silver Moon Inn is the ideal hotel to book if you’d prefer to be near the sights and sounds of downtown Estes. Located within short walking distance of all the major shops, restaurants, and attractions in town, the Silver Moon Inn affords guests a beautiful location on the banks of the Fall River. The inn offers a variety of amenities including hot tubs, a seasonal swimming pool, and in-room fireplaces, and there are multiple room types to choose from king rooms with fireplaces to riverfront two-bedroom suites. Travelers who opt for the Silver Moon Inn will be right near the action downtown, where there’s a little something for everyone to enjoy, including a vibrant nighttime music scene, plenty of fine dining options, and a quaint movie theater, as well as several shops and galleries that tend to stay open late during summers.