There’s a lot of different factors that make a great vacation destination, and Estes Park, Colorado, just about has it all. Ideal outdoor scenery, expansive mountain views, locally-owned boutiques, and several things to do for the whole family. Here's how to get the most out of this quiet but vibrant mountain town.
Estes Park is the closest town to Colorado’s famous Rocky Mountain National Park. When visitors think of Colorado’s classic peaks, wildflower-filled valleys, and alpine scenery, it's undoubtedly this park they're thinking of. The park is open year-round, but visitors should aim for late spring, summer, and early fall when conditions are most suitable for a variety of activities. You can hike to the top of the tallest mountains, bike over miles of captivating trails, or sit by the lake and fish right on Estes Park’s doorstep.
Colorado has become a haven for microbreweries, and that includes Estes Park. If you’re thirsty for a local brew head towards the Rock Cut Brewing Company, located right next to the aerial tramway entrance. Established in 2015, Rock Cut provides a relaxing setting to sip local suds while gazing at elk along the Rocky Mountains or the color combos of a proper Colorado sunset. The taproom and patio offer a place for the whole family to relax, play games, and enjoy the local scenery.
Stephen King’s The Shining is a terrifying tale about a hotel keeper gone mad, but what inspired King to come up with the character’s madness? The Stanley Hotel. This 142-room Colonial Revival hotel has excellent amenities and rooms that can host you and your family in comfort before hitting nearby Estes Park adventure. Superstitious guests should relax; the rumors of haunted rooms and ghosts roaming the halls only became popular after the book was written.
Colorado is famous for distilleries and microbreweries, but wine lovers visiting Estes Park can get their fill at the Snowy Peaks Winery. Snowy Peaks is all about proximity offering wines from Snowy Peaks’ vineyard along with several different locally-owned Colorado vineyards. On top of the dozens of wine selections, Snowy Peaks also offers locally produced cheeses, hand-crafted jams and jellies, and of course, decadent chocolate. Relax in a refined atmosphere with a view of local peaks by visiting Snowy Peaks Winery.
Both the Big Thompson and Fall Rivers meander their way through downtown Estes Park. To help visitors and residents alike enjoy the sights and sounds of the Big Thompson and Fall Rivers, they built the Estes Park Riverwalk. The Riverwalk follows several points of interest, including the vibrant George Hix Riverside Plaza, and all the bars, restaurants, and shops that dot downtown. The gentle trail is suitable for all ages and provides many places to sit and enjoy the nearby scenery.
Estes Park has long been a haven for artisans and makers. Visitors can get a firsthand look at some of the locally produced original artwork at Mountain Blown Glass. The studio and gallery can be found in the heart of downtown Estes Park and offers unique and beautiful gifts like handblown vases, suncatchers, bowls, and much more. Blown Glass even offers a one-of-a-kind wedding ceremony where couples pour two different colored grains of sand to be mixed and blown into a piece the couple can cherish forever. If you need a great gift, stop by Mountain Blown Glass.
How do you get the best view of Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, and the surrounding scenery? By taking the Estes Park Aerial Tramway. Though the current Tramway is nestled in peaceful Estes Park, its designer Robert Heron got his start by designing tramways for use in Germany and Italy during World War II. After the war ended, Heron ventured around Europe to pull inspiration from existing gondolas before designing and building the one that hauls visitors above Estes Park. The Estes Park Aerial Tramway has only one post at the top and bottom, allowing for an unobstructed smooth ride to the top of Prospect Mountain.
There a few choices for exhibits and museums around the Estes Park area, but considering beautiful rocks surround you, why not visit a local rock shop and museum? This shop-museum combination features fossils, minerals, and gemstones from both the Rocky Mountains and all parts of the world, providing a great venue to pick up a unique souvenir. The museum portion of the shop features unique gemstones like petrified wood and the process of turning an ordinary rock into beautiful works of art.
Nearby RMNP is full of high adventure, but if you can’t venture out to the wilderness, visit the Open Air Adventure Park. Adjacent to the tramway, Open Air Adventure Park offers 32 unique obstacles up to 21 feet in the air that provide thrills for mom, dad, and the little ones. Strap in and explore over 800 feet of harrowing high-wire adventure or tap into your inner woodsman with ax throwing once you’re back on the ground.
Estes Park is known for its proximity to jagged peaks, but those who love on-the-water adventure have an option at Lake Estes. This 185-acre reservoir features activities including fishing, stand up paddleboarding, canoeing, kayaking, and much more. A gentle 3.75-mile trail surrounds the entire lake, so you don’t have to get wet to explore Lake Estes. The Lake Estes marina provides bike rentals for a quick tour.