Estes Park is a small town in Colorado, about a 90-minute drive northwest of Denver. It sits on the Big Thompson River, surrounded by majestic Rocky Mountain peaks. Estes Park doesn't have a large ski resort, unlike larger mountain cities, giving it a uniquely charming yet trendy outdoor culture. Visitors will find countless options for exciting outdoor adventures here in the summer or winter, but there's plenty to do, even if exploring the mountains isn't your thing.
Rocky Mountain National Park sits just minutes outside Estes Park, and no trip to Colorado is complete without a visit. Covering over 250,000 acres, this park is an outdoor lover's dream. Here, you can camp, fish, take a scenic drive, or go on a picnic. The meadows, rivers, and panoramic mountain views are a draw for photographers year-round, as are the over 300 miles of various trails. Whether you want to go cross-country skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing in the winter or hiking, biking, and horseback riding in the summer, there's a trail suitable for you.
To get a feel for the history of Estes Park, check out MacGregor Ranch. This preserved, authentic ranch dates back to the 1870s, when settlers first moved into the area. Horses and cattle still graze the meadows here, and guided tours take you through a milk house, smokehouse, blacksmith shop, and the main museum building, which holds antiques and other belongings of the MacGregor family.
The Estes Park Aerial Tramway was built by Robert Herron, a ski lift designer who was taken with European tram and ski lift designs. This open-air tramway has been in operation since 1955 and takes guests up Prospect Mountain and its 9,000-foot elevation using a cable that runs without any towers. Once you reach the top, you get panoramic views of the Continental Divide, Longs Peak, and the Rocky Mountains, but the views during the ride are just as impressive. This attraction is open between Memorial Day and Labor Day, tickets are affordable, and kids under five ride for free.
If you've seen The Shining, you're probably already familiar with the red-roofed Stanley Hotel. It opened in 1909 and is rumored to be haunted. If you're up for it, book a stay at the historic hotel and choose one of the "spirited rooms" that has high levels of paranormal activity, like Suite 217, where Stephen King stayed. If you aren't quite ready to spend the night, check out one of the spirited tours the hotel offers to get in on the spooky fun.
The Park Theater is one of the more historical buildings in Estes Park and dates back to 1913, making it one of the oldest movie theaters in the country. The theater has been updated with the newest film and sound technology, but it's still a quaint, charming place to catch a movie, documentary, or indie film.
Colorado offers many unique opportunities for stargazing. The state's open spaces and mountains make the surrounding skies unusually dark, and the Estes Park Memorial Observatory is an exceptional place to take in these clear starry views. The volunteer staff runs educational programs, including lectures about the planets, galaxies, and nebulas you can see from the observatory. Guest lecturers knowledgeable about astronomy, astrophotography, and recent space missions also visit occasionally.
Elkhorn and Moraine Avenues are the two main streets in downtown Estes Park. In 1982 a flood heavily damaged this area when the Lawn Lake Dam failed. The rebuilding resulted in modern architecture sitting alongside rustic buildings dating back to the town's early days. The restaurants and shops on these streets are largely independently owned, making this downtown area the ideal destination to shop small and get a feel for the people living in Estes Park.
Fun City has been an Estes Park destination since 1969. This family-friendly amusement park has a stunning view of the surrounding mountains, beautifully landscaped grounds, and plenty of fun activities. Take a ride down the giant rainbow slide, jump on the bungee trampoline, go panning for gemstones, or give the bumper cars or bumper boats a go. There's also a miniature golf course, water walking balls, and arcade and carnival games to keep you busy.
There are many ways to enjoy the great outdoors in Lake Estes. If the mountains aren't your thing, head to the Lake Estes Marina. You can get a fishing license, buy fishing supplies, rent a boat at the marina store, grab some snacks, and spend the day out on the water. The shoreline is the perfect place to sunbathe, and there's a 3.75-mile trail that winds around the lake for biking, hiking, and spotting elk, bighorn sheep, and bears.
Estes Park attracts a lot of adventurers, and Rapid Transit Rafting offers a unique and exciting way to see this part of Colorado. When the weather heats up, and the ice and snow melt in the mountains, the rivers swell, making Estes Park an ideal location for white water rafting. Multiple rafting options of varying difficulties are available. The experienced employees will supply the gear you need and guide you on a safe journey. All you have to bring is a little courage and a dry change of clothes.
A journey through the Peak To Peak Scenic Byway is a feast for the senses. As Colorado's oldest scenic byway, it offers a picturesque drive through the heart of the Rocky Mountains. The route is dotted with charming mountain towns, hiking trails, and ski runs, offering a unique blend of adventure and tranquility. The byway's panoramic views of the Continental Divide and the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area are truly breathtaking, making it a must-visit for nature lovers and photography enthusiasts alike.
Get your adrenaline pumping at the Open Air Adventure Park. This outdoor park offers a variety of challenges and activities for all ages. From crossing moving platforms to swinging from logs high above the ground, the park offers a unique blend of fun and adventure. The course is self-guided, allowing you to take your time and enjoy each obstacle at your own pace. With safety harnesses and knowledgeable staff on hand, the Open Air Adventure Park offers a safe and exciting day out for the whole family.
Experience the thrill of whitewater rafting with Rapid Transit Rafting. This company offers rafting experiences on the Colorado River, providing all the gear and guidance you need for a safe and exciting journey. Whether you're a seasoned rafter or a beginner, Rapid Transit Rafting offers an unforgettable adventure on the water.
Tee off at the Estes Park Golf Course. This beautiful 18-hole golf course offers stunning mountain views, making it one of the most scenic golf courses in Colorado. Whether you're a seasoned golfer or a beginner, the Estes Park Golf Course offers a challenging and enjoyable golfing experience.
Have some family fun at Estes Park Ride-A-Kart. This amusement center offers go-karts, bumper boats, mini-golf, and more. Whether you're looking for a thrilling ride on the go-karts or a relaxing game of mini-golf, Estes Park Ride-A-Kart offers fun for the whole family.
Sample local brews at the Estes Park Brewery. This local brewery offers a variety of craft beers, all brewed onsite. With stunning mountain views and a cozy atmosphere, it's the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring Estes Park. Whether you're a beer connoisseur or a casual drinker, the Estes Park Brewery offers a unique taste of Colorado.
The Estes Park Riverwalk is a hidden gem in the heart of the town. This scenic path winds along the Big Thompson River, connecting downtown Estes Park to the beautiful Lake Estes. The Riverwalk offers a peaceful stroll with access to numerous local shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Whether you're looking for a relaxing walk, a spot for a picnic, or a unique shopping experience, the Riverwalk offers a charming slice of Estes Park.
Unlock the thrill of adventure at Estes Park Escape Rooms. This interactive experience offers a unique blend of teamwork, problem-solving, and excitement. Each escape room is a themed adventure where you and your team must solve a series of puzzles and riddles to escape within a set time limit. Themes range from mysterious cabins in the woods to haunted pirate ships, each meticulously designed to immerse you in the story. Whether you're a seasoned escape artist or a first-timer, Estes Park Escape Rooms offers a fun and challenging experience that will test your wits and teamwork. It's not just about escaping the room - it's about the memories you make along the way.