Nestled high in the Colorado mountains and located just to the west of Rocky Mountain National Park is Estes Park.  Small mountain towns all tend to be very similar – buildings no more than three floors high, old fashion candy shops on main street, upscale dining options, and relatively expensive hotels.  Having visited plenty of these little spots in my life and I even lived in one for a while, and they really are all very similar in their appeal.  Estes Park has all of these things, but it is exceptionally fun and charming. 

Estes Park (Estes) really is the perfect mountain town for a Rocky Mountain weekend getaway.  There’s no shortage of things to do in town!  If you’re looking for ideas of things to do, we have plenty of ideas for you! You won’t be disappointed with your time here.

Getting There

If you are flying in, you will most likely arrive at Denver International Airport.  From there, you will have to drive north on I-25.  The road to Estes Park from nearby Loveland seems like the most winding, curvy road I’ve been on, so take your time and drive cautiously.  The views of the Big Thompson River during the drive are also lovely!

You can also come in to the south of town on another winding mountain highway from the town of Lyons.  This route is very busy and has many curves in the road, as well as steep drop offs.  Make sure to drive with caution and allow plenty of space whichever route you go.

Estes Park (Estes) really is the perfect mountain town for a Rocky Mountain weekend getaway.  There’s no shortage of things to do in town!  If you’re looking for ideas of things to do, we have plenty of ideas for you! You won’t be disappointed with your time here.

Stroll Around Downtown

One thing all popular mountain towns have is an absolutely charming downtown area.  While only taking up a few streets, you will want to be sure to spend some time strolling downtown.  Here, you will find quintessential tourist shops where owners sell things like souvenirs, candy, or gear.  There are also restaurants and bars to pick from.  Along the way you will enjoy murals, decorative flower planters, and more.  There is also a quaint plaza with a working water wheel for relaxing along Fall River.  There is also a trolley you can take advantage of!

Go For A Scenic Drive

Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place to go on an adventure.  But, if you’re looking for a shorter scenic drive, there are plenty of great routes in Estes Park itself.  St. Vrain Avenue is a long road that takes you through town and up into the surrounding areas.  You can climb high into the mountains where you will be able to overlook the valley below.  There are many other routes where you can hop in the car, enjoy the scenery, and maybe see some wildlife along the way!  Just be sure to be cautious and interact with any wildlife appropriately.  

You may not have to drive too far to see some great wildlife.  Estes is known for its large elk herds venturing into town.  Again, it is essential to be cautious and interact appropriately.  Do not approach wildlife!

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Estes Park Aerial Tramway

Looking for an easy activity with rewarding views?  Ride the Estes Park Aerial Tramway up to the mountain top!  The small tram cars are really cute and fun to ride in, and the views at the top are to die for!  Don’t worry, the ride is smooth and there is ample space at the top to walk around and take pictures.  Not only do you get a bird’s eye view of the town, but awe-inspiring views of Rocky Mountain National Park and the Colorado wilderness.  Keep in mind, this is a seasonal attraction.

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dsc03617 These views made one thing clear: we could not wait to head into Rocky Mountain National Park and see all the beauty up close!  The clear Colorado skies and expansive green mountains are a great to take in.

Luckily, Estes Park is a gateway town to Rocky Mountain National Park.  This is another huge National Park which involves a lot of driving. We spent a day there and barely broke the surface of this park.  And, there are wonderful scenic lookouts scattered throughout.  Rocky Mountain National Park is one of many which now requires an advanced reservation on a timed entry system.  Make sure to book your slot well in advance and arrive on time.DSC03666.JPG

Get Active

One of the many things I love about mountain towns is how active the communities are.  You will notice this the minute you arrive.  Everyone is out walking, biking, running, hiking, kayaking, fishing, etc.  There is no shortage of these activities in town, even for the recreational traveler.  You don’t have to be as serious as the locals are to have a good time enjoying the outdoors.  There is a large path that goes for miles around Lake Estes and is a great place to spend some time.  You can also rent paddle boats and kayaks at the marina near the Estes Park Resort.  We also enjoy golfing and bike riding on one of the area’s many great pathways!

Visit The Stanley Hotel

If you remember Stephen King’s movie, The Shining, you may also recognize The Stanley Hotel.  I will never forget that movie as it terrified me as a child and driving onto the property was enough to stir my overly active imagination!  This large, sprawling property is set against the surrounding rocky outcrops and has beautiful landscaping.  They are wise to capitalize on the sucess from the film.  People flock here to go on their haunted tours!

Check Out A Brewery (Or Two!)

For such a small town, Estes Park really has a decent amount of breweries.  It seems like checking out these local spots is any easy (and usually affordable) way to spend a few hours and support small businesses too.  Some breweries like Lumpy Ridge also serve a hard seltzer drink for those who don’t love beer.  If this still isn’t your thing, check out Estes Park’s very own winery!

Where To Stay

While there’s many places to stay, we picked the Estes Park Resort because we wanted to be right on Lake Estes and would highly recommend this hotel.  The property is wonderful, the rooms are well appointed and the views can’t be beat!  We spent ample time on our balcony just taking in the environment.  The natural area allowed us to even see some nearby wildlife including a fox!  Plus, this property sits on the bike path around the lake so it is a great spot for those wanting to take in nature or get some physical activity during their trip.

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Enjoying the views from our balcony at the Estes Park Resort

If you’re interested in something a little different, you might also want to look at booking at Fall River Village Resort. This area is full of high-end condos and can be rented through AirBnB or directly on their website. We had a great stay and enjoyed the quick stroll along the Fall River to get to charming downtown Estes Park.

Estes Park is also home to wineries, breweries, go-karts, putt-putt golf, fishing, wildlife spotting, and so much more.  If you’re looking for a weekend away in the perfect mountain town, Estes Park is for you! Tell us what you think! Will you be planning a weekend getaway to Estes?!

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26 Comments

  1. I love love Estes Park. We always stay there when visiting RMNP. Just a fun place and lots of good food, hiking, and horsebackriding!

  2. Oh what a fabulous view! What a magnificent place to visit, so much stunning scenery and I love that there is a winery and plenty of places to go hiking, great post! Thank you for sharing this information with us, pinned for future reference!

  3. I have never been to Colarado – yet! Am pinning for future reference though. Great views and wildlife! And the hotel from The Shining 😱FAB!!!

  4. What Incredible views, stunning landscapes! We’ve not had many wilderness stays, as we mainly go camping, but this place looks lovely and would be right up our street. I’m intrigued to see what your lodge was like.

  5. In my mind I associate Colorado with skiing, but now it will also be the Rocky Mountain National Park. Estes Park sounds like a great base to explore the area, especially with that view from the resort. Love wild nature like this and would love to see it one day. Thanks for sharing.

  6. This is somewhere I’d love to go! Being “not American” I have had my impression of your small towns built within my mind by media – movies and books mostly! (yes a lot of Stephen King!) Reading your post and seeing the photos I don’t think I am going to be disappointed when I do get to visit the small mountain towns in America!

  7. Count me in, I’m ready to go and visit this amazing town Estes Park nestled in the Rocky Mountains. I will do all of the wonderful things you mentioned expect the haunted tour in the Stanley Hotel. Like the idea of packing a bike…What beautiful pictures and Thanks for Sharing!

  8. Love those views from up high! Such beautiful landscape. Had no idea the hotel is there either – would be so awesome to do a tour of the place! Some of my friends are really into movies so they would love that! Great stuff, thanks for sharing!

    1. It is such a fun little spot! You’ll definitely have to get up there to visit your friends and enjoy the area.

  9. Wow those views are incredible! I can imagine the hiking would be pretty good too! And you even managed to see some wildlife! Great trip and I have never even heard of the place so thanks for sharing

  10. Would love to visit Estes Park one day! I have spent a decent amount of time in Grand Junction and Denver so would love to see other areas of the state now. Thanks for all the suggestions 🙂

    1. Estes Park is not horribly far from Denver, if you’re ever in the area again and in the mood to visit a charming mountain town, we highly recommend it!

  11. This article came at the perfect time! I am driving through this area in a few weeks, and was looking at places to stay. Looks like some great options. I think it would be cool to stay where The Shining movie was filmed!

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