Estes Park is one of my favorite towns in Colorado – with proximity to the city (just a little over an hour from Denver); Estes makes for the perfect mountain getaway when looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. I’ve spent a few fantastic weekends in Estes. Today, I’m sharing the highlight reel to help you plan your trip.
Where to Stay
The Stanley Hotel
People travel worldwide to visit this iconic Stanley Hotel, made famous by Stephen King’s novel The Shining. Later the flames of popularity were made ever larger by Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of the story. And while the famous film was made in Oregon, it was a real-life spooky encounter the one and only Mr. King had while staying at The Stanley that brought this story to life.
You can find my full post detailing the history of the historic Stanley Hotel | Here
And don’t worry, if you’re overly superstitious and not down for that Winchester ghost-hunter experience, you can pay a visit to the hotel during the day (or at night for the adventurous) and participate in events at the hotel (more about that later).
Book your stay | Here
Looking to avoid the unexpected night stalkers and supernatural uncertainties? Are you more interested in the warm embrace of a handwoven quilt, fireside snuggles, and nature just steps from your patio door? Then Aspen Winds is the choice for you.
Where the Stanley envelopes you in its spooky historical elegance, Aspen Winds tucks you away in its serene green river-side oasis. Offering an in-room spa tub, mini-kitchen, and cozy cabin decor Aspen Winds is the check in the box of your mountain getaway bucket list.
Book your stay | Here
Top 10 Things To Do
Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park
I couldn’t place anything above Rocky Mountain National Park on my list of “things to do in Estes” because it’s Rocky Mountain National Park. Whether you’re there for a short time or a long time, it’s guaranteed to be a good time.
The town of Estes Park is known as the gateway to the Rockies, and for obvious reasons, its proximity. The nearest park entrance is just a scenic 10-minute outside of town.
The main road through the park is Trail Ridge Road which intersects three ecosystems and the Continental divide along the route. So even if you’re not much of an explorer or hiking doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can jump in the car, drive into the park and experience nature’s beauty looking out the car window.
The park is home to many wildlife species, including elk, moose, big horned sheep, bobcats, mountain lions, and pika – to name a few, and although sightings are rare, you might even see a bear if you’re lucky. There are also over 260 bird species recorded in the park, including bald eagles.
The park is excellent for the entire family as it offers 355 hiking trails, ranging from moderate to difficult.
Please keep in mind that due to high visitor rates depending on the time of year, you will need to reserve a timed entry spot on The Rocky Mountain National Park site.
Stay up to date with that and more | Here
Events at the Stanley
The Stanley Hotel is most widely known for its role in Stephen King’s 1977 novel The Shining, but there is so much more to this hotel than its haunted history. Even if you choose not to book your stay at the Stanley, it’s 100% worth adding the tour to your travel schedule.
You can find my full post on the historic Stanley Hotel | Here
Walk in the Sensory Garden
Located in the George Hix Riverside Plaza the sensory garden is a fun little walk through garden designed to stimulate the senses. Using plants and other materials including multi-colored xylophone, the experience is a fun meditative break from the main street shopping areas.
Catch a Flick or see a Live Show
The Historic Park Theater
Constructed in 1913, The Historic Park Theatre is the oldest single-motion picture theatre in the United States. In 1984 the theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Apart from its age, one of the things that makes this theatre unique is it doesn’t just project to a big screen; if you plan your trip just right, you may catch one of their live performance shows – including the cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Find tickets and check out upcoming shows | Here
The Stanley Hotel
You can stay in The Stanley Hotel; you can tour The Stanley Hotel, and yes… you can see a show at The Stanley Hotel! Have you caught onto my obsession with the Stanley yet?
The current talk of the town is Aiden Sinclair’s Underground show, which is hosted in the underground speakeasy lounge of the hotel. They also host an annual Shinning Ball in October. Which, I am determined to attend.
Find tickets and upcoming events including concerts, book tours, and more | Here
Hit the Shops of Downtown Estes
Aside from being the gateway to the Rockies, Estes Park is also the perfect town to get your shop on, and with its mountain-town classic physique, you will leave charmed for more.
With a variety of locally-owned shops carrying everything from standard souvenirs to hand-carved game boards, homemade fudge and toffee, art, books, and so much more – you can’t walk away without finding something you won’t want to live without.
Support the Local Library & Take Home Some Books
You can support Estes Valley Library and build your at home library at the same time.
100% of the sales from Cliffhanger Used Books go to support the nonprofit Library Friends & Foundation. So, for a book addict like me, shopping at Cliffhanger may not benefit my wallet, but it does benefit the town – which is a win.
Estes Park Memorial Observatory
For the best views of the Estes Park skies visit Estes Park Memorial Observatory. The EPMO holds events throughout the year.
You can learn more and schedule a visit | Here
Sip a Latte Riverside at Kind Coffee
When searching for a good coffee shop in Estes, one thing surprised me, every place had great reviews, but I admit I am a creature of habit. It’s a conundrum; in many ways, I love to travel and explore, and in others, I love to return to the things I enjoy most and Kind Coffee is one of those things.
They have a great view of the water (as you can see from my photos above) their coffee is delicious, and they have snacks that basic girls like me love (aka avocado toast).
Stroll around Lake Estes
With a paved shoreline of four miles, Lake Estes park is the perfect place to cruise on your bike, stroll with a cup of coffee, or jog. I ran the loop as part of my half marathon, which was beautiful.
All things Lake Estes including boating, camping, and bike rentals | Here
Estes Park Museum
Like many travelers, I love visiting museums when I am in a new place – learning about the area’s history, people, and culture. The Estes Park Museum covers all your basis.
Find out more | Here
Food, food, food! It’s one of my favorite parts of traveling. If you don’t believe me check out some of my other foodie travel guides below:
From top-of-the-line bistros to gourmet hand-tossed New York-style pizza, I haven’t found a restaurant in Estes Park I don’t crave on my drive home, and rather than bore you with the details. Here are some excellent ol’ fashion food pics to entice the tastebuds (and also a pie place sign because I failed to photograph my food).
Seasoned | An American Bistro
Antonio’s Real New York Pizza
Colorado Cherry Company