Looking for all the best attractions in Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park? Our guide to all the best things to do in Estes Park is all you need!
If you’re on the hunt for an unforgettable adventure in the heart of the pride of Colorado, the Rocky Mountains, you’ve stumbled upon the right place. Welcome to our guide on things to do in Estes Park, a charming mountain town that’s not only the gateway to the iconic Rocky Mountain National Park but also boasts a host of delightful activities and attractions that will make your trip one for the books.
Nestled among the towering peaks, Estes Park is a dream destination for nature enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and history buffs alike. We’ll dive into the awe-inspiring landscapes of Rocky Mountain National Park, where you can hike to your heart’s content, spot wildlife in their natural habitat, and soak up some of the most breathtaking views you’ll ever encounter.
And did I mention the Stanley Hotel? It’s not only a historic gem but also has a dash of spookiness for those who love a good ghost story. Plus, we’ll take you to the stars (literally) at the Estes Park Memorial Observatory, where you can peer into the cosmos and discover the mysteries of the night sky.
So, grab your hiking boots and your sense of wonder, and let’s dive headfirst into the adventure-packed world of Estes Park!
Table of Contents
- The Best Things to Do in Estes Park
- 1. Explore Rocky Mountain National Park
- 2. Stroll Along Estes Park Riverwalk
- 3. Keep an Eye Out for Wildlife
- 4. Get an Adrenaline Kick at Kent Mountain Adventure Center
- 5. Ride the Estes Park Aerial Tramway
- 6. Enjoy the Lake Estes Marina
- 7. Take a Scenic Drive on the Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway
- 8. Go Hiking and Backpacking
- 9. Learn More History at Estes Park Museum
- 10. Explore the Open Air Adventure Park
- 11. Go Horseback Riding
- 12. Get out Whitewater Rafting
- 13. Visit the Purple Mountain Taffy Company
- 14. Walk Through Downtown Estes Park
- 15. Sample Some Wine at Estes Park Wine Tasting
- 16. Visit the Stanley Hotel (From “The Shining”)
- 17. Explore Estes Park Memorial Observatory
- 18. Head Out on Some Scenic Drives
- 19. Enjoy the Winter Sports
- 20. Discover History at MacGregor Ranch Museum
- Where to Stay in Estes Park, Colorado
- Wrapping Up
The Best Things to Do in Estes Park
These are 20 of the best things to do in Estes Park to add to your travel itinerary!
The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.
1. Explore Rocky Mountain National Park
Exploring Rocky Mountain National Park is a must for any traveler visiting Estes Park Co. This iconic national park boasts a plethora of outdoor adventures and stunning vistas.
Hiking enthusiasts can embark on unforgettable trails like the challenging Longs Peak or the family-friendly Bear Lake Loop, offering a range of hiking experiences suitable for all levels.
Additionally, fly fishing enthusiasts will find their paradise in the pristine waters of the park, where they can cast their lines in the numerous streams and lakes, seeking to hook the native trout species that thrive in these high-altitude waters.
Whether you’re hiking to mountain summits or angling in the clear alpine lakes, Rocky Mountain National Park promises an immersive and awe-inspiring wilderness experience in the heart of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.
2. Stroll Along Estes Park Riverwalk
Whether you’re seeking a romantic walk, a family outing, or a serene escape into nature, the Estes Park Riverwalk provides a charming and accessible way to connect with the natural beauty that surrounds this mountain community.
The Estes Park Riverwalk is a serene and picturesque attraction that ranks among the top things to do in Estes Park Colorado. This delightful path meanders alongside the tranquil waters of the Big Thompson River, offering a scenic escape in the heart of the town.
Visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll or bike ride along the Riverwalk’s well-maintained trails, taking in the stunning mountain views, lush greenery, and the soothing sound of flowing water. Benches and picnic spots along the way invite you to relax and soak in the peaceful ambiance.
3. Keep an Eye Out for Wildlife
Wildlife viewing is a quintessential part of the Estes Park Colorado experience and ranks among the top things to do in the area. The pristine natural surroundings of Estes Park and its proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park make it an ideal habitat for a diverse array of wildlife.
While exploring the region’s hiking trails, scenic drives, and open spaces, you’re likely to encounter a variety of animals, including elk, deer, moose, and numerous bird species. Birdwatchers can delight in spotting eagles, hawks, and a variety of songbirds in the area.
For wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers alike, Estes Park offers ample opportunities to connect with the natural world and witness the majesty of its resident creatures in their native habitats.
4. Get an Adrenaline Kick at Kent Mountain Adventure Center
The Kent Mountain Adventure Center in Estes Park Co is an adrenaline junkie’s dream and one of the most exciting things to do in the area. Nestled within the stunning Rocky Mountains, this adventure center offers a wide range of outdoor activities and guided adventures that cater to thrill-seekers of all levels.
From rock climbing and rappelling on rugged cliffs to exhilarating guided hiking excursions through breathtaking alpine terrain, the center provides the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself and experience the natural wonders of Estes Park.
With experienced guides and top-notch equipment, the Kent Mountain Adventure Center ensures that safety and excitement go hand in hand, making it an excellent destination for those looking to push their limits and create lasting memories in the heart of the Rockies.
Read Next: Be sure to read about other great places to visit in Colorado.
5. Ride the Estes Park Aerial Tramway
The Estes Park Aerial Tramway is a fantastic addition to the list of things to do in Estes Park, offering visitors a memorable and breathtaking experience. This tramway ride provides panoramic views of Estes Park, its charming downtown, and the surrounding Rocky Mountains, making it an excellent way to appreciate the town’s natural beauty from a different perspective.
As you ascend to the summit of Prospect Mountain, you’ll be treated to stunning vistas that include Longs Peak and the Mummy Range. At the top, there’s a gift shop and an observation deck where you can soak in the scenery and capture incredible photos.
Whether you’re seeking a scenic adventure, a romantic outing, or just a chance to take in the picturesque landscapes of Estes Park Co, the Aerial Tramway promises a memorable experience high above the town.
6. Enjoy the Lake Estes Marina
The Lake Estes Marina, nestled amidst the picturesque landscapes of Estes Park, offers a diverse array of recreational opportunities for nature enthusiasts. As you venture to this tranquil oasis, you can indulge in the art of fly fishing, casting lines into the serene waters in pursuit of the local trout population.
Alternatively, you might opt for a kayaking adventure, paddling along the crystal-clear waters of Lake Estes while soaking in breathtaking mountain vistas.
For those seeking a more leisurely experience, the Estes Lake trail encircles the lake, providing a gentle path where you can take in the beauty of the surrounding wilderness, all while appreciating the serene ambiance that makes Lake Estes a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts and seekers of tranquility alike.
Read Next: Consider visiting Estes Park as a day trip from Denver.
7. Take a Scenic Drive on the Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway
The Peak to Peak Scenic Byway is a captivating journey that ranks among the top things to do in Estes Park Co. This picturesque byway offers travelers a mesmerizing drive through the heart of the Rocky Mountains, showcasing the region’s natural beauty, including breathtaking vistas, pristine forests, and charming mountain towns.
Starting in Estes Park and winding its way through the mountains, this route provides opportunities for scenic stops and outdoor adventures, such as hiking, wildlife spotting, and picnicking.
As you traverse the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, you’ll be immersed in the rugged grandeur of the Rockies, making it a must-do experience for nature enthusiasts, photographers, and anyone looking to savor the awe-inspiring landscapes that define this part of Colorado.
8. Go Hiking and Backpacking
Hiking in Estes Park is a quintessential experience, offering outdoor enthusiasts an array of trails that cater to all skill levels. Some of the best hikes in the area include the iconic Bear Lake Trail, which provides easy access to a stunning alpine lake and serves as a gateway to more challenging routes like the Flattop Mountain Trail.
The Dream Lake Trail is another favorite, offering a relatively short yet visually rewarding hike with striking views of Hallett Peak and the serene Dream Lake. For those seeking a more challenging adventure, the Longs Peak Trail takes hikers to the summit of one of Colorado’s famed “Fourteeners,” although it demands proper preparation and acclimatization.
With options ranging from gentle nature walks to challenging high-altitude ascents, Estes Park’s hiking opportunities cater to everyone, ensuring that every visitor can immerse themselves in the natural splendor of the Rocky Mountains.
9. Learn More History at Estes Park Museum
The Estes Park Museum is a treasure trove of history and culture that should be on every visitor’s list of things to do in Estes Park Co. Situated in the heart of town, this museum offers a fascinating journey through the past, showcasing the rich heritage and evolution of the Estes Park area and the surrounding Rocky Mountains.
Inside, you’ll discover engaging exhibits, historical artifacts, and interactive displays that highlight the lives of early settlers, Native American tribes, and the natural wonders of the region.
Whether you’re interested in the history of mountaineering, the tales of the first homesteaders, or the geological wonders of the Rockies, the Estes Park Museum provides an enlightening and educational experience that deepens your appreciation for the cultural and natural heritage of this stunning mountain community.
10. Explore the Open Air Adventure Park
The Open Air Adventure Park is an exhilarating addition to the list of things to do in Estes Park, offering an adrenaline-pumping experience in the heart of the Rockies. Nestled amidst the stunning mountain scenery, this adventure park boasts a variety of thrilling activities, including high ropes courses, ziplining, and an aerial obstacle course.
Whether you’re seeking an exciting challenge or a family-friendly adventure, the Open Air Adventure Park has something for everyone, with courses designed to accommodate different skill levels.
It’s an excellent opportunity to soak in the breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes while pushing your boundaries and creating unforgettable memories in Estes Park’s great outdoors.
11. Go Horseback Riding
Exploring the stunning natural landscapes surrounding Estes Park becomes even more magical with a visit to Jackson Stables. Offering a unique outdoor adventure, Jackson Stables provides guided horseback rides through the picturesque mountain trails of Rocky Mountain National Park.
It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the serene beauty of the Rockies, as you ride gentle, well-trained horses while taking in the majestic scenery. The experienced guides at Jackson Stables lead riders of all levels, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.
Whether you’re a seasoned equestrian or a first-time rider, the chance to meander through the pristine wilderness on horseback is an unforgettable experience that allows you to connect with the natural wonders of Estes Park in a truly special way.
Read Next: Consider visiting Estes Park as part of an epic Colorado road trip!
12. Get out Whitewater Rafting
Whitewater rafting in Estes Park is one of the most exhilarating things to do in the area, offering adventurers an unforgettable journey through the rushing waters of the Cache la Poudre River or the Arkansas River.
Whether you’re a seasoned rafter or a beginner, local outfitters provide guided trips suitable for all levels of experience. These thrilling excursions take you through stunning canyons and past rugged landscapes and offer a unique perspective on the natural beauty of Estes Park’s surroundings.
With heart-pounding rapids and moments of calm to take in the breathtaking scenery, whitewater rafting provides an adrenaline rush and a profound connection with the great outdoors, making it an essential adventure for those looking to combine excitement and natural wonder in their Estes Park visit.
13. Visit the Purple Mountain Taffy Company
The Purple Mountain Taffy Company in Estes Park is a sweet haven for both tourists and locals alike. Nestled in the heart of downtown Estes Park, this charming confectionery shop tantalizes the senses with its delightful array of handcrafted taffy and other delectable candies.
Visitors can watch skilled artisans pull and twist the taffy on antique machinery, creating a nostalgic and interactive experience. With a wide range of flavors to choose from, including classics like saltwater taffy and inventive creations like huckleberry and caramel apple, it’s a perfect spot to satisfy your sweet tooth and take home a delicious souvenir.
The Purple Mountain Taffy Company’s old-fashioned charm and mouthwatering treats make it an essential stop for anyone exploring the culinary delights of Estes Park.
14. Walk Through Downtown Estes Park
Downtown Estes Park, located along Elkhorn Avenue, is the vibrant heart of the town and a must-visit destination for travelers. It offers a charming blend of shops, boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and cafes set against the stunning backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.
Strolling through this bustling area, you can explore a diverse range of offerings, from unique souvenir shops and art galleries to outdoor gear stores and sweet treat spots.
Whether you’re searching for the perfect mountain memento, indulging in delectable cuisine, or simply savoring an ice cream cone while admiring the scenic surroundings, Downtown Estes Park provides a delightful and quintessential mountain town experience that captures the spirit of the Rockies.
15. Sample Some Wine at Estes Park Wine Tasting
Wine tasting in Estes Park offers a delightful blend of local flavors and breathtaking mountain scenery. To make the most of your wine-tasting experience, it’s important to know that the region is known for producing high-altitude wines, with unique terroir influenced by the Rocky Mountains.
The best wineries to visit in Estes Park include Snowy Peaks Winery, which offers a diverse selection of Colorado-grown wines, including their popular fruit wines. Another standout is the Estes Park Winery, where you can savor award-winning wines while enjoying stunning mountain views from their tasting room.
Additionally, the local craft beverage scene is complemented by the Lumpy Ridge Brewing Company, which offers a selection of craft beers brewed on-site, creating a well-rounded libation experience.
Before visiting, it’s advisable to check the wineries’ opening hours and consider making reservations, especially during peak tourist seasons, to ensure an enjoyable and memorable wine-tasting journey in the heart of the Rockies.
16. Visit the Stanley Hotel (From “The Shining”)
The Stanley Hotel, famously known as the inspiration for Stephen King’s “The Shining,” is an iconic attraction in Estes Park Colorado, offering an array of captivating things to do. Stepping into this historic hotel is like taking a journey back in time, with its grand architecture and rich history.
Visitors can indulge in a guided tour of the hotel to learn about its intriguing past and perhaps even catch a glimpse of some supernatural activity, as the Stanley is renowned for its supposed haunted history. Dining at one of its restaurants, such as the Cascades or the Whiskey Bar & Lounge, is an elegant experience with delectable cuisine and spectacular mountain views.
For those looking to enjoy a unique evening, the Stanley also hosts events like live music performances and outdoor movie nights in the summer. The Stanley Hotel is an essential stop for anyone seeking to uncover the mystique of Estes Park and its rich cultural heritage.
17. Explore Estes Park Memorial Observatory
The Estes Park Memorial Observatory beckons to stargazers and astronomy enthusiasts with its celestial wonders. Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, this observatory provides a unique opportunity to delve into the mysteries of the night sky.
With a range of telescopes and expert-led programs, visitors can peer deep into the cosmos, observing distant galaxies, planets, and constellations. Whether you’re an experienced astronomer or a novice, the observatory offers a welcoming environment to explore the universe’s wonders, making it a captivating and educational experience for all ages.
The clear mountain air and minimal light pollution make it an ideal spot to appreciate the beauty and vastness of the cosmos while gaining a deeper understanding of our place in the universe.
18. Head Out on Some Scenic Drives
Scenic drives are among the most cherished things to do in Estes Park, as they offer travelers the opportunity to immerse themselves in the area’s breathtaking natural beauty while enjoying the comfort of their vehicles.
Iconic routes like Trail Ridge Road and Bear Lake Road wind through Rocky Mountain National Park, treating visitors to sweeping vistas of rugged peaks, alpine lakes, and dense forests. These drives showcase the region’s diverse landscapes, from high alpine tundra to lush valleys, making them perfect for sightseeing, wildlife spotting, and capturing memorable photographs.
Whether you’re embarking on a leisurely drive or an adventurous road trip, Estes Park’s scenic byways promise an unforgettable journey through Colorado’s mountainous splendor.
19. Enjoy the Winter Sports
In the winter months, Estes Park transforms into a snowy wonderland, and one of the most exhilarating things to do in the area is to embrace the season with a variety of winter sports activities.
Whether you’re an avid skier or a novice looking to try something new, Estes Park has something to offer. Nearby ski resorts such as Eldora Mountain Resort and Winter Park provide excellent downhill skiing and snowboarding opportunities.
If you prefer a more tranquil winter experience, try snowshoeing on the many trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, or venture out for a day of ice skating in downtown Estes Park Co.
The crisp mountain air and snow-covered landscapes create a picturesque backdrop for winter adventures, making Estes Park a fantastic destination for those seeking both excitement and serenity during the colder months.
20. Discover History at MacGregor Ranch Museum
The MacGregor Ranch Museum in Estes Park offers visitors a captivating glimpse into the rich history of the region and its ranching heritage. Nestled amidst the stunning natural beauty of the Rockies, this museum provides an immersive experience, allowing guests to step back in time and explore the preserved historic buildings, artifacts, and exhibits that tell the story of the MacGregor family and their life on the ranch.
With knowledgeable guides leading informative tours, visitors can gain valuable insights into the challenges and triumphs of early settlers in the area, making it an educational and engaging destination for history enthusiasts and those curious about the pioneering spirit that shaped Estes Park.
The MacGregor Ranch Museum offers a unique and authentic window into the past, making it a must-visit attraction for those seeking to connect with the heritage of this picturesque mountain town.
Where to Stay in Estes Park, Colorado
These are our favorite picks for where to stay in Estes Park.
High-End Luxury Hotel: The Estes Park Resort
Located on the shores of Lake Estes, The Estes Park Resort offers a tranquil and upscale mountain retreat. The resort features well-appointed rooms and suites with lake or mountain views.
Guests can dine at the Waterfront Grille, relax by the lakeside fire pits, or take advantage of activities like kayaking and paddleboarding on the lake. The serene setting and modern amenities make it a luxurious escape in Estes Park.
Mid-Range Family Accommodation: The Ridgeline Hotel Estes Park
The Ridgeline Hotel is a family-friendly mid-range option that provides comfortable and spacious accommodations. It offers a range of amenities, including an indoor swimming pool, hot tubs, and an on-site restaurant.
With a location close to downtown Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, it’s an excellent choice for families looking for convenience and value without sacrificing comfort.
Budget Hostel/Hotel: Discovery Lodge
For budget-conscious travelers, the Discovery Lodge offers affordable rooms without compromising on location or cleanliness. Situated near downtown Estes Park, it provides easy access to the town’s attractions and outdoor adventures.
While it may not offer the same level of luxury as higher-end options, it’s a practical choice for those looking to explore Estes Park on a budget.
As we wrap up our adventure through the best things to do in Estes Park, it’s impossible not to feel a deep appreciation for this mountain paradise. From the rugged beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park to the historic charm of the Stanley Hotel and the enchanting experiences of horseback riding through pristine wilderness, Estes Park has shown itself to be a true gem in the heart of Colorado’s Rockies.
Whether you’re an avid hiker, a stargazing enthusiast, or someone simply seeking a tranquil escape into nature, Estes Park offers a diverse range of experiences that cater to all tastes and preferences. It’s a place where you can reconnect with the wild, breathe in the crisp mountain air, and create memories that will stay with you long after you’ve left.
So, if you haven’t already, add Estes Park to your travel bucket list and discover the magic of this mountain town for yourself. It’s a destination that promises adventure, serenity, and an authentic taste of the great outdoors, leaving you with a longing to return for more.
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