Estes Park is a town in the Front Range region of the state of Colorado in America. It is located 90 miles northwest of Denver, on the eastern slope of the Front Range in north central Colorado. Estes Park sits at the east entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.
"Park" in this case is a term that means a valley or meadow. Estes Park is named after an early settler, Joel Estes, who attempted to make a living by farming. Because of the short growing season it never really worked out. Since the mid-1800s the main business of Estes Park has been tourism. The clientele ranges from hard-core backcountry types to tour-buses full of drive through sightseers. The main draw is the scenery, which is awesome.
Year-round population is approximately 6,000 people, adding the surroundings it may be 10,000. In the peak of tourist season that probably triples. The best time to visit for outdoor activities is July through September. Everyone else thinks so too, so it can get kind of crowded. The heaviest traffic is probably in August. The family/kids crowd thins out after Labor Day.
Winter is a charming time of the year as well, since it is an excellent time to go snow shoeing and cross country skiing. Winter also provides greater opportunities to enjoy the tranquility of the Rocky Mountains as there are fewer tourists.
Winter weather is warmer than most mountain towns. But summer is also short. Summer temps peak in the low 90's(F) in town, much cooler as elevation increases. If you plan on spending any time out of your car up on Trail Ridge Road take a jacket. Estes is in a dry zone, getting maybe 13-15 inches of moisture a year. During the summer the regular weather pattern is clear mornings with a buildup of clouds at midday and sometimes a short rain shower.
Elevation in town is 7,522 feet above sea level. Some people experience discomforts due to altitude.
4 main routes:
- West from Loveland, CO via US-34, approximately 30 miles
- Northwest from Lyons, CO via US-36 approximately 25 miles
- North from Golden / Black Hawk / Central City / Boulder through Allenspark, CO via CO-7
- East from Grand Lake, CO via US-34 over Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park. This route is seasonal (it usually opens at the end of May and closes sometime in October depending on the snowfall) and you will have to pay an entrance fee to get through the National Park.
Getting around Estes Park has become easier in recent years. The town itself is small and can be covered reasonably well by walking. Most tourist visitors have their own car. You can park in one of the city lots (free) and walk a couple of blocks to get downtown.
There is some provision for bicycles. Paved trails radiate out from Lake Estes toward the south and west. But the part of the trail that goes downtown is restricted to walking only. Cycling on the main roads is OK, but shoulders can be sparse. Be careful of "tourist drivers" who will perform strange unpredictable maneuvers.
Transport within the National Park is mostly by private vehicle but shuttle bus service between the Moraine Park / Bear Lake areas has become more popular in recent years. Shuttle bus service between the Estes Park Visitors Center and Rocky Mountain National Park started in 2006. While the shuttle bus is free, you will need to purchase a National Parks pass prior to entering Rocky Mountain National Park. According to the Visitor's Center staff, there is an automated machine available at the Visitor's Center from which you can purchase 7-day or annual passes.
Hitchhiking can sometimes be effective particularly if you look like you are making an effort and have good personal hygiene. Speaking of hygiene, the laundromat in upper Stanley village also sells showers.
- The neighboring Rocky Mountain National Park, particularly the drive over Trail Ridge Road.
- Wildlife: elk (wapiti), bighorn sheep, mule deer, etc.
- Fine arts/galleries
- Historical museum
Most visitors to town are here for the nature, and activities such as camping, hiking, fishing, horse riding, mountain climbing (in particular, Longs Peak), birding and rafting are very popular. There are also 27 holes of golf.
- Scottish festival. September.
- Elk Fest. First weekend in October.
- Christmas "Catch the Glow" parade. Weekend after Thanksgiving.
- Rooftop Rodeo.
- [dead link] Yoga Journal Conference. Annual event in September.
- Park Theatre, 130 Moraine Ave, ☏ .
- Reel Mountain Theatre, 543 E. Wonderview Ave, ☏ .
- Open Air Adventure Park, 490 Prospect Village Dr. Swinging on suspended ropes, riding a snowboard 21 feet in the air, or crossing on zip lines are just a few of the 32 elements you can challenge yourself on.
- Stanley Park, 1209 Manford Ave, ☏ . Playground.
- Riverspointe Spa, 121 Wiest Dr, ☏ . Slip into a soft robe, sip hot tea, listen to the river running by. Stay after your treatment to sit in the sauna.
This place has been a tourist destination since day one and numerous stores exist allowing you to outfit yourself for camping, hiking, fishing, biking or just about any other outdoor activity. In addition, there are quite a few fine art galleries as well as stuffed-bear stores, Christmas ornament stores, cowboy hat stores, and two Starbucks. Options also exist for those looking for T-shirts and "rubber tomahawks".
For groceries it's Country Market or Safeway and prices are comparable to the front range area. Car/RV service, parts and repair are available but somewhat limited. Gas prices are usually 10 cents/gal higher than Loveland or Longmont. There is no WalMart, so for odd items you may need to go to one of the hardware stores or to the sundries aisle at Safeway. There are at least three pharmacies and a nice local hospital.
- Estes True Value, 461 E Wonderview Ave (Located in Upper Stanley Village), ☏ . 8AM - 9PM. A hardware store that also offers camping and fishing supplies, sporting goods, clothing (including swimwear), toys and games, linens, housewares and $1.99 DVD rentals. It also has a RadioShack inside.
Much like other tourist towns, Estes Park features many different types of restaurants with everything from Mexican to wild game available.
- The Donut Haus, 342 Moraine Ave., ☏ (closed Mondays).
- The Egg and I, 393 E. Elkhorn Ave., ☏ . Great place for breakfast. Popular with locals and seasonal guests/workers.
- Estes Park Pie Company, 370 E. Elkhorn Ave., ☏ .
- Big Horn Restaurant, 401 W Elkhorn, ☏ . Voted best breakfast/BBQ.
- Bob & Tony's Pizza, 124 W. Elkhorn Ave., ☏ . Cheap, decent pizza. A teen hangout that's changed little since the 1950s - arcade games, pool tables and juke boxes in the back. If you can find an empty brick, write your name on the wall.
- Ed's Cantina, 390 E. Elkhorn Ave., ☏ . One of the most popular local eats. Dinner $10-15. Largely Mexican food menu. Has both bar and restaurant seating areas.
- Grumpy Gringo, 1560 Big Thompson Ave, ☏ . Great atmosphere and views. Impeccability clean dining and rest rooms. The service is friendly, and the owner often walks around to say hello. The food, however, is mediocre, the ground beef in tacos etc. always tastes odd.
- Local’s Grill, 153 E. Elkhorn Ave., ☏ .
- Nicky's Steakhouse, 1350 Fall River Rd, ☏ . Good Greek food.
- Penelope's Burgers, 229 W. Elkhorn Ave. Voted best in Estes.
- Poppy’s Pizza Riverwalk, 342 E. Elkhorn Ave (Barlow Plaza), ☏ .
- Rock Inn Mountain Tavern, 1675 Hwy 66, ☏ . Steakhouse and live music. Excellent entrées $15-$25. Good specials. Lively mountain atmosphere.
- Sweet Basilico, 430 Prospect Village Dr, ☏ .
- Sundeck Restaurant, 915 Moraine Ave (Located beside Alpine Trail Ridge Inn.), ☏ . Family restaurant specializing in fresh Rocky Mountain trout and serve a variety of Mexican, American, and German foods.
- Kind Coffee, 470 E Elkhorn Ave (Intersection of Hwy 37 & Elkhorn), ☏ . Locally roasted, organically grown, fair trade coffee. A nice break from the hordes that run to the green Starbucks sign like a pack of Pavlov's dogs.
There are a few chain hotels of the Holiday Inn / Best Western type, but most lodging is at mom and pop motels and cabins. Condos are available for rent also. Accommodations can fill up in the summer and on holiday weekends.
- YMCA of the Rockies. Has three fairly extensive (and extremely popular) cabin complexes. As with many things "Y," religion is optional.
- Amberwood, 1889 Fall River Road (A couple miles west out of Estes Park on highway 34), toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 4, check-out: 10. Lodge with rooms and variety of small to large cabins.
- Alpine Trail Ridge Inn, 927 Moraine Ave, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Seasonal roadside motel located on US Highway 36 West near the South entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. Heated outdoor pool.
- Aspen Lodge Ranch Resort & Conference Center, 6120 Highway 7, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. The largest free standing log structure in Colorado, with 36 rooms, each with either a walk out balcony or porch, and 23 sleeping cabins with 1, 2 or 3 rooms.
- Best Western Silver Saddle, 1260 Big Thompson Ave, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Five time winner of the prestigious "Best of the Best" award from Best Western International. Hot tub available by reservation with front desk in 15-minute increments (or longer if no other reservations).
- Brynwood on the River, 710 Moraine Ave, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. Cabins with private deck, hot tub, and fireplace.
- Fawn Valley Inn, 2760 Fall River Rd, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. On Fall River, aspen log furniture. One mile from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.
- Gilded Pine Meadows Bed & Breakfast, 861 Big Horn Dr, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. Historic Bed and Breakfast. Two guest rooms and one cottage available. Wedding and Elopement packages.
- Lazy R Cottages, 891 Moraine Ave, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. One mile from Rocky Mountain National Park. 1,2 & 3 bedroom cabins (some with personal hot tubs).
- Mountain Shadows Bed & Breakfast, 871 Riverside Dr, ☏ . Rates: $189/night. No children under 13.
- River Rock Cottages, 311 Virginia Dr, ☏ . Has 6 cottages; 4 were completely renovated in 2008 and 2 newly built. Free Wi-Fi, full kitchens, & flat-screen TVs.
- River Spruce Cabins, 2334 Tunnel Rd, ☏ . No pets. Rocky Mountain National Park is the backyard and the Big Thompson River is the front yard. Private hot tubs and gas stove fireplaces. $120-205/night.
- Solitude Cabins, 1885 Sketch Box Lane #7, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ Info@solitudecabins.com. Cabin rentals with views of Longs Peak. All cabins have 2 bedrooms, each with a king bed, 2 baths, kitchens, gas grill, washer/dryer, deck and fireplace.
- Stanley Hotel, 333 Wonderview Ave, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . Inspiration for Stephen King's The Shining (and even played the Overlook Hotel in the 1997 TV miniseries). Three-Star Hotel.
- Timber Creek Chalets, 2115 Fall River Rd, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. Units are available with personal hot tubs, kitchens, wood-burning fireplaces, and patios with grills. Pet Friendly.
- Triple R Cottages, 1000 Riverside Dr, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Historic cottages downtown, varying from small, rustic two-person cottages up to large, modern eight-person cabins with hot tubs. Pet Friendly.
- Trout Haven Ranch & Trout Pond, 800 Moraine Ave, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. A lodge & two-bedroom cabins on a 12 acre meadow along the Big Thompson River, 2 miles from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. The Lodge sleeps up to 30 people.
- Valhalla Resort, 2185 Eagle Cliff Rd, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A variety of cabins and vacation rentals bordering Rocky Mountain National Park. Secluded on 15 acres 3 miles west of Estes Park.
- Wildwood Inn, 2801 Fall River Rd, ☏ , toll-free: . Near Rocky Mountain National Park
- Marys Lake Lodge and Resort, 2625 Marys Lake Rd, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. Lodge + condos for 4-12. Onsite restaurant and pub, outdoor heated swimming pool.
- Romantic Riversong, 1765 Lower Broadview Rd, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Specializes in romantic getaways and elopements. One of the owners is a minister and will perform ceremonies on-site. Rates are different for each room, so contact the inn for more details.
- The Estes Park Resort, 1700 Big Thompson Ave, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. Only lodging on Lake Estes. Great views of Rocky Mountain National Park. Has a conference center and banquet facilities and is great for weddings!
There are at least 5 commercial campgrounds in/near town, and additional campgrounds in the national park. There are also informal (free) camping sites on national forest land not far from town.
Cell phone service is pretty good in town, depending on the carrier, but spotty in the National Park unless you are on high ground. The local library has Internet terminals available for walk-in use, sign-up required. Kind Coffee, Notchtop Bakery, Barlow Plaza and various hotels and restaurants have free wireless Internet.