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Amazing Things to Do in Estes Park, Colorado

There is a treasure trove of remarkable things to do in Estes Park, Colorado, regardless of the season. The early morning in mid-September carried a refreshing chill, perfectly complementing the long anticipation for this trip. The crisp air of autumn envelops the environment, while the vibrant hues of the leaves herald the imminent change of seasons. It’s almost surreal to be in the heart of Colorado, and the feeling is magnified by the fact that the adventure begins in the idyllic town of Estes Park.

In the distance, see the imposing peaks of the Rocky Mountains, beckoning exploration. It’s time to discover the countless wonders that await in this Gateway to the Rockies.

Surrounded by the awe-inspiring Rocky Mountains, Estes Park, Colorado, is a picturesque town with many captivating activities and historical landmarks, ideal for those seeking an extraordinary off-the-beaten-path experience.

Whether you wish to immerse yourself in Estes Park’s rich history or indulge in its unique outdoor pursuits, you’ll discover the amazing wonders that this enchanting destination has in store.

Unearthing the History of Estes Park

Before American settlers arrived, Native Americans, including the Arapaho, inhabited this area, established summer homes, camped around Mary’s Lake, and used their dogs to transport meat from the valley. The town itself is named after Joel Estes, an early settler who recognized the area’s potential for wilderness exploration.

The area became well known to travelers from the eastern United States and Europe by the late 1860s.

The Earl of Dunraven arrived in the area in 1872 and acquired 6000 acres initially as a hunting preserve and later as the location of Estes Park Hotel. He served as the basis for a character in the novel Centennial by James Michener.

William Byers, the editor of a Denver newspaper, publicized the area as an excellent location for exploring the wilderness. These stories, intertwined with the region’s history, provide a captivating glimpse into the town’s past.

By the early 1900s, the valley was known as a place where wealthy travelers could improve their health, and many people sought recovery from tuberculosis and other breathing ailments.

A road between Loveland and Estes Park opened in 1903 and allowed much easier access to the area. In 1909, the Stanley Hotel was built on the outskirts of Estes Park using Stanley Steamer motor carriages. Today, the town is a resort area with significant tourism as it is the eastern entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park.

Exploring the Downtown Estes Park

Begin your Estes Park adventure by wandering through the enchanting downtown area.

Park Theatre

Kickstart your day with a visit to the Park Theatre on Moraine Avenue, a historical gem dating back to 1913 and listed on the National Registry of Historic Places as the oldest single-house motion picture theater in the United States. Catch a movie and admire the theater’s neon sign, a rare sight in Estes Park, which restricts such advertising.

Estes Park Cafe

For a light snack or a satisfying meal, head to the Estes Park Café, located next to the theater. Indulge in a Philly Cheese Steak, a Classic Reuben sandwich, or a hearty chili while enjoying the cozy ambiance.

Big Thompson River – Estes Park River Walk

Afterward, take a leisurely stroll along the River Walk, a delightful path that follows the Big Thompson River. Explore unique shops and restaurants, all offering locally crafted items and delicious treats that capture the essence of Colorado. There will not be any chain stores, so anything that you find will be an item unique to Colorado.

: things to do in Estes Park Olde Church Shop

Old Church Shops

Continue exploring Elkhorn Drive, where you’ll stumble upon the Old Church Shops. Housed in a repurposed church, these shops and restaurants offer a captivating blend of history and commerce. One particularly intriguing establishment is the Weavers Attic, where vintage looms are still used to create beautiful textiles. There are many opportunities for creative things to do in Estes Park.

Outdoor Adventures Near Estes Park

When you have finished shopping in Estes Park, make sure to leave room in your schedule for an excursion where you can appreciate the beauty and majesty of the Rocky Mountains and Estes Park Valley. It is a short trip to get into the Rocky Mountain National Park, where many hiking trails are available near the visitor center for all levels of ability. Embark on an unforgettable journey through lush forests, towering peaks, and awe-inspiring vistas.

If you prefer cycling, head to the Roosevelt National Forest, home to 12 miles of trails perfect for bikers. Revel in the scenic landscapes and enjoy the freedom of exploring nature on two wheels. Remember that biking is not permitted on the Rocky Mountain National Park’s hiking trails.

Capturing Memories with the Perfect Lens

While exploring Estes Park’s trails and outdoor attractions, be sure to capture the stunning wildlife and landscapes through photography. To achieve the best results, consider using specialized lenses. For landscape shots, a 14 to 24-mm lens will capture the grandeur of the surroundings.

If you aim to photograph wildlife, opt for a 70 to 300-mm zoom lens.

Where to Eat in Estes Park, Colorado

Clair’s Restaurant and Bar

After a day of exploration, treat yourself to a satisfying meal at one of Estes Park’s renowned restaurants. With its locally sourced ingredients and breathtaking mountain views, Clair’s Restaurant and Bar is a popular choice. Enjoy sandwiches, entrees, and a warm ambiance that perfectly complements the natural beauty of the surroundings.

Estes Park Pie Shop

For a more laid-back atmosphere, visit The Estes Park Pie Shop. Indulge in their delectable pies and explore hearty breakfast and lunch options beyond the sweet treats.

Cascades Restaurant at the Stanley Hotel

For an upscale dining experience, go to the Cascades Restaurant at the Stanley Hotel. Dress to impress and savor the cuisine while reveling in the elegance of this iconic establishment.

Where to Stay in Estes Park, Colorado

The Stanley Hotel

The first destination to consider is the Stanley Hotel, an iconic place that not only offers luxury accommodations but also a peek into the past. This hotel, constructed by F.O. Stanley, is historically known for inspiring Stephen King’s novel, “The Shining.” Enjoy the panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains, take part in a guided tour into the hotel’s history, or witness a concert at the Stanley Concert Hall. With its elegant rooms, gourmet dining at Cascades Restaurant, and fascinating historical charm, the Stanley Hotel promises a memorable stay.

Stonebrook Resort

For a mid-range budget, Stonebrook Resort on Fall River is an excellent choice. Offering private cabins and suites for adults only, this resort is perfect for those who prefer a quiet retreat in nature. The cozy accommodations feature fireplaces, in-room hot tubs, and balconies overlooking the Fall River. It’s close to the Rocky Mountain National Park entrance, making it an ideal base for outdoor adventures.

Murphy’s River Lodge

If you’re looking for a less expensive option that still offers breathtaking views, check out Murphy’s River Lodge. Centrally located in downtown Estes Park, this lodge is within a 5-minute walking distance of shopping, dining, and entertainment. The rooms are clean and comfortable, with some offering river views. Free continental breakfast, a heated indoor pool, and a hot tub are among the amenities for guests. This budget-friendly yet scenic option allows you to experience the charm of Estes Park without breaking the bank.

Summary

Estes Park, Colorado, is an ideal destination for your next vacation. With its unique historical attractions and stunning natural beauty, there are always plenty of things to do during your stay in Estes Park. Whether it’s exploring the downtown area, embarking on an outdoor adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park or Roosevelt National Forest, savoring a delicious meal at one of the renowned restaurants, or staying at a luxurious accommodation such as The Stanley Hotel, you can be sure that you won’t soon forget your time in Estes Park. Pack your bags and start planning for your ultimate Colorado vacation today!

Bonus: Tips for Experiencing Estes Park Like a Local

If you’d like to experience Estes Park like a local, here are some tips to consider.

Visit the Downtown Estes Park Farmers Market at the white tents in the Estes Park Visitor Center Parking Lot for produce from local farms and other unique items.

Check out the music scene at the Rock Inn Mountain Tavern or Stanley Hotel’s Whiskey Bar, both offering nightly live entertainment.

If you’re feeling adventurous, take a guided tour of the Rocky Mountain National Park with a professional photographer– you’ll be rewarded with unforgettable views and a unique experience.

And finally, don’t miss out on Estes Park’s outdoor activities, such as fly fishing or horseback riding – all wonderful ways to immerse yourself in nature.

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