Local’s Guide to Estes Park, Colorado
Estes Park is the main hub for visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, which means it gets millions of visitors per year! Even with high traffic, at its core it feels like a charming and laid back town. Set against incredible mountain landscapes, teeming with wildlife, and endless activities, mean there’s something for every one. One thing to note: this isn’t the place for staying at luxury 5 star resorts, everything feels a little more rustic.
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Where to stay in Colorado
Estes Lake Lodge
Experience mountain serenity and lakeside beauty at Estes Lake Lodge, where cozy accommodations, stunning views of the Rockies, and a peaceful setting in Estes Park, Colorado, offer a tranquil and unforgettable stay in the heart of nature.
Black Canyon Inn
Embrace mountain elegance at this classic lodge hotel with views of the Rocky Mountains.
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Things to do in Colorado
Hiking: Rocky Mountain National Park has endless trails for all levels of abilities. Some of my favorites include: Sky Pond, Mt. Ida, Hallett Peak, Longs Peak, Chasm Lake, and Sandbeach Lake. Please be aware that you are at higher elevation than most places, and acclimation may take time. Longs Peak is the highest peak in the park and requires ample preparation.
Fly Fishing: Estes Park has world class fishing, with plenty of options for lessons and guided tours.
Kayaking/Stand Up Paddlboarding: all lakes within RMNP, with the exception of Bear Lake, allow for this activity!
Horseback Riding: a great option for those who may not want to hike, or just want to enjoy the views from a different perspective.
Drive Trail Ridge Road to the Alpine Visitors Center or all the way to the town of Grand Lake.
Rock Climbing tours are available to try out a new sport.
Winter activities include snowshoeing, ice climbing, cross country skiing, and snowmobiling.
Fall is a great time to see elk “bugling” aka sounding their mating calls and seeing aspen trees change to bright yellow/gold!
Places to eat & drink in Colorado
Cinnamon’s Bakery: The best sweet rolls and cinnamon rolls, with gluten-free baked goods often available. They are only open EARLY mornings!
Bird’s Nest: A newer concept with both a cafe and pizzeria. Terrific smoothies! A must-stop.
Mangia Mangia: A pizza food truck often parked at local breweries. Wood-fired pizza cooked to perfection.
Fresh Burger Stop: Yes, it’s in a gas station. Yes, you should still go. Best for a quick bite to eat after a long day of hiking.
SEASONED: Perfect for a date or to celebrate a special occasion, or if you are just in the mood for an elevated dinner.
The Whiskey Bar: Located in the Stanley Hotel, perfect for a sunset cocktail on the deck or inside by a fireplace.
The Post Chicken & Beer: A Colorado joint featuring incredible fried chicken - the best part is that the fried chicken is all gluten-free.
Himalayan Curry & Kebab: Great in the winter time when you want something to warm you up from the inside out.
Need to Know
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, The Best of Denver Guide.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Colorado.