We often get asked for suggestions on things to do in Colorado and we always add checking out Estes Park, Colorado to that list. It has so many fun things to offer from family friendly hikes, history and great restaurants. We spent many weekends exploring Estes Park and the surrounding area when living in Denver. We will share with you some of our favorite things to do in Estes Park.
You may have immediately recognized the name and have it on your bucket list. The Stanley Hotel is the main inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining and has been open since 1909. We love visiting the Stanley Hotel whenever we are in Estes Park. It offers great views of Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. The hotel has a fun gift shop where you can grab any souvenirs for your Stephen King fans. The hotel is still in operation so it will probably be busy in the main room depending on the season. It’s important to note that the bathroom here is nice and free to use!
We all know I couldn’t leave out Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) from this list. It’s one of my favorite places in Colorado and has so much to offer! We have one blog post dedicated to RMNP and you can check it out here. The hikes mentioned in that post are amazing year round and offer completely different experiences depending on the time of year! If you’re traveling to Estes Park for the summer season you HAVE to check out Trail Ridge Road. It’s located in Rocky Mountain National Park and is one of my top 5 favorite drives in Colorado. This road will offer you some of the best views in Colorado and you have the opportunity to see so much wildlife. We have seen elk, chipmunks and bighorn sheep on this drive! We would often bring visitors to the Alpine Visitor Center that sits 11,796 feet above sea level and is the highest visitor center in the National Park System.
The town of Estes Park offers so much entertainment from all the local shops, interesting people and speciality stores. We would always park near the library and walk up Elkhorn Ave heading towards the city center. We loved to stop at all the cute local shops to see what was new. Wynbrier Home would always have these honey tobacco candles that smelled amazing! Outdoor World has all your outdoor gear that you might have forgotten when packing. I have bought many last minute items here before heading into RMNP. One of my favorite purchases from Estes Park was handmade mittens from Nepal. I purchased them at Water Wheel Gift Corner and absolutely love them. They are so warm and unique! Cory’s favorite places to go are Laura’s Fine Candies for the toffee and the Purple Mountain Taffy Company next door for their lemon taffy with powdered sugar on top!
“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” – John Muir
We love all the different food spots in Estes Park. Each one is different from the other and offer some unique tastes and experiences. One of my favorite Indian buffets, Nepal’s Cafe, is in Estes Park! Ed’s Cantina is a great place to eat after a long morning hike. If you’re looking for something else we highly recommend checking out Claire’s On the Park. Poppy’s offers some really tasty pizzas and a relaxing environment. One of my favorite random quotes from my mother is “Wow, this is the best sweet tea I’ve had!”
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
Technically, this one is not in Estes Park, but it’s on the way if you’re coming from Lyons, Colorado. It’s truly one of our favorite hidden gems. This little shop on the side of the road has some of the best juice, pies and atmosphere. We would always stop on the way up for some tart cherry juice and sometimes even stopped on the way back to Denver for an afternoon snack. They make their pies daily and always have a different selection of pies. The juice is delicious and you can choose from cherry, blackberry, raspberry, apple, and peach!
“Map out your future – but do it in pencil. The road ahead is as long as you make it. Make it worth the trip.” – Jon Bon Jovi
Have you been to Estes Park? What are some of your must-dos?