Estes Park is open and waiting for you. Already called the ‘base camp’ to Rocky Mountain National Park, the Town of Estes Park provides a place to stock up on last-minute gear, enjoy a meal, and stretch your legs around a scenic mountain town.
A trip to a national park is all about time in the wilderness. We get it. But taking a few days to enjoy the activities and lodging just outside the park is a great option for anyone traveling with children or bookending their vacation with modern amenities.
The town’s trails and marina offer mountain views and fresh air for popular activities like hiking, running, biking, and paddleboarding. And when you’re done getting after it, the shops and eateries offer a change of pace.
Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) are open and have issued clear safety protocols to put travelers at ease. Precautions are being taken to prevent crowding in popular areas and won’t take away from enjoying the natural beauty of the area.
- RMNP has a reservation system in place to regulate entries. As one of the most popular parks in the nation, this a great reason to stop in Estes Park on the way to your reservation.
- Wear a mask in businesses and maintain social distancing in public.
- Keep a mask (or neck gaiter) handy to wear when passing others on tight trails.
*As the response to the virus can change, check for updates regarding individual businesses and specific activities.
Estes Park: 9 Activities and Attractions
We’ve summarized some important information, such as how to get to Estes Park and where to stay. But first, here’s a rundown of some of the most popular things to do.
And if you want to see how some prominent mountain athletes live like a local in Estes Park, check out the town’s unique Athlete in Residence program that showcases a variety of activities. Most recently, ultrarunner Courtney Dauwalter explored the park via singletrack.
The marina rents kayaks, paddleboards, or boats. For anglers, there is plenty of trout in the lake waiting for tempting lures. The marina also rents bikes if you want to ride around the lake and town. A 3.7-mile trail circling the lake is open to hiking, biking, and running.
Test your legs and lungs on several long trails at altitude. It’s a great way to take in the views and see some of the area’s wildlife. If you want a flatter, easier route, the loop around the lake is just longer than a 5K, giving you room for a warmup and cooldown.
Photo Credit: Visit Estes Park
Unlike RMNP, road bikes, mountain bikes, and town cruisers all have a place in Estes Park. You can take the Lake Estes loop to the Stanley Park Bike Park. The easy-to-access park and pump track offer skills sections for beginners and experts alike.
Pole Hill is a popular mountain bike destination, or choose one from a local’s favorite bike trails around Estes. Road cyclists can share the views and roads with cars along scenic drives like Trail Ridge Road.
Rafting is a popular item on Colorado to-do lists. Rapid Transit Rafting has run floats for 35 years, their guides meet or exceed the state’s safety standards, and they offer different itineraries. Daily, they accommodate first-timers and children as young as seven.
Explore the backwoods by ATV, dirt bike, or Jeep. Coordinate with Backbone Adventure Rentals, and they’ll have your ride waiting at the trailhead.
Enjoy mountain trails and scenic overlooks astride a horse. Choose from the different stables, which offer rides from an hour to all day. Some will start in Estes and venture into the national park (without a reservation time).
Performance Park isn’t just a music venue — it’s a climbing venue. Anyone interested in learning to climb can get lessons or hire a guide from one of the town’s outfitters.
Yes, the historic hotel where “Dumb and Dumber” was filmed and which inspired “The Shining.” Stop by the bar and drink in the views of surrounding mountains or take a themed tour — history by day, paranormal by night.
More than the location makes this Y special. A day pass gets you access to mini-golf, tennis courts, disc golf, and family programs, among other recreation sports. The Y also offers archery, horseback riding, white water rafting, and climbing for an additional fee.
Getting to Estes Park
Drive from the airport: Denver is the main travel hub in the region and once there, travelers can take a shuttle. Estes Park is roughly a 90-minute drive from Denver International Airport (if you bypass Denver). You can rent a car or take a train from the airport to Denver’s Union Station and connect to the city’s transit system.
Scenic drive: Visitors driving from other parts of the state can access Estes Park from the west via Trail Ridge Road (U.S. Highway 34). It’s a scenic drive with popular stops Granby and Grand Lake along the way. From the east, there are several highways and smaller roads from nearby cities Fort Collins, Longmont, Boulder, and Denver.
Visit Estes Park provides a mileage and time chart to see how close the town is to other cities and attractions.
Getting Around Estes Park
Driving is nice, but the driver often misses the views and wildlife along the winding roads. Thankfully, the Bear Lake Park & Ride is running to trailheads, so you can skip the traffic and get farther into RMNP.
The town’s free shuttle, Estes Transit, has modified its routes and times this year. Check the town’s website for service updates.
Spend the Night in Estes
Stay a few nights in Estes Park to enjoy the amenities of a room and nightlife where the buzz isn’t from the insects. You’ll still get the mountain air and views.
If you want to keep camping, there are campgrounds and RV parks available. Otherwise, your lodging options range from motels to resorts, depending on the type of amenities you want. Some offer in-season discounts for Colorado residents.
Even if your camping recipes are dialed, it’s nice to sit back and let others cook for you. Whether you want to make dinner part of your vacation memories or just grab a quick bite, Estes Park’s restaurants offer fine dining, family-friendly options, and a market for fresh ingredients and snacks.
The shops and open-air markets are full of unique items to help make your trip more memorable, or comfortable if you need to change up your gear.
Making Estes Park a part of your Rocky Mountain National Park visit gives you access to more activities and lodging options with some of the comforts of home. You can live in both worlds — you’re on vacation, after all.
This article is sponsored by Visit Estes Park. Find out more about getting to the town and its many activities and attractions here.