In Northern Colorado, there are a few select locations that provide world class entertainment. One of the first locations that comes to a locals mind would have to be Estes Park, Colorado. Estes Park lies at the entrance of the most visited National Park in the U.S., and that is no coincidence. One can find breathtaking scenery, outstanding hiking and mountaineering, quaint mountain town social life, and first class hotel service unique to Colorado. When thinking of heading west from FoCo, we would highly recommend the hour drive to Estes Park, and here is why…
In and around Estes Park, there are three outdoor activities that we would recommend. Each one can be enjoyed either in Rocky Mountain National Park, RMNP, or outside the park as well. Here is a link to an interactive map of RMMP.
- Hiking, Backpacking, Climbing-
In RMNP: During the shoulder seasons, spring and fall, we would recommend visiting some of the more popular destinations such as Bear Lake, Emerald Lake, and Sprague Lake. These locations offer some of the parks best views and will not be as crowded in the shoulder seasons. In the summer, we would recommend visiting some of the more popular areas early in the morning, or less crowded areas throughout the day. When backpacking, check availability here a few weeks in advance.
Outside RMNP: Throughout the summer, trails surrounding the park can be some of the best options for hiking. While everyone crams into RMNP, the pristine beauty surrounding the park often gets overlooked. We would recommend trying the Twin Owl or Knoll trail systems, and finding out more trails at the Estes Park Visitor Center.
Fishing within RMNP can be some of the most scenic fishing you will find in your life. We recommend checking out the local fishing shops in Estes for current recommendations in order to make your trip is a successful one. The following is taken from the National Park Service website:
“A Colorado fishing license is required for all persons 16 years of age or older to fish in Rocky Mountain National Park. No other permit is necessary; however, special regulations exist. It is your responsibility to know and obey them. To obtain current Colorado fishing license fees visit the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife website.”
Planning a multi day trip in Estes Park or RMNP is our best recommendation in order to get the full experience of the area, and camping assures that you get the closest experience with nature. If you plan on car camping, make sure to check availability a few weeks ahead of time here. When backpacking, check availability here a few weeks in advance.
Brynwood on the River
This lodging location has 6 acres of beautiful wildlife and landscape. There are various places to stay on the river including, a motel, river and theme cabins, and vacation homes. It is located midway between downtown Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Great for a weekend break of camping, fishing, and hot tubbing! Their peak season is from June 16th- August 12th with slightly higher rates for the cabins. In the peak season the rates vary from $169 to $315, with cabins right on the river in the higher price range.
Image received from website
What would a write-up about Estes Park be without mentioning the Stanley Hotel? If you want to take your American Horror Story nights to the next level, this is the place for you to stay.
First opened in 1909, this hotel is actually extremely beautiful and charming. It is a popular wedding venue, and has options for you to sleep with peace of mind if you would prefer a ‘non-spirited’ room. If you book far enough out, you can get a classic queen room for about $309 – still pricey, but much less than the short-notice $600+. Make sure to check around for coupon codes!
If you’d prefer a room with a little more spirit (pun intended), make sure to look for their paranormal activity rooms such as the famous Stephen King Suite (217), the Ghost Hunters’ favorite room (401), and rooms 407, 428, and 1302. These would need to be booked very far out, as they are understandably their most popular rooms.
If you don’t manage to get a haunted room, don’t fret! There are also Stanley Hotel tours and Night Spirit tours for $25 per hotel guest.
Estes Park Campground at East Portal
This beautiful campground is located just west of the town at an elevation of 8,300 feet. There are amazing views of the Rocky Mountain National Park and easy access to the East Portal Reservoir with great opportunities for fishing and hiking. It is a double-loop campground with tree-covered sites for campers with tents or they also have sites for small RV’s and trailers that are less than 24ft long. There is a two-night minimum stay on all weekends.
Rates per night are as follows:
Standard Tent/RV Site- $35
Water/Electric Site- $45
Back-in Full Hookup Site- $50
Pull-Through Full Hookup Site- $55
Double Tent/RV Site- $60
Rock Inn Mountain Tavern
If you are looking for great service and delicious food, look no further. The Rock Inn Mountain Tavern has All-Natural Colorado chicken, fresh salads, whole grains, organic teas and coffees, local beers, sustainable produced wines, and a full bar. They were established in 1937 as a dance hall for the Big Band Era. They continue to live up to this tradition with live music every Friday.
Baba’s Burgers & Gyros
Baba’s is the perfect place to head after a long hike in the Rocky Mountains. They have high-quality food and great service. They offer a large variety of burgers (cow, buffalo, or elk), gyros, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, and more! The gyros, elk burgers, and fried pickles are what we recommend!
Mountain Munchies and Tiki Bar
Want to experience the island life in the Rocky Mountains? Then come visit Mountain Munchies and Tiki Bar! Their boat drinks are made from real fruit juice and they pride themselves on having the largest rum selection in Northern Colorado. On top of that, they have happy hour all day, everyday! They serve a wide selection of food including elk brats, fish dishes, sweet potato fries, and their famous deep fried, bacon-wrapped Mountain Dog. Enjoy some social time on the back patio situated right next to the Big Thompson River.
One of our favorite places to hang out after a day of exploring Estes is the Wapiti Pub. It has a very “mountain” feel and was voted Best Restaurant, Best Lunch, Best Dinner, and Best Burger in Estes Park! They strive to use as many local and fresh ingredients as possible and are known for having the largest all-Colorado beer list in the state!
Although folks have been distilling whiskey in Estes for years, the Elkins Distillery is the first legal distillery in Estes! They feature high-proof Colorado whiskey that is both distilled and bottled in Colorado. They sell corn whiskey, Colorado whiskey, Elkins Apple whiskey, as well as whiskey paraphernalia like sweatshirts, glasses, and copper mugs. Stop on by the Elkins Distillery to get your whiskey fix!
Not sure how to get there? Look no further!
*Map adjusted for the fact that Big Thompson Road is currently closed for construction*