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North America > United States of America > Rocky Mountains (United States of America) > Colorado > Front Range > Estes Park

Estes Park

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Estes Park is a town in the Front Range region of the state of Colorado in America. It is located 90 miles northwest of Denver, on the eastern slope of the Front Range in north central Colorado. Estes Park sits at the east entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Understand[edit]

"Park" in this case is a term that means a valley or meadow. Estes Park is named after an early settler, Joel Estes, who attempted to make a living by farming. Because of the short growing season it never really worked out. Since the mid-1800s the main business of Estes Park has been tourism. The clientele ranges from hard-core backcountry types to tour-buses full of drive through sightseers. The main draw is the scenery, which is awesome.

Year-round population is approximately 6,000 people, adding the surroundings it may be 10,000. In the peak of tourist season that probably triples. The best time to visit for outdoor activities is July through September. Everyone else thinks so too, so it can get kind of crowded. The heaviest traffic is probably in August. The family/kids crowd thins out after Labor Day.

Winter is a charming time of the year as well, since it is an excellent time to go snow shoeing and cross country skiing. Winter also provides greater opportunities to enjoy the tranquility of the Rocky Mountains as there are fewer tourists.

Winter weather is warmer than most mountain towns. But summer is also short. Summer temps peak in the low 90's(F) in town, much cooler as elevation increases. If you plan on spending any time out of your car up on Trail Ridge Road take a jacket. Estes is in a dry zone, getting maybe 13-15 inches of moisture a year. During the summer the regular weather pattern is clear mornings with a buildup of clouds at midday and sometimes a short rain shower.

Elevation in town is 7,522 feet above sea level. Some people experience discomforts due to altitude.

Get in[edit]

By car[edit]

4 main routes:

  • West from Loveland, CO via US-34, approximately 30 miles
  • Northwest from Lyons, CO via US-36 approximately 25 miles
  • North from Golden / Black Hawk / Central City / Boulder through Allenspark, CO via CO-7
  • East from Grand Lake, CO via US-34 over Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park. This route is seasonal (it usually opens at the end of May and closes sometime in October depending on the snowfall) and you will have to pay an entrance fee to get through the National Park.

By plane[edit]

The closest major airport is DIA in Denver, about 90 miles away. Shuttle service to Estes can be obtained (see [1] or [2]).

There are small airports in Boulder, Longmont and Loveland/Fort Collins.

Get around[edit]

Getting around Estes Park has become easier in recent years. The town itself is small and can be covered reasonably well by walking. Most tourist visitors have their own car. You can park in one of the city lots (free) and walk a couple of blocks to get downtown.

Estes Park has implemented a free shuttle bus system that begins at the Visitor Center and has stops in Rocky Mountain National Park as well as a variety of stops within town.

There is some provision for bicycles. Paved trails radiate out from Lake Estes toward the south and west. But the part of the trail that goes downtown is restricted to walking only. Cycling on the main roads is OK, but shoulders can be sparse. Be careful of "tourist drivers" who will perform strange unpredictable maneuvers.

Transport within the National Park is mostly by private vehicle but shuttle bus service between the Moraine Park / Bear Lake areas has become more popular in recent years. Shuttle bus service between the Estes Park Visitors Center and Rocky Mountain National Park started in 2006. While the shuttle bus is free, you will need to purchase a National Parks pass prior to entering Rocky Mountain National Park. According to the Visitor's Center staff, there is an automated machine available at the Visitor's Center from which you can purchase 7-day or annual passes.

Hitchhiking can sometimes be effective particularly if you look like you are making an effort and have good personal hygiene. Speaking of hygiene, the laundromat in upper Stanley village also sells showers.

See[edit]

  • The neighboring Rocky Mountain National Park, particularly the drive over Trail Ridge Road.
  • Wildlife: elk (wapiti), bighorn sheep, mule deer, etc.
  • Fine arts/galleries
  • Historical museum

Do[edit]

Most visitors to town are here for the nature, and activities such as camping, hiking, fishing, horse riding, mountain climbing (in particular, Longs Peak), birding and rafting are very popular. There are also 27 holes of golf.

Events[edit]

  • Scottish festival. September.
  • Elk Fest. First weekend in October.
  • Christmas "Catch the Glow" parade. Weekend after Thanksgiving.
  • Rooftop Rodeo.
  • [dead link] Yoga Journal Conference. Annual event in September.

Theaters[edit]

Other[edit]

  • Open Air Adventure Park, 490 Prospect Village Dr. Swinging on suspended ropes, riding a snowboard 21 feet in the air, or crossing on zip lines are just a few of the 32 elements you can challenge yourself on.
  • Stanley Park, 1209 Manford Ave, +1 970-586-6104. Playground.
  • Riverspointe Spa, 121 Wiest Dr, +1 970 577-6841. Slip into a soft robe, sip hot tea, listen to the river running by. Stay after your treatment to sit in the sauna.

Buy[edit]

This place has been a tourist destination since day one and numerous stores exist allowing you to outfit yourself for camping, hiking, fishing, biking or just about any other outdoor activity. In addition, there are quite a few fine art galleries as well as stuffed-bear stores, Christmas ornament stores, cowboy hat stores, and two Starbucks. Options also exist for those looking for T-shirts and "rubber tomahawks".

For groceries it's Country Market or Safeway and prices are comparable to the front range area. Car/RV service, parts and repair are available but somewhat limited. Gas prices are usually 10 cents/gal higher than Loveland or Longmont. There is no WalMart, so for odd items you may need to go to one of the hardware stores or to the sundries aisle at Safeway. There are at least three pharmacies and a nice local hospital.

  • Estes True Value, 461 E Wonderview Ave (Located in Upper Stanley Village), +1 970 586-3496. 8AM - 9PM. A hardware store that also offers camping and fishing supplies, sporting goods, clothing (including swimwear), toys and games, linens, housewares and $1.99 DVD rentals. It also has a RadioShack inside.

Eat[edit]

Much like other tourist towns, Estes Park features many different types of restaurants with everything from Mexican to wild game available.

Budget[edit]

Mid-range[edit]

Splurge[edit]

  • Sundeck Restaurant, 915 Moraine Ave (Located beside Alpine Trail Ridge Inn.), +1 970 586-9832. Family restaurant specializing in fresh Rocky Mountain trout and serve a variety of Mexican, American, and German foods.

Drink[edit]

  • Kind Coffee, 470 E Elkhorn Ave (Intersection of Hwy 37 & Elkhorn), +1 970 586-5206. Locally roasted, organically grown, fair trade coffee. A nice break from the hordes that run to the green Starbucks sign like a pack of Pavlov's dogs.

Sleep[edit]

There are a few chain hotels of the Holiday Inn / Best Western type, but most lodging is at mom and pop motels and cabins. Condos are available for rent also. Accommodations can fill up in the summer and on holiday weekends.

Budget[edit]

  • YMCA of the Rockies. Has three fairly extensive (and extremely popular) cabin complexes. As with many things "Y," religion is optional.
  • Amberwood, 1889 Fall River Road (A couple miles west out of Estes Park on highway 34), toll-free: +1-855-586-4385, . Check-in: 4, check-out: 10. Lodge with rooms and variety of small to large cabins.

Mid-range[edit]

Splurge[edit]

Campgrounds[edit]

There are at least 5 commercial campgrounds in/near town, and additional campgrounds in the national park. There are also informal (free) camping sites on national forest land not far from town.

Connect[edit]

Cell phone service is pretty good in town, depending on the carrier, but spotty in the National Park unless you are on high ground. The local library has Internet terminals available for walk-in use, sign-up required. Kind Coffee, Notchtop Bakery, Barlow Plaza and various hotels and restaurants have free wireless Internet.

Go next[edit]

Routes through Estes Park
GranbyRocky Mountain N.P.  W US 34.svg E  LovelandFort Morgan
ENDRocky Mountain N.P.  NW US 36.svg SE  LyonsDenver
END  W Colorado 7.svg E  → Jct Colorado 72.svg ELyonsBrighton


This city travel guide to Estes Park is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.