This high-altitude settlement, set in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, offers mountain-town charm, wonderful wildlife watching and four-season outdoor adventure.
Located at an elevation of 7,520 feet (2,290 meters) above sea level, Estes Park is frequently described as “base camp” for Rocky Mountain National Park. Outdoor adventure dominates the agenda here throughout the year. Go cycling, hiking, climbing, rafting and stand-up paddleboarding during warmer weather or skiing, ice climbing, snowshoeing and sledding during the snowy winters.
Estes Park’s most popular attraction is Rocky Mountain National Park, a 415-square-mile (1,075-square-kilometer) expanse of mountainous wilderness. Choose from more than 300 miles (480 kilometers) of hiking trails or drive along the stunningly scenic Trail Ridge Road, which features viewpoints overlooking magnificent alpine and subalpine surroundings. The park, home to everything from elk, beavers and bears, to moose, marmots and mountain lions, is also an excellent wildlife-watching zone. Take part in ranger-led tours or head to one of the park’s visitor centers to find out more about the environments.
For more high-energy fun, try climbing at Lumpy Ridge and Longs Peak. Cycling tours are also available from operators in Estes Park. During winter, glide along cross-country ski trails, don snowshoes for trekking or sled down Hidden Valley, the only place in the park where sledding is not prohibited.
Back in town, enjoy a ride on the scenic Estes Park Aerial Tram, which transports visitors to the top of Prospect Mountain during the summer months. During warmer weather, stroll along the Riverwalk and browse the independent shops and galleries of downtown.
Wineries and breweries are dotted around the region. Sip locally made wines and decorate wine glasses at Snowy Peaks Winery, taste craft brews at Rock Cut Brewing Company and pull up a stool at the tasting room at Dancing Pines Distillery, which produces small-batch spirits including rums, whiskeys and liqueurs.
Rocky Mountain National Park visitor centers’ opening hours change seasonally so check them online before you go. Estes Park is located around a 90-minute drive from Denver and a 60-minute drive from Boulder. From May through October, a free shuttle system carries visitors around town and serves major routes in the Rocky Mountain National Park.