Ready to explore the stunning state of Colorado? Discover the best things to do in Estes Park. Located an hour northwest of Boulder, the alpine town is the perfect base for experiencing Colorado’s scenic highways, alpine lakes, and vast mountain scenery.
Estes Park is an outdoor lover’s dream. From here, you can access top tourist attractions like Rocky Mountain National Park and the Forest Canyon Overlook. Ramp up your adrenaline and discover the area with excellent guides from Kent Mountain Adventure Center. If dinner and drinks are more your style, snuggle up for exciting food & drink experiences at the Snowy Peaks Winery or Rock Cut Brewing Company.
Not sure what to do on your journey? Get inspiration for your itinerary with this guide to the best places to visit in Estes Park, CO!
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Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is a must-visit attraction while in Estes Park. The 415 square miles of spectacular park is spread across the Continental Divide. Explore grand mountains, forests, and the alpine tundra.
There’s a reason that Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most visited parks in the United States. If you’re a traveler who loves the outdoors, this park will fill you with awe.
Explore Rocky Mountain National Park via ATV, on horseback, or on over 300 miles of hiking trails. Adventurous spirits should try an impressive whitewater rafting adventure or some nail-biting rock climbing.
With so much on offer, it can be overwhelming to know where to start your journey. Get a sense of what you want to do at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, the busiest visitor center in the park. They show videos about the park every 30 minutes, give you the chance to talk to park rangers, and have a shop for gifts and guidebooks.
Estes Park Aerial Tramway
Reach stunning mountain panoramas on the Estes Park Arial Tramway. The cable car will take you 1,100 vertical feet to the summit of Prospect Mountain. The tramway was built by Robert Heron in 1955, transforming the way that people access the mountain.
Surge above the tree line and take in the views of the valley below. From the top, you’ll be able to see Estes Park, the Continental Divide, and Longs Peak. Get your caffeine fix with a cup of coffee and pick up some gifts at the gift shop.
Once you’re refreshed, it’s time to get exploring. There’s a selection of easy hiking trails to help you find the most beautiful vistas. Pack some peanuts to feed the friendly chipmunks on the way, and laze on the sunny observation deck before making your descent.
The Stanley Hotel
Have a spooky trip to The Stanley Hotel. One of the key points of interest in Estes Park, this historic hotel was the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining. It’s stood in the mountains since 1909. Today, it’s still a functioning hotel, offering many fun tours and activities.
Take The Shining tour to see one of the axes used in the film. Or take the Spirited tour to explore the grand rooms after dark. Not into horror? There’s a historic tour to learn more about the heritage and architecture of the hotel.
The hotel also hosts regular events to get involved in. Enjoy immersive experiences in the Grand Hall or catch a show at the secret theatre underneath the carriage house. You might even sneak a peek at a performance from some of the world’s best magicians!
Estes Park Memorial Observatory
Get up close and personal with the stars at the Estes Park Memorial Observatory. The observatory was started by a retired astrophysicist to share their love of space with the world.
Today, the Estes Park Memorial Observatory is a non-profit that survives entirely on donations. They host various events and private viewings throughout the week so you can experience the magic of the night sky.
A visit here allows you to completely immerse yourself in the galaxy. See the stripes of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn. Your knowledgeable guide will help you spot twinkling constellations. You’ll also get to see the space station crossing the sky.
Forest Canyon Overlook
Take in the immense Colorado landscape at the Forest Canyon Overlook. From 11,716 feet, you’ll see the pools of the Gorge Lakes and the towering peaks of the Continental Divide. It’s just off the iconic Trail Ridge Road. This accessible walkway is one of the easiest ways to get the best mountain panoramas.
Gaze down at Forest Canyon. Glaciers thrust out this 2000-foot-deep valley thousands of years ago. There’s lots of information posted around Forest Canyon Overlook if you want to learn more about the area’s geology.
The azure Gorge Lakes melt into the Hayden Gorge. Here, you’ll spot plenty of wonderful wildlife, including yellow-bellied marmots. There have also been sightings of other larger animals here, too, like elk, coyote, and bighorn sheep.
Peak to Peak Scenic Byway
Take an Estes Park road trip on the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway. This is Colorado’s oldest scenic byway, established in 1918. The 55-mile highway winds through lush forests and passes grand mountains. There are many epic stops on the way, so plan to be out on the route for the whole day.
Where you’re going doesn’t matter when the journey is this beautiful. The Peak to Peak Scenic Byway takes you through the changing leaves of Arapaho National Forest and along the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park.
On the way, you’ll stop at the pretty Chapel on the Rocks, stretch your legs at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, and try some gambling at Black Hawk, with slot machines dating back to the Colorado Gold Rush.
Estes Park Museum
Delve into the heritage of Estes Park at the Estes Park Museum. As the town has grown, it’s experienced trials, challenges, and innovation. Native American tribes, floods, and entrepreneurial spirit have shaped the town you see today. The small museum is free to enter and explains the events in Estes Park chronologically.
Watch a short introductory video, then explore the series of rooms. Step back in time in the Cobb-Macdonald Cabin. The 1908 cabin is arranged to reflect how the settlers would have lived in it. Car lovers will want to check out the original Stanley Steamer Autocar.
Snowy Peaks Winery
Taste the flavors of Colorado at the Snowy Peaks Winery, where you’ll find plenty of interesting wines made with grapes from some of Colorado’s favorite boutique wineries and vineyards.
Colorado’s Western Slope Vineyards are some of the highest in the world. The high altitude creates grapes for top-quality wine. The Snow Peaks Winery also serves gourmet snacks to compliment your drinks selection.
Venture into the pretty tasting room and sip Merlot alongside Rocky Mountain views. Order a tasting flight and sample the Syrah, Viognier, and Riesling. Buy handmade cheeses and jams from Snowy Peaks Winery to compliment your new favorite tipple.
If wine isn’t your drink of choice, the winery also offers small-batch sodas and fruit ciders. Visit on a Friday evening for a relaxed ambiance, drinks, and live music.
Mountain lake activities are an essential part of your Colorado experience. Try them all at Lake Estes. The man-made lake was created in 1949 by the Olympus Dam. Today, this four-mile reservoir has dreamy scenery and lots of ways to relax outdoors.
Nothing beats the feeling of floating on the water. Spend a lazy afternoon soaking up the sun on a pontoon. Or rent a stand-up paddle board and drift to your heart’s content. If you want to stay on land, Lake Estes has an easy trail that takes you to some of the loveliest views on the lake.
Lake Estes is home to wonderful wildlife. Elk and moose wander the hills around you, and migratory birds soar above. Spot Goldeneyes and Violet-green Swallows while resting on the shore.
If you love fishing, you can find your catch of the day from a boat or the shoreline. It’s an easy opportunity to catch Rainbow and Brown Trout.
Yearn for simpler times at the MacGregor Ranch, an idyllic paradise hiding in the hills of Black Canyon Creek. The homestead ranch has been standing since 1873. To this day, they’re still using horse-drawn machinery to make their hay.
Draft horses and ranch hands can be seen working in the hay meadow. Quaint wooden shacks are nestled in the grass, surrounded by towering peaks. Visit the original chicken house, milk shed, and barn to get a sense of old farm life.
Take a self-guided tour of the blacksmith shop, smokehouse, and milk house. The main ranch house and family residence are now a fascinating museum. Jump into past lives with historic photos, original oil paintings, and personal diaries.
Estes Park Riverwalk
Get a true sense of the Estes Park spirit on the Estes Park Riverwalk. Wander beside the bubbling Big Thompson & Fall Rivers as you pass some of the best shops and restaurants in Downtown Estes Park. On your walk, take peaceful stops at plazas filled with plants, bronze sculptures, and water features.
Combine your time in nature with some retail therapy. Pick up quality leather goods at low prices at Thirty Below Leather. Or browse the eclectic choice of souvenirs at Wild Horse Gift Shop. The local favorite is the adorable aluminum animals made from recycled materials.
Start your day with a caffeine fix at Kind Coffee. The coffee shop serves organic roasts, which you can sip on the outdoor seating by the river.
There are also some lovely local restaurants based along the Este Park Riverwalk. Grab an Italian feast in a riverside cottage at Mamma Rose’s Restaurant, or get margaritas and tacos at the colorful Casa Grande Mexican.
Rock Cut Brewing Company
Quench your thirst at the Rock Cut Brewing Company. Located at the base of Prospect Mountain, this craft brewery and taproom spins up some seriously good brews here and won a bronze medal at the 2022 Great American Beer Festival.
Sit on a patio by the Big Thompson River and enjoy vast views of Lumpy Ridge and the Continental Divide. Rock Cut Brewing Company offers endless choices for beer-loving locals and tourists. From IPAs to Wild Ales, you’re bound to find your new favorite pint here!
Overwhelmed by options? Order a tasting platter with a selection from the state-of-the-art seven-barrel system. Sip your choices alongside the mouth-watering smells of the local food trucks.
Knoll-Willows Open Space
Escape to the solitude of Knoll-Willows Open Space. This 20-acre conservation area has wetlands, mountain views, and historic sites. Bikes and pets aren’t allowed, but there are some lovely hiking trails for exploring the area.
Stroll meandering paths and cross wooden bridges as you enjoy panoramic views of Lake Estes, Longs Peak, and Colorado’s Front Range Mountains. Elk and bear often graze in the areas surrounding Knoll-Willows Open Space.
Explore eerie sites like the Birch Ruins. The stone bungalow was destroyed in a fire in 1907. From here, you can see Estes Park spread out below.
Shortly after, the Birch Cabin was built in the Willows. It’s made with ponderosa pine logs and still has bookcases and a copper sink inside. Just a short walk from here, you’ll be able to spot the iconic Stanley Hotel.
Open Air Adventure Park
Open Air Adventure Park is one of the most fun attractions in Estes Park. The aerial adventure park is an ideal place for a family day out. With 32 different challenges, you can climb, zipline, and jump up to 21 feet into the air.
Test your nerves with aerial tightropes, swinging log steps, and zip lines. There’s a central platform in the middle, so you can go back and try out as many challenges as you dare. The whole time kids and adults alike will whizz through the air with the stunning Rocky Mountains as your backdrop.
If heights aren’t your thing, Open Air Adventure Park offers some great activities on the ground for the whole family. Take a dreamy sunset kayak tour across the lake. Ever tried axe throwing? Try it here for the first time with multiple outdoor lanes.
Kent Mountain Adventure Center
Get the ultimate mountain experience at the Kent Mountain Adventure Center. Knowledgeable guides help you to master new outdoor skills like snowshoeing, alpine climbing, and splitboarding.
There are endless options for hiking routes at Kent Mountain Adventure Center. Take the easy half-day hike to Estes Valley for some light rock scrambling and a Native American sacred site.
For more of a challenge, take the full-day Rocky Mountain National Park hike for impressive gorges and waterfalls. Adventurous spirits will have a fantastic time on an overnight backpacking and camping trip. Sleep under the stars in the glory of the Rocky Mountains.
The Estes Park Via Ferrata allows climbers with no experience to reach dizzying heights. Intense mental strength and outstanding views make this a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
If it’s given you a taste for climbing, there are plenty of courses to upgrade your skills with a qualified instructor. For even more adventure, why not camp out overnight on the side of a cliff?
Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ & Brew
The award-winning Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ & Brew has some of the best barbeque food in the country. The restaurant has over 25 years of experience producing succulent dishes. The owner and chef discovered the joy of cooking in his grandparents’ kitchen.
The trendy restaurant has a homey feel that’s perfect for refueling after your Estes Park adventures. The menu at Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ & Brew isn’t limited to smoky goodness. Choose from a selection of wholesome salads or try their delicious Southern-style fried catfish.
Pair it all with an excellent rotating line-up of draft beers. While you’re there, make sure you try their incredible secret sauce. It’s available to purchase so you can recreate your favorite dishes at home.
Coffee on the Rocks
Kickstart your day at the rustic-style Coffee on the Rocks. The cute cabin has outdoor seating next to a large duck pond. The cafe & coffee shop sells great coffee and seasonal dishes made from ingredients at the local farmer’s market.
As well as barista classics, Coffee on the Rocks serves plenty of specialty drinks. Try the coconut latte or cookies and cream frappe.
If you want to spice things up, enjoy classic treats like cold brew and Baileys and a cocktail inspired by American pie. On a sunny day, kick back in the outdoor rocking chairs, relax under an umbrella, or grab some snacks to feed the ducks.