If you are wondering what to do in Estes Park, then you are in the right place! The charming town of Estes Park is known as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park and honestly, a great place to book a fun Colorado cabin to cozy up in while looking at the beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park.
Located about an hour and a half northwest of Denver, Estes Park feels like a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Don’t let the small size of the town fool you though, there are so many things to do in Estes Park, Colorado that you definitely won’t be bored.
From touring downtown Estes Park, riding the Estes Park aerial tramway, exploring Rocky Mountain National Park, and eating at some of the best restaurants in Estes Park, this town will have you coming back time and time again. I know we have!
So sit back, relax, and come along with us as we show you all of the things to do in Estes Park, CO.
Things to do in Estes Park, Colorado
Ride the Estes Park Aerial Tramway
Dating back to more than six decades ago, the Estes Park Aerial Tramway is an awesome treat and one of the things to do at Estes Park that we recommend to everyone.
Board the tramway at 420 East Riverside Drive and allow the tram to transport you high above the town. The tram takes passengers to the top of Prospect Mountain.
Along the way, visitors are treated to outstanding views of unobstructed views of the surrounding area. Once on top of the mountain, you have amazing view of the 14,259 foot high Longs Peak and the Continental Divide.
The tram runs from May to September and is relatively inexpensive to ride. Once at the top, there is a cafe and a few hiking trails as well.
Visit the Open Air Adventure Park
The Open Air Adventure Park is one of the Estes Park things to do for adrenaline junkies. This adventure park allows visitors to participate in over 30 different challenges ranging in difficulty from easy to hard.
The park activities are a great way to stay active while visiting. You can try your hand at one of the many exciting activities that they offer.
Maybe you have always wanted to do some tightrope walking or participate in an obstacle course? If so, then Open Air Adventure Park has you covered.
Of course, guest safety is of the utmost importance to the park. They provide extensive safety gear and there is always a staff member nearby to assist you if needed.
Explore Rocky Mountain National Park
Of course, one of the most popular things to do in Estes Park, Colorado is to explore Rocky Mountain National Park. Brimming with incredible scenery, diverse wildlife, and awesome hiking trails, we recommend reserving several days to explore Rocky Mountain National Park!
Encompassing 415 square miles, Rocky Mountain National Park boasts over 300 miles of hiking trails that are suited for all ages and ability levels.
The gorgeous mountain scenery makes the park a great place to spend the day or to enjoy some camping.
If you are new to hiking then we definitely recommend researching some hiking tips for beginners just to make sure that you are prepared for your hike!
Of course, there are loads of things to do inside the park as well. Pick one of the many trails that fit your ability level to go hiking on. Visit one of the many lakes and try your hand at catching a fish or two, or do a scenic horseback ride through the park.
Whatever you desire, Rocky Mountain National Park is the perfect place to enjoy some nature and probably catch a glimpse of some incredible wildlife.
Estes Park Memorial Observatory
The wide-open skies of Colorado make for some incredible stargazing, and there is no better place to do this than the Estes Park Memorial Observatory.
Located at 1500 Manford Avenue in Estes Park, the observatory is open to the public for private or group viewings. Another great thing about it, the observatory is absolutely free!
The observatory is staffed by volunteers that help to ensure that it is an educational experience for all.
We love that they work closely with K-12 schools in the area to help educate students about astronomy.
Check Out the Iconic Stanley Hotel
One of Estes Park’s most iconic sites has to be the Stanley Hotel. The hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining, and was later featured in The Shining mini-series, the Stanley Hotel is definitely one of the most interesting things to do in Estes Park, CO.
Not only is the hotel itself a grand beauty perched up on the hillside in Estes Park, but it is said to be haunted! Actually, it is featured as one of America’s most haunted hotels. Of course, this draws visitors from far and wide.
Even if you aren’t staying at the hotel, you can still visit and see this grand masterpiece. The hotel offers hotel tours and ghost tour several times daily.
In addition to these tours, there is the famous Stanley Steam Car Museum on site. The museum features exhibits of Stanley steam cars ranging from the 2-passenger models, 8-passenger wagons, and even a steam-powered fire engine.
Visit Enos Mills Cabin
Enos Mills is known to many as the “Father of Rocky Mountain National Park”. For you see, Enos is the one that petitioned Congress to preserve some of America’s most beautiful land as a “National Park”.
Enos was famous throughout the United States. Known for his photography and skills as a mountain guide, he called this area home since the 1880’s.
Today visitors can see his original homestead and cabin while visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. There is a small museum that is part of the National Registry of Historic Places that is devoted to Mills’ life.
The museum also showcases the lifestyle of the settlers that first called Colorado home.
Enjoy Lake Estes
Now given, when compared to the lakes in our great state of Texas, Estes Lake is more like a pond. LOL! Despite that, don’t turn your nose up to Lake Estes.
Lake Estes, which is actually a reservoir on the Big Thompson River, is about 185 acres of surface area. Containing about four miles of shoreline, Lake Estes is a great place to try your hand at some fishing or to take a walk around the Lake Estes Loop Trail.
If you want to get out on the water, then check out Lake Estes Marina. Lake Estes Marina has exactly what you need to enjoy a day out on the water. They rent everything from kayaks to pontoon boats.
Visit the Estes Park Museum
The Estes Park Museum is a great way to learn more about the history of Estes Park. This museum is very comprehensive, covering all of the history of the area.
This history includes the formation of the mountains, the settling of Estes Park, and the founding of Rocky Mountain National Park. It truly is all-encompassing and definitely one of the things to do in Estes Park, Colorado for history lovers.
Take a Photography Tour
Let’s face it, the terrain surrounding Estes Park is gorgeous! I don’t know about you, but we are all about capturing the beauty and essence of the places we visit so that we can remember it for years to come.
Well, a fabulous way to do this is to take a photography tour.
We took an evening photography tour through Rocky Mountain National Park. Not only was our guide super nice, but he was also so knowledgeable about the best photography spots in the area.
He took us to all of the great spots and even helped us to seek out some of the wildlife in the park. It was truly one of the highlights of our trip.
Take an Off-Road Tour
What is better than exploring the mountains with an off-road tour? Nothing!
There are so many ways that you can make this happen. Of course, you could rent a 4×4 for the day and take off on your own, but I wouldn’t recommend this unless you are experienced driving off-road vehicles.
You can also join one of the many tour companies that offer off-road tours throughout this area. There are tours for adrenaline junkies and tours for those who like a slower pace but still want to get off of the beaten path and see the countryside.
Downtown Estes Park-Shopping and Dining
You know that we always try to support local businesses. Well, lucky for us, this is extremely easy to do in downtown Estes Park as this area is lined with local businesses.
Boasting over 300 stores, Estes Park is a shoppers paradise. Here you can find numerous souvenir shops sporting Colorado t-shirts, hoodies, Christmas ornaments, and more.
In addition to all of the souvenir shops, there are also some great stores where you can buy handmade jewelry, home decor, outdoor gear, and more.
While visiting the downtown Estes Park area, you have to try some of the homemade candy and ice cream as well. We always buy a big container of homemade toffee from Laura’s and homemade ice cream from Hayley’s.
If you’re in the mood for saltwater taffy, then be sure that you visit The Taffy Shop. They have been making salt water taffy in Estes Park since 1935!
MacGregor Ranch Museum
Ranching has been a part of Colorado for generations. This cowboy lifestyle has also intrigued people for generations. If you are interested in learning more about this way of life, then you should definitely check out MacGregor Ranch Museum.
MacGregor Ranch Museum was built over 150 years ago. It is so well preserved that it gives visitors a great glimpse into the early days of ranching and settlements in the Colorado area.
The ranch offers guided tours of the museum and of the grounds during the summer months.
Play Golf at Estes Park Golf Course
Lucky for you golf lovers, Estes Park is home to some beautiful golf courses.
One noteworthy course is the 18-Hole Estes Park Golf Course. I mean, who wouldn’t love to play a round of golf on their perfectly manicured lawns with the gorgeous Rocky Mountains in the background?
Often times some of the local wildlife will join you on the course as well. We saw deer and elk on the course during our visit!
Enjoy the Estes Park Riverwalk
Let’s face it, the main street in downtown Estes Park can get crowded!! If you want to escape the crowds a little, then you’re in luck, the Riverwalk area through Estes Park is a great little escape.
The Falls River flows along Elkhorn Avenue and winds through Estes Park. This area is lined with trees, and perfectly manicured, making it a great place to explore. Not only do you get the beauty of nature, but many of the local shops have entrances to their businesses from the river.
Of course, you can also pop in to any of the bars, restaurants, or cafes that line this area as well. The total path is about a mile long.
When you reach Performance Park, check out the natural climbing wall behind the amphitheater. Also, be on the lookout for wildlife in this area. We captured some great pictures of elk here!
Beaver Meadows Visitor Center
The Beaver Meadows Visitor Center a great place to visit before you explore Rocky Mountain National Park. The building itself is such a beautiful sight. Built in Frank Lloyd Wright’s style, it fits perfectly into its surroundings.
Here you can view a short park orientation film and explore the many interactive maps, books, and activities that are on site.
Stepping outside of the visitor’s center, be sure to take in the gorgeous views that surround you including Longs Peak and the Eagle Cliff Mountain.
Drive the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway
The Peak to Peak Scenic Byway is an incredible 55-mile stretch of road that treats visitors to incredible views of the Continental Divide. Accessible from Boulder, Denver, and Fort Collins, this stretch of road is an amazing drive full of great tourist attractions.
This road winds through the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Rocky Mountain National Park. There are great spots to hike and explore all along this fabulous stretch of road.
Visit a Distillery
If you are in the mood for some liquor, then head to Elkins Distilling Co. Elkins Distilling distills and bottle their whisky right in the heart of Estes Park.
They have a storefront on Elkhorn Drive (the main street in Estes Park) where you can buy bottles of liquor and merchandise. For a truly great experience though, he just to the edge of town to their actual distillery.
Here you can buy a flight and do a tasting to know exactly what you like before buying. They also serve up fun cocktails in a laid back atmosphere.
We especially loved the Colorado Rye and the Winter Whisky. Both were delicious!!
Relax at Snowy Peaks Winery
You know that I never miss a chance to visit a winery, so of course, I had to go to Snowy Peaks during our time in Estes Park.
Snowy Peaks not only has amazing award-winning wines, but they also have delicious gourmet cheese boards featuring delicious cheese and wild game meats. Be sure to do a tasty while here to figure out exactly which of their awesome wines suit your taste.
After deciding, be sure to buy 3 bottles so you can get your tasting for free!
Catch a Film at the Park Theatre
The Park Theatre is a landmark in Estes Park. Constructed in 1913, the fabulous architecture is sure to get your attention.
We love the history of the place, especially that the Park Theatre is the oldest motion picture theatre in the United States!
Not only does the theatre still show movies, but they also rent it out for wedding and other special events. That’s pretty cool!
Go Horseback Riding
If you are still wondering what to do in Estes Park to be more adventurous, then consider going horseback riding. One of the best ways to truly immerse yourself in the beauty of this area is on horseback.
There are several outfitters around Estes Park that would love to take you out for a ride.
Rides vary from one-hour trail rides to all-day rides for those more adventurous. Of course, riders of all ages and ability levels are welcome to join as well.
We went on a two-hour ride with Sombrero Ranch and had a great time! Sombrero Ranch offers all sorts of theme rides including a steak dinner ride and a breakfast ride.
Best Restaurants in Estes Park
One of the things I love about traveling is getting to try out the local food scene. Estes Park is great for this. There are a variety of restaurants to choose from ranging in price and style of food.
Of course, we could go on and on about the food here, but to help narrow your choices, here are some of the best restaurants in Estes Park (in our humble opinion):
Mama Rose’s Restaurant
Situated right on the edge of the River Walk, Mama Rose’s is a great place to go for delicious Italian food. The atmosphere here is welcoming, and the food and wine are delicious.
The amazing smell of garlic, as you walk by, will have you coming inside for sure!
Wapiti Pub and Grill
Not only do I love the eclectic vibe of the Wapiti Pub and Grill, but I also love their outside dining area. The menu is diverse, ensuring that everyone will find something that they like and they serve up a large selection of beer from Colorado’s microbreweries.
Penelope’s Old Time Burgers
Located right in the heart of downtown Estes Park, Penelope’s is a staple of this community. You can get awesome burgers made of beef, elk, or buffalo here at Penelope’s. Pair that with their amazing fries and the old fashioned sodas they serve and you are in heaven!
Twin Owls Steakhouse
If you are in the mood for a good steak and a great atmosphere, head to the Twin Owls Steakhouse. Located in a 90-year old log cabin, combine the fireplaces with the hardwood floor and the rough walls and the atmosphere here is rustic and cozy.
They serve up incredible steaks, chops, wild game, and fresh seafood here.
The Waterfront Grill is a favorite with locals and visitors. Combine their casual dining style with the amazing views of the Rocky Mountains and this is a winner for sure.
The menu here changes seasonally to ensure guests always have the freshest of ingredients to sink their teeth into.
Things to do in Estes Park, CO-Final Thoughts
Estes Park is such a fabulous town tucked away at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park. As you can see, there are really so many great things to do in Estes Park, Colorado. Honestly, we have visited here numerous times and continue to return.
We absolutely love the vibe of this little community and hope we have given you some ideas so that you can fall in love with it too!
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About the Author
Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. While she is a professional educator by day, her passion for travel has her jet-setting all over the world during her free time.
Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through her informative writing style on her blog, That Texas Couple. Her practical tips and suggestions help make travel dreams a reality while immersing her readers in the history, culture, and food of a region. She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.