Estes Park has all sorts of great attractions, and they’re not all inside Rocky Mountain National Park. Note that some of these attractions are seasonal (and they open/close on different dates each year due to weather) so be sure to check the relevant web sites to ensure they’re open during your stay.
NATIONAL PARK STUFF
Go Hiking – Obviously! Visit our best hikes page to read about the hand-selected favorites.
Visit the alpine – One of the coolest parts of Rocky Mountain National Park is the high alpine tundra along Trail Ridge Road, one of the highest paved roads in the USA. It’s only open in the summer (opening dates depend on snowpack — generally sometime in May to sometime in October), but that’s when the elk are up there. Be sure to visit the Alpine Visitor Center to learn about the mysterious tundra ecosystem.
When Trail Ridge first opens, you very likely may not see much during parts of your journey, as the road will be walled of on either side by six to ten feet of snow. If you’re inclined to get a little more off the beaten path, you can actually drive the old historic Fall River Road up (all dirt, open seasonally), and then come down Trail Ridge Road.
Road conditions for both can be found here. Hours for the visitor center are here.
Learn, Learn, Learn – The Park’s main visitor center, the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, is great place to learn about the park itself. Be sure to check out all the various park related activities, from guided hikes to talks on the ecology, biology or geology. The center is open year round. 1000 US-36, Estes Park, CO 80517. (970) 586-1206
Portraits, Family & Wedding Photos – The owners of several Wolf Dens happen to be two of Colorado’s top wedding and portrait photographers. They tend to book out family sessions and elopements on the week days and larger weddings on the weekends. Here are their sites, catering to a variety of budgets.
- Dreamtime Images Weddings – The owner of The Wolf began shooting weddings full time in 2006, after a career in the newspaper industry. He’s gone on to win 80 wedding and portrait awards in the years since, more than nearly anyone in Colorado. (970) 286-8351.
- Dreamtime Images Portraits – The portrait branch of Dreamtime Images. Portrait sessions last up to 2 hours and include a variety of fun, unknown and unique locations inside the National Park. (970) 286-8351.
- AamodtStudio – Run by professional rock climber and photographer Rannveig Aamodt, who also owns a Wolf Den on the side of Eagle Cliff Mountain in Estes Park. She has a unique vision deeply tied with nature. (970) 212-6475.
Do Water Sports – The Lake Estes Marina is a great place for fishing licenses, fishing supplies, snacks, drinks, volleyball, horseshoes, picnic areas, and more. You can rent paddle boats, SUP boards, kayaks, motor boats, bikes, surrey bicycles and more. 1770 Big Thompson Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517.(970) 586-201.
Ride a Bike Downhill – New Venture Cycling will drive you 25 miles to the tip top of the Continental Divide on Trail Ridge Road (one of the highest paved roads in the country) and then cut you loose with a bike so you can coast all the way back to town. Sumer only. 2050 Big Thompson Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517. (970) 231-2736.
Play Golf – Estes Park offers 9-hole and 18-hole courses, both within a minute or two from the center of downtown. Both courses are incredibly beautiful, offering incredible views of Longs Peak, Lumpy Ridge, and the entire panorama of the Continental Divide. There’s an awesome driving range at the 18-hole course with an incredible view straight into Longs Peak.
- The 18 hole course is located on Golf Course Dr. More details plus greens fees and reservations here. (970) 586-8146.
- The 9 hole course is at 690 Big Thompson Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517. More details plus greens fees here. (970) 586-8176.
Play Disc Golf – Estes Park has not one but two great disc golf courses, and about an hour away in Nederland is one of the most unique courses in Colorado:
- The YMCA of the Rockies has a great 18 hole disc golf course that winds its way through the woods surrounding the facility for a $10 fee.
- The Estes Park 9 hole golf course has a more “open air” disc golf course, which of course comes with fantastic views of the entire Estes Valley, Lumpy Ridge, Longs Peak, and more. $5.
- Last, and my favorite, is the Central City ghost town disc golf course. You literally golf your way through 18 holes in an abandoned mining town. The 1-hour drive is along the Highway 7 Scenic Byway, which is also gorgeous. Reservations required, prices vary.
Ride a Tram – The Aerial Tramway in the center of town sits Prospect Mountain, and you can take a tramway from downtown straight up. You’ll enjoy an incredible view of the Estes Park Valley and the entire continental divide. Open summers only. This is a really fun and super unique experience. 420 East Riverside Dr, Estes Park, CO 80517. (970) 475-4094.
Ride a Horse – There are a number of outfitters in Estes Park that are worth checking out. You can’t really go wrong, but here are our favorite two:
- Gateway Stables is right at the entrance to the National Park on Fall River Road. You leave here and ride horses directly into the park. Really great outfit, locally owned, and offering half and full day adventures. 4600 Fall River Rd, Estes Park, CO 80517. (970) 586-5269.
- Sombrero Ranches is another of Estes Park’s premiere outfitters, based on Highway 34 near the marina. Sombrero offers all sorts of horse trips into and around the National Park. Alternative locations inside the National Park so you can get deep into the woods. 1895 Big Thompson Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517. (970) 586-8155.
Go Rafting – Rapid Transit is THE local rafting outfit. Note that there are no rivers to raft in in town — rather, they organize trips to the Poudre about an hour and a half away, outside Fort Collins. Awesome adventure nonetheless. 161 Virginia Dr, Estes Park, CO 80517. (970) 577-7238.
Ride an ATV to a downed airplane – There are a couple of great outfitters in town offering ATV and Jeep tours. Here are our favorites.
- Estes Park ATV Rentals: The Air Force lost a T-33 military jet at 9,000 feet in the Estes Park backcountry, and these guys will throw you on an ATV and let you loose in the woods to go find it. Way fun afternoon guided adventure and highly recommended. 222 East Elkhorn Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517. (970) 577-7400.
- Wild Side Jeep Tours – Super fun jeep tours both on the paved roads of the National Park and into the dirt roads of the backcountry. You’ll see and learn a lot about local history, wildlife & ecology. Really fun trips, and they bring heaters for cold weather. 212 East Elkhorn Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517. (970) 586-8687.
Go Fun Parking – There are a ton of mini golf courses and fun parks in Estes, but these two stand out for variety and uniqueness.
- Fun City – Fun City may seem cheesy, but it’s actually a blast, especially for kids. There are bumper cars, go carts, mini golf, a giant slide, a bungee trampoline, gemstone panning, and giant water walking balls. A super fun late afternoon visit! 455 Prospect Village Drive, Estes Park, CO 80517. (970) 586-2828.
- Open Air Adventure Park – This is a pretty fun family activity if the kids have had too much hiking. Ropes course, axe throwing, and more on the edge of downtown. Also near mini golf and other fun parks for kids. A great way to let everyone burn off some steam. 490 Prospect Village Drive, Estes Park, CO 80517. (970) 586-3066.
Do Yoga – Estes Park Yoga is the go-to yoga studio in Estes Park, run by a great team with lots of interesting classes. Offers private sessions as well as drop in glasses all days but Saturday. 166 S St Vrain Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517. (970) 586-3254.
See Movies – The Historic Park Theater is a piece of history, towering over the heart of downtown Estes Park. If there’s a good movie playing there (or a fun show/band) make sure to stop in and experience a little bit of history. 130 Moraine Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517. (970) 586-8904.
Make Art – The Creativity Cabin is a pretty fun way to spend some time. They have a bunch of pre-made ceramic items like beer steins, coffee mugs and plates. You can bring your favorite craft brew and get busy. They’ll glaze it and ship it to you. 342 W Riverside Dr, Estes Park, CO 80517. (970) 591-2559.
Get Fit – Our local community center, the Estes Park Community Center is *really* good. A pool, hot tub, lazy river, fitness equipment, basketball, an indoor track, ping pong, personal trainers and so much more. Great year round, on rain and snow days or for variety. 660 Community Drive, Estes Park, CO 80517. (970) 586-8191.
Find Ghosts – The Stanley Hotel is a world famous haunted hotel with a historic whiskey bar offering a bigger selection than anywhere in the state. Fun night: do a flight of tasting whiskeys and then do one of the ghost tour. Super fun evening. Reservations required for the tour. 333 East Wonderview Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517. (970) 577-4000
Visit the YMCA – Our local YMCA of the Rockies has a ton of fun family-centered activities, from archery and a beginner climbing wall to horseback riding, baseball and roller skating. Swing by the Y web site to see some of the various activity guides. 2515 Tunnel Rd, Estes Park, CO 80517. (970) 586-3341.
Go Skiing – Estes Park is not a typical ski town, but we have great skiing here and nearby. The closest lift-accessible resort is Eldora Mountain, outside of Nederland, about a 55 minute drive. You can rent gear from the Estes Park Mountain Shop for much less than you’d pay on the mountain. Eldora is actually great because it’s orders of magnitude less crowded than the big resorts like Vail or Breckenridge.
We used to have an actual resort in Rocky Mountain National Park, but the lifts were dismantled in the 1980s and we now have the Hidden Valley recreation area, which offers sledding and backcountry skiing where you use randonee, splitboards or telemark skis to hike up, and then you ski down, thus “earning your turns.” For rentals or guide services, go here.
Go Snowshoeing – You can rent snowshoes from the Estes Park Mountain Shop and make a self-supported trip into the park on one of our recommended hiking trails. Alternatively, hire one of the town’s great guide outfitters to take you deep into the National Park.
Go Sledding – Hidden Valley inside the National Park builds a sled hill each winter for families. You an rent sleds from the Estes Park Mountain Shop.
Take an avalanche course – There are a number of fantastic opportunities each winter to learn avalanche safety in Estes Park. The backcountry in Rocky Mountain National Park is the perfect venue.
Learn to ice climb – Estes is a great place to learn to ice climb, and our local guiding companies know the best frozen water falls to teach you based on your skill level. Ice climbing is actually really fun, and super safe since you’ll have a rope above you the entire time. When you’re on “toprope,” if you fall off, you immediately fall onto the rope and don’t go anywhere at all.