Mountain views from one of the best things to do in Estes Park, Colorado

23 Best Things to Do in Estes Park (in 2022)

The crisp mountain air and breathtaking scenery in Estes Park, Colorado make both new and returning visitors never want to leave. That, and the huge amount of fun things to do in Estes Park, providing entertainment, learning, and exploration to all types of travelers. 

I’m a Colorado local and can attest that Estes Park is absolutely one of the best mountain towns in the state. Its accessibility to metropolitan areas allows for quick day trips, but the hustle and bustle of the city feel worlds away. 

From Rocky Mountain National Park to historic places, local flavors, and hidden gems, you’re sure to fall in love with this mountain village.  

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23 Best Things to Do in Estes Park

👉 Need a place to stay? Bookmark my guide to where to stay in Estes Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Explore mountains, forests, and alpine lakes in one of the country’s most visited National Parks

The author with her husband in Dream Lake
My husband and I at Dream Lake, an iconic hike in RMNP

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 586-1206 | Website | Entrance: $30 Vehicle Day Pass, $80 Annual America The Beautiful Pass | 👉 Browse RMNP Tours on Viator

Estes Park is largely famed as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the best places to visit in Colorado. Entering the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center nearest town, you’ll discover abundant outdoor activities.

Winter activities include backcountry skiing and snowshoeing. Meanwhile, summer prompts the collection of camping permits, fishing, rock climbing, and of course, hiking. Trails range from short, paved paths to expert summits like Longs Peak, one of the most iconic 14ers in Colorado

If exploring in the summer, be sure to take the scenic drive along Trail Ridge Road, celebrated as one of the best Colorado road trips. You’ll travel through the National Park, over the Continental Divide, and end your journey in Grand Lake. It’s the state’s largest and deepest natural body of water, popular for boating, swimming, and other water activities.

👉 Pro Tip: Timed entry permits are required at RMNP through Oct. 11, 2022. Plan ahead and reserve your time slot in advance! 

The Stanley Hotel

Experience the history and hauntings at the hotel that inspired The Shining

The Stanley Hotel from the outside

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 577-4000 | Website 

Inspiring Steven King’s The Shining, The Stanley Hotel is allegedly haunted and stunningly beautiful. The Victorian-era architecture and decor transport guests to the historic hotel’s opening in 1909. There’s an air of luxury with exterior gardens, exquisite dining, and Colorado’s largest selection of fine whiskeys (more on that below).

Those seeking novel things to do in Estes Park will appreciate the displayed movie memorabilia. Ghost tours and psychic readings from resident medium, Madame Vera, are also available. Stay the night or simply tour the lobby and grounds. Either way, The Stanley Hotel is one of the best things to do in Estes Park, Colorado, and one of the most unique places to stay in Colorado.

Estes Park Aerial Tramway

Ride a scenic “free span” tramway built by a Colorado legend

A red cable car in Estes Park Aerial Tramway

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 475-4094 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 6 pm daily from May 28 – Sept. 6; 9 am – 6 pm Saturday & Sunday from Sept. 6-25 | Entrance: $16 adults, $14 seniors 60+, $10 ages 6-11, free under 6 

Since 1955, the Estes Park Aerial Tramway has transported over 3 million people to the top of Prospect Mountain which overlooks Estes Park, CO. It was built by Robert Heron who, while serving in World War II, was inspired by the European tramways’ “free span” design. With no towers supporting the wire cables between the top and bottom stations, visitors can expect a smooth and scenic ride. 

Interestingly, Heron then became a major influence in the United States’ ski industry. He built lifts across the country including those in Aspen, where you’ll find several of Colorado’s best ski resorts

Lake Estes

Paddle, fish, or simply admire the views at this picturesque mountain lake

A woman kayaking in Lake Estes
(photo: Kit Leong / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps 

If entering Estes Park, Colorado from the east, as most do when taking one of Denver’s most popular day trips, you’ll drive across the beautiful Lake Estes. It’s one of the best things to do in Estes Park during the summer months, as it’s the town’s prime location for water activities. Lake Estes Marina rents out everything from kayaks and paddle boards to pontoon boats and fishing gear. 

Those that prefer to stay on land can appreciate views from the Estes Lake Trail. It’s an easy 4-mile loop that accommodates both strollers and wheelchairs. The Estes Park Dog Park and Stanley Park Ball Field are another two locations from which to admire the picturesque mountain lake. 

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Estes Park Museum

Appreciate local history at this small museum that’s full of character

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 586-6256 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 4 pm Wednesday – Saturday, Closed Sunday – Tuesday | Entrance: free, donation suggested 

Though small, visitors will be surprised by the vast array of information available at the Estes Park Museum. Free to the public (though a small donation is suggested), the museum features exhibits that chronicle local history. It includes that of homesteaders, Rocky Mountain National Park, and The Shining. Chat with a local volunteer or take a tour to further appreciate this special Colorado destination. 

Downtown Estes Park

Discover community celebrations and more than 200 establishments in the heart of Estes Park, CO

Colorful establishments in Downtown Estes Park
(photo: Red Herring / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Estes Park Tours on Viator

Along Moraine and Elkhorn Ave., visitors can explore more than 200 retailers. These include boutiques, candy shoppes, art galleries, restaurants, and so much more. What’s especially charming about the downtown Estes Park area is that each of these attractions is independently owned. This means that the treasures you find will be unique to your visit. 

Elk are often seen wandering in the heart of Estes Park, Colorado, and it’s equally common to run into community events. Jazz festivals, street performers, and wine tastings add to the excitement. 

🛎️ Need a Hotel? Browse top-rated Estes Park hotels. On Booking.com, you’ll find luxury lodges, budget stays, and everything in between. 

Peak To Peak Scenic Byway

Take a beautiful drive dotted with hiking trails, ski runs, and charming mountain towns

Mountain view from a highway in Peak To Peak Scenic Byway

📍 Google Maps 

The Peak To Peak Scenic Byway runs from Estes Park, CO to the southern mountain town of Black Hawk. While the drive in itself is an adventure, there are plenty of worthwhile stops along the way. Considering fishing at Lily Lake or paddle boarding at Brainard Lake. 

Discover trails in Nederland and the Indian Peaks Wilderness, home to some of the best hikes near Boulder. In winter, ski or snowboard at Eldora Mountain, one of many ski resorts near Denver; or head to the indoor casinos in Central City and Black Hawk.   

Estes Park Memorial Observatory

Marvel at the twinkling universe and learn from passionate locals

Dark sky with bright star over the Estes Park Memorial Observatory
Dark skies in Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, CO

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 586-5668 | Website | Hours: 7 pm – 9:30 pm Friday – Monday, Closed Tuesday – Thursday | Entrance: free, donation suggested | 👉 Book a Night Photography Tour on Viator

Gaze at planets, galaxies, and exploding stars through the telescopes at the Estes Park Memorial Observatory. Run by passionate local volunteers, the observatory is set at a high elevation, allowing for optimal viewing on clear nights. 

Though free, a small donation is suggested to help fund science education scholarships. Be sure to reserve your tour prior to visiting, as you won’t want to miss one of the most unique things to do in Estes Park, CO. 

Macgregor Ranch Museum

Get a sense of Western hospitality at “Colorado’s finest homestead ranch”

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 586-3749 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 3 pm Monday – Saturday, Closed Sunday | Entrance: $10 per person

Established in 1873, the Macgregor Ranch Museum overviews the lives of three generations of Macgregors. They’re a homesteader family that helped spur the growth of Estes Park, and the museum sprawls across the ranch. 

Visitors are allowed to tour the root cellar, milking shed, and other buildings that served these pioneers’ lives. Along with the interactive experiences, the volunteers are helpful in explaining the local history.  

Outdoor Activities in Estes Park

Horseback Riding

Trot through scenic valleys and forests in Rocky Mountain National Park

The author on a Jackson Stables’ horseback tour
Me on one of Jackson Stables’ horseback tours through RMNP

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 586-3341 ext. 1440 | Website | Hours: 7:15 am – 6 pm daily | Entrance: Pricing varies by tour length and location

Horseback riding in Rocky Mountain National Park is a quintessential Colorado experience. For knowledgeable, friendly guides, look to those at Jackson Stables, where tours last 1-5 hours. On my horseback ride to Beaver Meadows, we trotted across valleys and clopped through beautiful aspen forests. Vast mountain views were visible along the way. Children’s pony rides are also available, as are hay rides that include a marshmallow roast around the campfire.

Hiking Trails

Trek to gorgeous views both in and outside the National Park

The author with her parents during their hike in Gem Lake trailhead
My parents and I at the Gem Lake trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park

📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hiking Tours on Viator

Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the best things to do in Colorado. But Estes Park offers gorgeous trails outside of the National Park, too. If you want to avoid the crowds, head to Hermit Park Open Space. Or, explore the backcountry trails in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, home to some of the best hiking trails in Colorado

Whitewater Rafting

Splash down rapids on beautiful mountain rivers

A group of people whitewater rafting in Clear Creek
(photo: Phillip Rubino / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 577-7238 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily through Sept. 5 | Entrance: Pricing varies by tour date, length, and location | 👉 Browse Nearby Rafting Tours on Viator

The Estes Park outfitters at Rapid Transit Rafting will transport and guide you through either a half or full-day trip. The half-day whitewater excursion floats down the Cache la Poudre River, an experience that ranks as one of the best things to do in Fort Collins. Full-day trips include a scenic drive along Trail Ridge Road, followed by a splashy ride down the Colorado River.

Motor Sports

Kick up dirt on an ATV while taking in panoramic views

A man enjoying off-roading in Idaho Springs

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 577-7400 | Website | Hours: 8 am – 7 pm daily | Entrance: Pricing varies by rental length and vehicle | 👉 Book a RMNP Jeep Tour on Viator

Estes Park ATV Rentals offers an exciting and fun way to experience Estes Park, Colorado. Unguided, renters can explore at their own pace, taking in mountain views along adventuresome 4×4 trails. Don’t worry if you’re unfamiliar with the area. Their friendly staff will show you how to use the GPS map system and will provide route recommendations to ensure you have a safe, enjoyable time. 

Golfing

Watch your golf ball soar at this high elevation course

View of a golf course in Estes Park

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 586-8146 | Website | Hours: 6 am – 8 pm daily | Entrance: Pricing varies by time, age, and residency 

Those who love golfing can’t miss the 18-hole Estes Park golf course. In the morning, it’s very likely that herds of elk will be bystanders as you swing. Note to adjust your game, as puts break towards Fish Creek, and interestingly, golf balls fly farther at higher elevations.

Estes Park Riverwalk

Enjoy a lovely morning stroll along a babbling brook with a coffee in hand

View from the Estes Park Riverwalk in Colorado

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 577-9900 | Website | 👉 Browse Estes Park Tours on Viator

Beginning at the Estes Park Visitors Center, the Riverwalk follows along the Fall River and Big Thompson River. It’s one of the best things to do in Estes Park during the morning hours when the town is quiet. 

Conveniently, the path also comes across two of the locals’ favorite coffee shops. Admire sculptures from the benches dotted along the path, and come afternoon, enjoy live music at the central plaza. 

Family Friendly Activities in Estes Park

Kent Mountain Adventure Center

Rock climb with a knowledgeable guide that specializes in youth education

The author climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park
Me climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 586-5990 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 4 pm Monday – Friday, 9 am – 12 pm Saturday, Closed Sunday

The Kent Mountain Adventure Center has been operating in Estes Park, Colorado for more than 32 years. Given their experience and 5-star ratings, you can trust that your family is in good hands. Their guides support athletes from beginners to experts. However, their Youth Climbing Programs are especially ideal for children interested in mountain sports. Backpacking, canyoneering, and ice climbing are other expeditions you can look to schedule. 

Open Air Adventure Park

Traverse over obstacles on aerial courses for all skill levels

A woman holding on a rope in Open Air Adventure Park

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 586-3066 | Website | Hours: 9:30 am – 6 pm Tuesday – Saturday, Closed Sunday & Monday | Entrance: $41 per person

With a friendly staff and attention to safety, the Open Air Adventure Park offers an exciting and challenging experience. The aerial course includes various obstacles. These include tightrope walking, suspension bridges, and other wobbly platforms to traverse. It’s one of the best things to do in Estes Park for children, helping any conquer a fear of heights in a highly positive environment. 

📚 Related Reading: Curious about other kid-friendly attractions nearby? Check out Laura’s comprehensive guide on Things to Do in Denver with Kids

Fun City

Take the kids on classic amusement park rides and attractions

A boy having fun on a trampoline in Fun City

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 586-2828 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 7 pm Monday, 10 am – 8 pm Tuesday – Sunday through Sept. 11; 10 am – 8 pm Saturday & Sunday through Sept. 25 | Entrance: Pricing varies by attraction

If you’re looking for family-friendly things to do in Estes Park, CO, head to Fun City, entertaining children since 1969. At this popular amusement park, kids can soar high on the bungee trampoline and fly down the giant rainbow slide. They can also enjoy bumper cars and bumper boats, and so much more. 

Estes Park Ride-A-Kart

Leave other families in the dust on this speedy race track 

People enjoying their day in Estes Park Ride-A-Kart

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 586-6495 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 7 pm daily from May 22 – Sept. 5 | Entrance: Pricing varies by attraction 

Estes Park Ride-A-Kart and its original dirt track were established in 1959, and today, the wheels keep turning. Only now, the track is paved and the go-kart engines roar louder and stronger, taking families on a thrilling ride. Classic and modern games can be found at the Cascade Arcade, and mini-golf and a miniature train are sure to keep the kids entertained.

Food & Drink in Estes Park

Snowy Peaks Winery

Sip wine in the sunshine — and keep the kids busy, too

Different kinds of wine lined on a table

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 586-2099 | Website | Hours: 12 pm – 6:30 pm daily

Delicious wine flights, charcuterie boards, and outdoor seating — what more could you want from a tasting room? Snowy Peaks Winery is one of the best things to do in Estes Park for the foodie crowd, and parents who need a break, too. The “No Whining Room” is full of toys and books, and kids get a juice tasting to be part of the fun! With affordable prices, you’ll likely be tempted to take a bottle (or two) home. 

Purple Mountain Taffy Company

Build a box of assorted taffy and caramel treats at this can’t-miss candy shoppe

Different color candies in Purple Mountain Taffy Company

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 586-3407 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5:30 pm daily

As you watch the taffy being pulled and stretched from the Purple Mountain Taffy Company window, you can’t help but stop in. And, of course, sample their confections. Salt water taffy and caramels are this candy shoppe’s specialty. Flavors like bing cherry vanilla, huckleberry, salted caramel, and caramel apple are sure to delight.

👉 Love Sweet Treats? Check out their other Estes Park shoppes including Laura’s Fine Candies, Hayley’s Homemade Ice Cream, and the Danish Cone Factory!

Bird & Jim 

Savor locally-sourced produce and meats at this rustic Estes Park restaurant

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 586-9832 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 9 pm Monday – Wednesday, 11 am – 9:30 pm Thursday – Saturday, 10:30 am – 9 pm Sunday

One of the top-rated restaurants in Estes Park, Colorado, Bird & Jim is known for its locally-sourced produce and meats. Frontier trout, buffalo burgers, and Colorado lamb t-bones are some of the hearty dishes on their menu. But vegetarians will be thrilled by their selection, too, with meals like stuffed eggplant and vegetable paella. Pair your dish with wine or a cocktail, but be sure to save room for dessert — the bread pudding is a must.

The Whiskey Bar at the Cascades Restaurant 

Choose from a massive whiskey selection in the ambiance of The Stanley Hotel

View from the inside of the The Whiskey Bar
(photo: Chad Claeyssen / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 577-4001 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 12 am daily

The Cascades Restaurant at The Stanley Hotel offers delicious meals, but the real draw for most visitors is The Whiskey Bar. Here, you’ll find the most expansive selection of whiskeys and single malt scotches in all of Colorado. Though drinks may be pricier than at other bars in Estes Park, the ambiance and incredible service make the ticket well-worth it. 

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With so many things to do in Estes Park, Colorado, it’s easy to make your trip into a long weekend getaway. Discover where to stay in Estes Park in my latest guide, and have a fantastic trip! 

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