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.
Table of Contents
- 23 Best Things to Do in Estes Park
- Outdoor Activities in Estes Park
- Family Friendly Activities in Estes Park
- Food & Drink in Estes Park
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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
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
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
📍 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.
Paddle, fish, or simply admire the views at this picturesque mountain lake
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.
Estes Park Museum
Appreciate local history at this small museum that’s full of character
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
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
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
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”
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
Trot through scenic valleys and forests in Rocky Mountain National Park
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.
Trek to gorgeous views both in and outside the National Park
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.
Splash down rapids on beautiful mountain rivers
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.
Kick up dirt on an ATV while taking in panoramic views
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.
Watch your golf ball soar at this high elevation course
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
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 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
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.
Take the kids on classic amusement park rides and attractions
📍 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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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