DescriptionEstes Park serves as the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park , and those not roughing it at a campground frequently seek accommodations here. Just as wildlife viewing opportunities attract tourists today, it was nature's bounty that first lured Native American tribes and Kit Carson and his group of trappers. The area was ultimately named for pioneer Joel Estes, who settled in the mountainous hamlet around 1860.
The town is a pleasant surprise; in addition to offering park enthusiasts the usual creature comforts along with a variety of outfitters and gear shops devoted to recreational pursuits, Estes Park has a charm all its own and is a worthy destination in itself. Elkhorn Avenue is the hub of shopping activity, with stores touting souvenirs, clothes, sports equipment, jewelry and crafts. A number of eateries as well as ice cream and candy stores entice visitors, who often stroll along the Estes Park Riverwalk after indulging in culinary delights—the path runs along the Big Thompson River and past an old-fashioned waterwheel through the town center.
The stately white Stanley Hotel is an impressive landmark, a gracious presence amid a backdrop of craggy mountain peaks. Figuring prominently in Estes Park's history, the owner of the property—who happened to invent the Stanley Steamer—transported his guests to the lodging via his renowned steam cars. Over the years, many elite guests have booked a room at the Stanley and savored the view from its veranda.
For Western-style fun appealing to all ages, head to the evening Cowboy Sing-Along occurring throughout the summer in Bond Park; phone the Estes Park Convention & Visitors Bureau for specific dates. If you're in town in early July, watch modern-day cowboys perform such feats as bronc riding, steer wrestling and barrel racing during the Rooftop Rodeo, a week-long extravaganza including a parade and antique show.
Performance Park, a band shell with great acoustics no doubt aided by its placement below rugged cliffs, entertains locals and visitors alike with its Wednesday and Thursday night summer concert series; the sounds of jazz, bluegrass and other genres waft through the air in this lovely mountain setting at 417 W. Elkhorn Ave.
If you're up for a scenic drive, you can take advantage of several stunningly beautiful routes that pass through town. US 34 becomes Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, linking Estes Park with the western gateway town of Granby. Reputed to be the highest continuous paved road in the nation, the route (closed during winter) should be traveled with caution—you'll see lush forest, vibrant summer wildflowers and windswept alpine tundra on this breathtaking mountain drive. The park's Old Fall River Road, also open in summer, provides several pull-offs affording such scenic panoramas as a canyon, waterfall and valley as well as opportunities to spot the park's varied wildlife.
Visitor InfoVisit Estes Park 500 Big Thompson Ave. ESTES PARK, CO 80517. Phone:(970)577-9900 or (800)443-7837
Things to SeeAerial Tramway
FishingTrout Haven Fishing Pond
Horseback RidingHi-Country Stables
White-water RaftingRapid Transit Rafting