When we made our first trip to Colorado, I had no idea I would fall in love with it as quickly as I did. We stayed in Estes Park our second night in Colorado and have been back dozens of times since. There’s something charming and beautiful about Estes Park, Colorado that you just can’t find anywhere else. Here are our favorite things to do in Estes Park that you can use for an Estes Park guide.
An Epic Estes Park Guide
Our Favorite Things to Do in Estes Park, Colorado
- Estes Park is such a beautiful place to fly fish. If you come during the rut for elk, you may even have an elk walk up the river near your fishing spot!
- If you’re new to fly fishing, you can take a guided fishing tour. They take you to the best fishing spots, both public and private, provide the gear, and teach you how to fly fish. We went with Kirk’s Fly Shop both times we went and have caught huge fish. I had only been fly fishing a handful of times before I went and we brought family who had never been before. You are GUARANTEED to catch a fish!
- They offer 4, 6, and 8 hour trips. On the 6 and 8 hour trips they pack a lunch for you to enjoy halfway through the day. It was a lovely experience and we would definitely recommend it.
- Check Groupon first as there are usually deals with Kirk’s or other outfitters on there!
2. Visit the Rocky Mountain National Park
- The entrance to the park is only a 5 minute drive from Estes Park and it’s TOTALLY worth it. You can expect scenic views, wildlife, and winding mountain roads.
- There are tons of beautiful hiking trails that you can explore if you’re more adventurous and you can also camp in the park, but you’ll need to pay for a nightly permit for that.
- Make sure you pack lots of water and take your time while you’re out walking. If you’re not used to the altitude, you may get altitude sickness and nobody wants that. Stay hydrated and go back down to lower ground if you start having a headache or feeling sick.
- If you’re planning on going to multiple national parks within 1 year, we recommend buying the yearly pass. It gives you unlimited access to any US national parks which is GREAT when you live 1 hour away from the park. If you plan on going to a national park more than 4 times in a year, then it will pay for itself.
3. Go Whitewater Rafting
- This is something we haven’t done in Estes Park yet, but we’ve heard great things about it. If you go in the summer, that’s definitely something you should look into. There are a number of rafting companies in the Estes Park area.
4. Go See the Stanley Hotel
- Have you ever seen the Shining? The Stanley Hotel was used as inspiration for the movie.
- They offer various tours through the hotel including a haunted tour at night. It’s definitely worth stopping to see if you’re a scary movie fan.
5. Look For Elk
- The elk walk right through the town of Estes Park, especially around dawn and dusk. Keep your eyes peeled to see some huge elk walk across the street in front of you.
- During the rut for elk (late fall) you can hear the males bugling and see huge herds of elk just outside of town. They like to hang out near the golf course, but be especially careful during this time of year. They’re more likely to be aggressive during this time, so be sure to keep your distance and appreciate them from afar.
Our Favorite Restaurants and Bars in Estes Park, Colorado
1. The Barrel
- This is one of our favorite places to get a drink. They have a huge outdoor beer garden where you can sit and order native Colorado beer, ciders, and wine. Their drink menu is HUMONGOUS and super delicious!
- You can also get some delicious food here while you sit outside and enjoy the fresh mountain air.
- At night time, they have bands playing and little fires going to keep you nice and cozy.
- This is my go to sit down restaurant in Estes Park!
- They have incredible and humongous nachos that make my mouth water just thinking about them.
- They have your typical pub food of burgers, salads, nachos, etc. We haven’t had a single thing that wasn’t delicious.
- You can get elk burgers here too which is usually high on Colorado food bucket lists.
- They make their drinks delicious and really strong! I recently got their sangria, which was delicious but combined with the high altitude was my only drink for the night.
- They also have an outdoor seating area when it’s warm out!
3. Chicago’s Best– Pizza, Sandwiches, and more
- I love pizza and this place is absolutely delicious. I make sure I stop here for lunch every time I’m in Estes. They also have delicious sandwiches and calzones if you’re not crazy about pizza.
- They have a nice relaxing outdoor area where you can eat delicious food while enjoying the fresh mountain air.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Estes Park, Colorado
- If you are looking for a cheap place to stay that has all the rustic elements of Colorado lodging, check out Discovery lodge! We only paid $50 a night a couple years ago when we were passing through and were absolutely amazed at how beautiful it was.
- They have gorgeous rustic charm and a lake view with mountains behind it for some rooms.
- Discovery Lodge also has a hot tub you can soak in under the stars= AMAZING!
- We highly recommend this hotel.
- If you want to spend a little more to have a cabin all to yourself, you need to check out the Lazy R Cottages! They are INCREDIBLE!
- First, you’re only around 1-2 minutes from the park entrance and around 3-5 minutes from Estes Park by vehicle so it’s the perfect location!
- You get your own personal hot tub, which is worth the extra money all on its own!
- You’re right next to 36, but there is still tons of wildlife. We had an elk walk up to the other side of the fence when we were sitting in the hot tub to look at us. We also heard coyotes or some sort of pack dog yipping in the distance when we were in the hot tub at night. I LOVED it!
- You also get a kitchen, a fireplace, and a living room in the one we stayed in.
- It was absolutely beautiful with rustic charm and our room had an absolutely stunning view! We stayed in 17 A if you’re wondering which one to book.
- We got a heck of a deal here! They were running a weekday special where we got half off our second night here. I was sold!
- If you’re willing to spend a pretty penny to be fully immersed in nature, then this is a good option for you! We paid $200 a night for our romantic mountain getaway, but it was well worth the money.
- You get your own cabin at Estes Park Condos with a kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom. They have bigger cabins for multiple people, but we stayed in a 1 bed 1 bathroom when we were there.
- You can request a cabin that has a personal hot tub which is what we did. We LOVED sitting in the hot tub under a covered deck listening to the river and the elk bugling.
- You have a view of a beautiful river. From those of you who are from back East, this river is more like a creek, but it’s still beautiful. They also stock it with trout so if you want to try your luck at fishing, this is a good spot to do it!
- We really enjoyed our romantic weekend getaway at Estes Park Condos and would love to visit again someday soon.
Where to Park in Estes Park, Colorado
1. The Estes Park Public Library
- It’s free to park here and they have a bathroom!
- If you don’t mind walking a little bit, this is a good spot. However, if someone has trouble walking, this might not be the best place to park.
- You can shop the lower end of town, then walk up to where all the action is.
2. Big Horn Drive Parking
- This is also a great spot to park for free and most people don’t know about it. If the other parking spots are full, come park here. It’s centrally located in the middle of all the shops.
- If you’re coming from Rocky Mountain National Park, you’ll turn left at the first light onto Big Horn Drive and take the first left. The parking lot will be there on your right.
- If you’re coming from Loveland area, you’ll turn right at the third light onto Big Horn Drive. It may look like you’re either supposed to go straight or left at that light, but you can turn right. Just be careful of pedestrians crossing the street.
3. Other Places to Park
Those are our favorite places to park, but you can also check out this map to find other places to park in Estes Park, Colorado.
Those are all of our favorite things to do in Estes Park, Colorado. If you stay at any of these hotels or visit any of these restaurants and they ask how you heard about them, tell them Jess from Thrifty Traveler Tips sent you! Are there any cool things that I haven’t included in this Estes Park guide? Let us know!
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