It’s no doubt that Colorado is FULL of beauty. I’ve been privileged to visit some of the most beautiful sights of Estes Park, CO and I’m so excited to share with you all how you can visit them too.
This really is the ultimate place to go for the adventure lovers! Estes Park is about an hour from Denver and is a great place to stay if you’re interested in having lots of hiking opportunities. While there may be some trails closed in the winter months, hiking and activities in Estes Park are good all year round.
Things to Do
If you plan on visiting Estes Park, then odds are you’ll be spending a good amount of your time hiking the beautiful trails. Especially in the summer time, the Rocky Mountain National Park is FULL of great hiking trails for beginners and intermediate hikers. The hikes I personally completed were anywhere between 4 to 6 miles and took about a half a day to complete. Depending of how many stops you take, you can usually complete two hikes a day. If you a big animal lover, you can always come in September to hike during Elk breeding season. If you come in the summer, you’ll get to enjoy all the cute lil chunky chipmunks running around (they will run right up to you too).
This is a 0.8 mile long loop with amazing views all around. This is a great place to go to for a nice lunch and to take amazing IG pictures! It’s more of a trail, not a hike and is predominately flat so hiking attire is not necessary for this location.
Lily Mountain Trailhead
This was a steep hike, so I’d recommend starting your day off with this hike and ending your day with an easier one. This hike was more challenging for those of us who are not used to the thin altitude, but the view was well worth it! While it’s not impossible to reach the very top in the winter, I recommend this hike for the summer. There are some steep rocks that I would not want to climb while covered in ice!
Hiking around Lily Lake is very simple and relaxing and would be a great spot for a lunch break with a view! There are benches available on the ground level trail that circles around the lake.
Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests
Ahhh honestly guys, I wish I remembered what the name of this trail was, but I don’t (plz don’t hate me). I know it was slightly outside of Estes Park and it overlooked Estes. This hike was also a rather steep hike and even for a runner, like myself, I was out of breath and struggling!! Just when you think you’ve reached the top, there is this crack between two boulders for you to climb through. Once you get through that, it opens up to this beautiful 360 degree view of Estes!
Gem Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
This is a fairly easy hike with an optional challenge. Hiking to the lake will be easy, but the climb up to the top (as pictured below) will require more confidence and skill.
Located in Rocky Mountain State Park on Bear Lake Trail
This is a great summer hike, but due to snow in the winter, is not accessible during winter months. My group really LOVED this hike. There were beautiful streams and small waterfalls along the way to the lake. You’ll even pass Dream Lake on your way up to Lake Haiyaha! I highly recommend packing bug spray and a lunch. The view was great, but the bugs.. not so great lol
Begins at Glacier Gorge Trailhead
There are a couple ways to reach this lake! My group took the easier route, which is through Bear Lake Trailhead.
A fun way to explore the Rockies is by horseback! There are several companies you could choose from, including the YMCA, but my group went with Sombrero Ranches Horses. This company has been around for YEARS! In fact, I did a trail ride with this company as a 12 year old on a vacation with my mom. It’s so cool to ride with a company with such a long history!
Another thing we loved about this company, was how well the horses were taken care of. All of them were fat and healthy which is pretty important to animal lovers, such as myself. The views on horseback were spectacular! It’s nice to be able to sit and relax while enjoying the views all around you.
This should definitely be on your bucket list!!! Y’all, I was soo scared to do it, but it was hands down one of my favorite things I’ve done. Of course I recommend doing this mid-summer for the obvious reason, that the water is FREEZING. We went with Rapid Transit Rafting company, which is considered a family friendly company. They were highly skilled and they won’t put your group in situations that will endanger you. The workers made my group feel safe, all while cracking us up the entire time. There are different “levels” you can sign up for ranging from easy to hard. The ride itself will last about two hours long. This was such a great time and I honestly can’t WAIT to do it again.
Another thrilling way to explore Estes Park, is via ATVs. My group went with Estes Park ATV Rentals, which is located just right in town. This location was pretty busy, even during COVID times, so I recommend making an online reservation. This is a self guided tour in which you can pick your own path and trails. The trails range from easy-hard, so even the inexperienced driver can enjoy riding around!
We can’t forget about winter adventures!!! Unfortunately, I was not able to attend this, but my boyfriend and his family loved it! This is a guided tour through the mountains. Professional photos are taken and offered for about $50 (they look badass so get them).
Paddle Boarding or Kayaking
If you’re interested on taking a scenic drive to a nearby town, I recommend checking out Grand Lake! It’s a beautiful little town right in the heart of the Rockies. Get a little adventurous and hop on a paddle board or a Kayak to get even more spectacular views. It was a bit chilly when my group went AND a dang storm rolled in right as we hopped on. We toughed it out though and it was well worth it. Pack your rain jacket because that breeze is COLD!
Tour the Stanley Hotel
While in Estes Park, this beautiful building will no doubt catch your eye. It absolutely beautiful and it’s built right into the mountain side! You can actually stay in this hotel, during your stay in Estes and let me tell you… the inside is EXTRAVAGANT! If room prices are outside of your price range, you can still tour the Stanley hotel for a small fee. I really recommend doing this on one of your rest days! It’s so beautiful and you won’t want to miss out on seeing this!
Walking Around Town
Estes Park has its own beautiful little town, with plenty of great food, ice cream shops and breweries. It’s nice to spend the day walking around and enjoying to shops that they have scattered around. Anywhere I visit, I always recommend talking to the locals! This is THEIR HOME!! Sure google told you the top things to do in *insert place here*, but google is going to lead you towards places that cost money. You DON’T have to spend tons of money to enjoy Estes Park. Spend your first day relaxing in town and speak with a couple locals on what theyyy recommend. I BET they will have some bomb ass food recommendations too!
Where to Stay
The Peaks at Mary Lakes are condos built right into the mountainside and overlooking Estes Park. This is the area we’ve stayed in each time we’ve been. After a long day of hiking, you can relax on your balcony and enjoy the amazing view. I’ve seen prices be as low as $100 a night and go up to $300 a night. This is a great area to stay in because it’s near town but it is also super close to some amazing hiking trails.
The Stanley Hotel is a 4 star hotel that is located right in Estes. Their prices range about $300 to $400 a night. It’s an extremely beautiful location!
Of course, you can always stay in one of the hotels in town or do an AirBnB. Take a look at https://www.visitestespark.com/lodging/ for some other great options for you all, if the ones I listed were not what you were looking for.
Please be sure to look at my “Amazon Must-Haves for Hiking” blog for items I recommend for your next hiking trip.
Honestly, Estes park has SO much to offer. If you find yourself bored in Estes, you just haven’t tried hard enough to explore your surroundings. You don’t have to go to Estes and spend a bunch of money on “adventures” to have fun. If you’re on a budget, there are plenty of free and cheap activities to do. This is a great vacation for any sized family and of any age. There truly is something for EVERYONE! I really recommend pre-planning some of your actives, prior to your trip, so that you get the most out of your vacation. During COVID times, Rocky Mountain State park was having visitors purchase time slot “parking passes” to reduce the amount of people in the park on any given day. Keep this in mind as you plan your trip and check their website for COVID or park related updates. Passes sold out quick, so don’t wait until the last minute to purchase them!
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! Be sure to follow me on IG to see what other adventures I’m up to, as well as getting more photos and videos of Estes Park. Like and leave a comment if you enjoyed reading this post!