Estes Park

Estes Park rests on the eastern side of Rocky Mountain National Park and offers an iconic Colorado mountain experience. Though it’s less than an hour’s drive from Fort Collins and Boulder, the town feels a world apart, with the high peaks of the park towering in the distance. If you’re looking to do some hiking from the town of Estes Park, the Twin Owls Loop and Lake Estes Trails are great options outside of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Most people come to Estes Park to visit the adjacent National Park, and most do it in summer. Mountaineers come to scale 14,255-foot Longs Peak, which ranks among the tougher fourteener climbs in Colorado. Others come to see Rocky Mountain’s many alpine lakes or to backpack up into the forests for some solitude. Some of our favorite trails in the park are Glacier Gorge, Loch Vale, and Lawn Lake trails. Good campsites are Morraine Park and, for backcountry, Spruce Lake, and Andrews Creek sites.

Rocky Mountain also boasts one of the most scenic drives in the state: Trail Ridge Road, a paved road that stretches high above timberline on the way to Grand Lake on the park’s west side, covers 48 miles between Estes Park and Grand Lake and tops out at 11,500 feet at its highest. Challenge yourself by riding the route on a bike — just remember that only road biking, not mountain biking, is permitted in the park.

In the fall, hordes of visitors come to see the changing of the aspens and the rutting of the park’s huge elk herd, when the males joust for the right to mate and fill the air with their eerie calls. Winter offers more solitude, as Trail Ridge Road closes and deep snow makes snowshoes or skis necessary on the trails. Winter is a great time to stay at the Stanley Hotel, which famously inspired author Stephen King to write his classic “The Shining”.

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