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Colorado is such a beautiful state, and Estes Park and the surrounding area has some of the most gorgeous scenery you’ll find anywhere. The last major destination of our 2020 road trip ended with a couple of days in this adorable town to check out Rocky Mountain National Park. We fell in love with the area, and we hope to make it back one day soon. If you haven’t been to this area, I certainly hope it’s on your list.

Estes Park is right outside the Beaver Meadows entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. This entrance is on the east side of the park and grants access to Trail Ridge Road, the main scenic thoroughfare from one side of the park to other. This road also takes you past the Alpine Visitor Center, the visitor center at the highest elevation of any visitor center in the United States.

We also had to get a Timed Entry Ticket for our July visit. This was relatively easy to get by following the instructions on the Rocky Mountain National Park website. You’ll want to see if this is required during the time you visit. This is in addition to the park pass that grants you access to the park. Use the website to be informed and plan ahead.

Our Itinerary For Estes Park

Day 1

Arrived in Estes Park in the mid-afternoon

Late lunch at Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ and Brew

Check-in to Murphy’s Resort/ Swim

Evening hike at Bear Lake

Evening walk in Estes Park

Day 2

Trail Ridge Road, both directions

Shopping in Estes Park

Evening drive to Cascade Lake area and returned to Bear Lake area (wildlife spotting)

Sing-a-long around the fire at the resort

What We Did in Estes Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Trail Ridge Road

The main road through Rocky Mountain National Park is Trail Ridge Road. During our visit, timed entry tickets were required, so we reserved the 9:00 a.m. slot that was offered that year. That meant we had a morning drive, and luckily, there were not many people entering the park, and we didn’t see a large amount of people inside the park until we drove back the opposite direction, and even then, it wasn’t what we’d call “crowded.”

The experience of Trail Ridge Road was certainly a highlight of the trip and a Rocky Mountain National Park must-do! To read more about our experience, click here.

Bear Lake

Bear Lake Rocky Mountain National Park

This was probably my favorite part of the park. The lake is gorgeous, and our visit was so peaceful. This area can get busy, and during peak times, may require a timed entry ticket. We decided to visit in the evening during our July visit, and no ticket was required. Check out the Rocky Mountain National Park website to see if a ticket is required during your visit.

Because we arrived during the evening, we easily found parking in the nearest lot. Sometimes, you may need to park farther out and take a shuttle to the trailhead. After we started the hike around the lake, we found our pace, as other hikers did, and soon we found ourselves alone on the trail only passing other hikers along the trail occasionally To read more about our experience, click here.

Shopping

We loved checking out the unique shops in this lovely mountain town.

Estes Park, Colorado

We love looking for items to remember our trip. This book shop is adorable.

Estes Park, Colorado

I’m ready to shop Christmas items anytime.

Estes Park, Colorado

Check out this old movie theatre.

Estes Park, Colorado

Estes Park is a cool place to get lost in.

Estes Park, Colorado

There are many other experiences in the area, like visiting the Stanley Hotel, the historic hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining. The hotel was a filming location for the miniseries, and several paranormal investigators have explored the hotel. You can reserve specific rooms for a ghostly stay. Somehow, I didn’t even take a picture of the exterior, though the hotel is right in town. We seemed to be distracted by the city of Estes Park and the mountains.

The aerial tramway also looks fun, but sadly, it was closed during our visit. Be sure to check out visitestespark.com to get the latest information for all things Estes Park.

Where We Stayed in Estes Park

Murphy's Resort Estes Park

We stayed in a little mountain resort on the east side of Estes Park. It was right at the edge of town. It turned out to be just what we needed. It’s not fancy, but it’s comfortable and has a pool and hot tub.

Murphy's Resort Estes Park

By the way, many of adventures seem to happen during moody clouds and/or rain. I guess we don’t let that stop us (unless there’s lightning), but out pictures aren’t always beautifully bright. It’s reality, though.

In the center of the resort, you’ll also find games like horseshoes, picnic shelters and grills, and a playground.

Murphy's Resort Estes Park

You can also join in the campfire sing-a-long in the evenings. Nothing like singing in the mountains, right? We had a great time with Cowboy Rodger–songs and laughs. The perfect ending to a perfect day.

Murphy's Resort Estes Park

The room was pretty spacious compared to many rooms we’ve stayed in.

Murphy's Resort Estes Park

We had a microwave and a fridge.

Murphy's Resort Estes Park

As I said, plenty of room.

Murphy's Resort Estes Park

Where We Ate in Estes Park

Smokin’ Daves BBQ & Brew

This place counts as a “local” place for us. Even though they have several locations in Colorado, this restaurant was new for Missouri folk. One menu item called our names–buffalo ribs in blackberry BBQ sauce. Since we’d never seen that on any menu, we knew we had to try it. To read more about our experience, click here.

Smokin' Dave's BBQ & Brew Estes Park

We actually didn’t eat at any other local places. I had leftovers that I ate the next day, and my travel companions settled for McDonald’s. Beyond that, we ate our snacks and tried treats in town. Speaking of treats…

Estes Park, Colorado

On our first night, we stopped at Sugar Shack. Kristin tried the cotton candy. Yum!

Estes Park, Colorado

They have plenty of goodies for your sweet tooth!

Estes Park, Colorado

The following afternoon, we sampled ice cream from Haley’s. They make their own waffle cones in irons.
Estes Park, ColoradoYou can even watch the process through the storefront window.

Estes Park, Colorado

Before we left the next morning, we stopped in for some taffy.

Estes Park, Colorado

We enjoyed taffy for the remainder of our road trip.

Estes Park, Colorado

Estes Park is one of our favorite places we’ve explored as a family, and we certainly hope to return one day. There is a little something for everyone, and the area is simply gorgeous. Estes Park is a wonderful family destination.

Estes Park, Colorado
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11 Comments

  1. I love driving all over Colorado and can’t believe I haven’t been here. Great post with lots of terrific info. Definitely adding to my list.

  2. I used to live in Colorado and I love Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. I need to bring my kids.

  3. Thanks for the itinerary! Excited to add Bear Lake to my list of places to visit – looks so peaceful!

  4. My son visited Estes Park in Colorado last year and loved it. This is a great guide on all the cool things to do in two days.

  5. I would love to spend a few days in Estes Park, Colorado. It is such a beautiful state!

  6. Cindy Moore Reply

    Perfect two day itinerary! I’ve visited several cities in Colorado but I haven’t been to Estes Park. I hope to visit one day!

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