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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
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
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
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.
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.
We loved checking out the unique shops in this lovely mountain town.
We love looking for items to remember our trip. This book shop is adorable.
I’m ready to shop Christmas items anytime.
Check out this old movie theatre.
Estes Park is a cool place to get lost in.
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
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.
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.
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.
The room was pretty spacious compared to many rooms we’ve stayed in.
We had a microwave and a fridge.
As I said, plenty of room.
Where We Ate in Estes Park
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.
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…
On our first night, we stopped at Sugar Shack. Kristin tried the cotton candy. Yum!
They have plenty of goodies for your sweet tooth!
The following afternoon, we sampled ice cream from Haley’s. They make their own waffle cones in irons.
You can even watch the process through the storefront window.
Before we left the next morning, we stopped in for some taffy.
We enjoyed taffy for the remainder of our road trip.
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.