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Visiting Estes Park in Colorado. What You Should Know.

This is one of the best places we've ever had the opportunity to visit.
Visiting Estes Park in Colorado. What You Should Know.

One of the most incredible and memorable experiences we’ve had since traveling full-time has been staying in Estes Park in Colorado.

There is so much to share about this lovely town that it would take several posts write about all of it! Plus we have over 1,000 photos alone to show all the amazing things you could see when you visit.

Today we’ll just give you a snapshot of what we experienced during our six week visit back in 2022.

It was like winning a jackpot!

Because we’re Hilton Vacation Club members (formerly Diamond Resorts International), we can get resorts for deep discounts when we book reservations in 60 days or less.

The challenge is you can’t always find availability at popular tourist destinations like Estes Park. Properties can be booked up for months in advance and so often it’s very difficult to get a reservation.

But in September of 2022, we hit the jackpot and were able to reserve a room at the Historic Crags Lodge for six weeks!

And we were able to do it during the perfect time because of the weather and the Elk rut and mating season.

What we experienced during our stay.

Visiting Estes Park is like living in one of those cheesy Hallmark Christmas shows, but a million times better.

This quaint and comfortable town is filled with it’s share of touristy shops and restaurants due to Rocky Mountain National Park, but it’s so much more than that!

The locals we met were super-friendly with a welcoming smile.

This can be difficult when you’re invaded by millions of tourists each year, but the people we really got to know became family in a short time. It felt like home and I truly miss seeing our friends.

The outdoor lifestyle is refreshing, invigorating, and peaceful.

Taking your time to walk around Lake Estes does so much to energize your soul! It’s a happy place where you can spot the bald eagles, watch herds of elk, gaze at the beautiful mountains, ride your mountain bikes, or just sit in solitude with a zen-like feeling.

The hiking trails are endless joys of wonder.

No matter if you’re a beginner or an expert, Estes Park in Colorado provides you with unlimited options for hiking — even without going into the national park.

We absolutely loved our time at Lily Lake and other trails. But hiking to the summit of Twin Sisters Peak was epic!!!

The wildlife is unlike any place I’ve been.

Besides the gobs of wild turkey, rabbits, chipmunks, and mule deer, we spent hours watching large herds of Elk do their thing.

Listening to the bulls bugle is so cool and they walk everywhere and anywhere in town, so you have to be careful as you drive or walk around. We also saw bighorn sheep and moose, but no bears. 😭

The local shops offer a variety of gifts and food.

If shopping is something you enjoy doing, you’ll discover all kinds of candy, food, apparel, art, and other gifts along main street.

Our two favorite places were Brownfields, who sells awesome stuff for great prices, and Kind Coffee for sugar-free lattes and a relaxing vibe.

If you want craft beer and live music, hang out at The Slab.

The traffic can be overwhelming at certain times.

Of course there are negatives to every popular destination spot. Visiting Estes Park is no different.

The weekends are always busy with visitors and traffic so you have to be patient — or know the secret routes and perfect time to get out and have fun. We learned how to avoid most of this. 😉

The Halloween event was fantastic.

We happened to be there at Halloween and it was awesome.

The town shut down all the traffic on main street to allow the children to trick or treat all the stores and there were plenty of adults dressed up as well. You could enjoy food, drinks, and festivities in a very safe place.

Our Recommendations

If you only have a short time to check out Estes Park, making decisions on what to see or experience is overwhelming. There is so much to explore!

In order to help you out, here’s a short list on what we recommend.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Obviously this is the biggest draw and for good reason. There is nothing quite like visiting this place. We spent a lot of time exploring and hiking here. And I hate to share this secret, but the best time to go is at 6 am in the morning. There’s less waiting to get in and more wildlife to see.

Once inside RMNP, we recommend checking out the entire drive on Bear Lake Road, even if you have to take the free shuttle.

Walking around Sprague Lake is a must, as is stopping by Sheep Lake on the other side of the park.

Regardless of what you do you can’t go wrong here.

Lake Estes Visitor Center

As already stated, this is a great area to walk around and enjoy nature. If you take the river walk access by the visitor center, you can easily stop in the art galleries, coffee shops, and restaurants along the path.

Lily Lake Loop

If possible, take the drive on this breathtaking route up into the mountains. Once you arrive at the trailhead there’s an easy path that goes around this small lake. It’s truly worth it.

Lumpy Ridge Trailhead and Gem Lake

This hike is more moderate but it has stunning views and rock formations. Even if you don’t walk it, the drive to the area is beautiful.

Brownfields

Buying hiking gear or travel momentos can be expensive in any touristy town, but this place has reasonable prices and excellent gifts for everyone. Plus the people there are super friendly and have great insights to the area.

Inkwell and Brew

As an artist and writer, this is a cool place to find fountain pens, ink, fine paper & other writing supplies with craft coffee drinks.

Smokin’ Daves BBQ

One of the best and most reasonable places to eat when visiting Estes Park. The food was amazing and they have a great selection of craft beers. Plus the vibe is fun and relaxed.

Sinclair Gas Station

We’re not recommending this for gas but for the burger place located inside of it. Their burgers kick ass and at only $6-$7, it’s a way better deal than most places on main street.

After hours of hiking, Donetta and I reached the summit of Twin Sisters Peak!

The Adventure and Memory of a Lifetime

Depending on what you like to do, there are so many other other places around the area to visit as well.

If you want to take it all in, we suggest planning on spending 7–10 days there if possible.

For us, this was probably the most memorable and happiest places in the United States we’ve visited — and we’ve been to Maui, San Diego, Bar Harbor, Mount Denali, and a whole more!

There is something special in Estes Park and we love it. ❤️

If we had to settle down and choose a place to live, this region of Colorado would be it. Though I doubt we could ever afford any property out there.

Even though it’s been over a year now since we visited, we always talk about it being the best memories yet. We hope you will go and visit if you haven’t already.

It really is incredible.