7 Things To Do In Estes Park, Colorado

There are plenty of things to do in Estes Park Colorado. Estes Park is the most charming town just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park.

That’s what make is such an enticing place to stay if you’re traveling to see the mountains. Estes Park makes the perfect base camp whether you are going to summit Long’s Peak, going to visit Bear Lake, or hanging out in town while your family hikes. Did we mention the restaurant and brewery scene are perfect for recovering from a long hike or a day of shopping.

We couldn’t have picked a better place to stay and recharge.

1. Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park

The top of things to do in Estes Park Colorado is hike.

This might seem obvious, but the hiking is incredible. The most interesting thing I found about this area is that you have the mountains and desert hikes 5 minutes apart. We were not from anywhere near the same elevation as Estes Park, or Colorado in general, so we took it easy the first few days up there.

The first evening we walked around the town of Estes Park, then the next day we did an easy light hike to Dream Lake in the morning, and Bear Lake in the evening for sunset.

For the first portion of our trip, we focused on mountain hikes and the views were breathtaking. The alpine lakes were crystal clear, and the atmosphere was beyond peaceful. We went in September, so there were quite a few people hiking these trails.

There are a plethora of easy hikes in the park. Find one and get to moving!

Hiking to Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Dream Lake is an out and back trail that logs around 2 miles round trip.

This hike begins at the Bear Lake Trail head, which is located at the very end of Bear Lake Road. You will need a timed entry permit to enter this part of the park. You can get these on the National Park Government website.This 2 mile hike took us 55 minutes of moving time to complete.

Allow yourself some extra time at the lake to eat a snack and take in the beautiful views.

On this hike you will have the opportunity to pass a few different lakes.

The lakes on the way are called Nymph Lake and Emerald Lake. But the Dream Lake trail is the beginning of a chain of lakes all the way to the top of Rocky Mountain National Park. You can keep going if you want!

Just make sure you have lots of food and water.

Link to Dream Lake Strava Hike
Link to Dream Lake All Trails Hike

Hiking Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Bear lake should be classified as a walk rather than a hike.

It is one of the easiest hikes to do in Estes Park Colorado. This 0.7 mile loop walk around the lake is beautiful at sunset. If you arrive early you will have the opportunity to find a bench seat surrounding the lakes. This will give you a perfect view for sunset.

There are also plenty of places to sit on rocks and admire the beauty.

This hike will also require you to enter the Bear Lake Corridor, which you can only access through permit between certain hours. Check with the NPS website for more information.

Link to Bear Lake All Trails Hike

Hiking to Loch Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

The hike to Loch Vale Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park is more on the intermediate side than the other two hikes above.
The Loch hike via Glacier Gorge Trail is 5.4 miles out and back. This trail features 1,000 feet of elevation gain. You end up somewhere between 10,000 – 11,000 feet at the lake.

We started at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. This trailhead is, once again, located on the Bear Lake Corridor, which requires a timed entry permit. Even if you get a permit, from our experience, you would have to arrive around sunrise to get a parking spot. If you can’t find a spot, there is a shuttle bus that runs to Glacier Gorge Trailhead. Look for “Park & Ride” once you’re in the Bear Lake Corridor.

Rocky Mountain National Park Shuttle Map

Link to The Loch Strava Hike
Link to The Loch All Trails Hike

Toward end of our trip, we found a little desert hike that wasn’t technically part of the national park. This hike also had amazing views of the mountains with a change in terrain.
We thought it was cool to see more desert plants that we had never seen before.

Hiking Twin Owls and Lump Ridge Loop in Rocky Mountain National Park

The best thing about this hike? Although it is classified as Rocky Mountain National Park, it is not in the “proper” park. This is a place most people do not know about since it is not in through the proper gates of Rocky Mountain National Park.

It is 1.6 mile loop with 446 feet of elevation gain. Through the hike you get amazing views of the Rockies, including Long’s Peak, in the distance. This hike is somewhere in between easy and moderate.

The elevation changes are intense at times, but some of the trail is hidden in the trees.

Link to Twin Owls / Lumpy Ridge Strava Hike
Link to Twin Owls / Lumpy Ride All Trails Hike

2. Visiting Restaurants in Estes Park

The restaurants in the area were nothing short of delicious.

They weren’t too busy in September which made it easy to get in anywhere we wanted. We had a variety of very
casual cuisine and a few fancier dinners as well. The breakfast was something we looked
forward to every morning. Visiting coffee shops and breakfast cafes were one of the top things to do in Estes Park Colorado.

Don’t skip out on those, especially if you have a long hike ahead.

Breakfast In Estes Park

The Egg of Estes

The first breakfast in Estes Park we tried was The Egg of Estes.

This cafe featured great coffee, lattes, and any other breakfast drink you could wish for. They were very-well staffed and friendly, considering our visit was Fall of 2021, service was amazing.

We grabbed a coffee and some omelettes to get in our pre-hike fuel.

Mountain Home Cafe

The second, and our favorite, breakfast in Estes Park was Mountain Home Cafe.

This place was busy when we arrived and the wait continued to grow as we were there. If you want to try the cafe, you better get there early! We felt this place was more of a post-hike spot. This was a place where you could get pancakes, french toast, burritos, and any other breakfast you may want. We grabbed pancakes and huevos rancheros.

They were both deserving of 5 stars.

Mountain Home Cafe: Best Things to do in Estes Park Colorado
Breakfast at Mountain Home Cafe

Lunch & Dinner In Estes Park

Estes Park has tons of places for lunch and dinner.
The entire strip in the middle of town has all you need. You could be in the mood for burgers, pizza, Mexican, Italian, or just ice cream and still feel overwhelmed.

The first night we found an upscale restaurant called SEASONED.
It was an American Bistro that had amazing entrees and wine. After the first night we wanted more casual, hiker-friendly, places to eat after a long day.

The Grubsteak Restaurant has been my favorite every time I’ve come to Estes Park. The Bison Burger is 5 stars. We also tried Bob & Tony’s Pizza, which was great. The restaurant is tucked in the Estes Park Distilling Co. It deserves at least 4 stars. The Post Chicken was just okay, this is a restaurant near The Stanley hotel. Keep in mind you need cash to pay an entry fee here. Not sure the food is worth the entry fee. We gave it 2 stars, but the views are 5 stars.

Bob & Tony's Pizza: Best Things to do in Estes Park Colorado
Pizza at Bob & Tony’s Pizza

3. Visiting The Stanley Hotel

I am a huge Stephen King fan, though my wife is not.

So you know I had to stop by The Stanley hotel to nerd out. The hotel was beautiful, but had a very creepy vibe. Could this just be psychological?

It’s possible.

We did not have a guided tour, but we were still allowed to tour the hotel by ourselves.

There are trophies and items used in the film The Shining throughout the hotel. If you travel to the bottom of the hotel, there is a cafe there offers coffee and ice cream. Definitely worth the walk down the stairs!

If you are a Stephen King, or The Shining, fan this is definitely on your list of things to do in Estes Park Colorado!

The Stanley Hotel: Best Things to do in Estes Park Colorado
The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park

4. Exploring Lake Estes

Lake Estes sits right on the outskirts of the main part of the town.

It is beautiful and we recommend stopping by for a sunrise. You might even get lucky to catch elk next to the water. If you are interested in visiting during the day, they offer kayaks, paddle boards, and canoeing for rent.

5. Making Rocky Mountain National Park A Scenic Drive

If you are interested in turning Rocky Mountain National Park into a scenic drive, you are in luck.

Rocky Mountain National Park had a blacktop, well-kept, road traveling from the East end of the park (Estes Park) to the West end (Grand Lake). This road is known as “Trail Ridge Road“. Trail Ridge Road travels 43 miles from Estes Park to Grand Lake, with 11 miles of this being in the alpine zone.

The alpine zone is above the tree line where evergreens can’t grow.

If you make it to the apex of the road, you will find the Alpine Visitor Center. This features a few easy hikes, a cafe, and place to enjoy the view of the Alpine tundra.

You will need to check if Trail Ridge Road is open! The road goes to 14,000 feet, which means it could be snowing inches up there and nothing in Estes Park.

Alpine Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park

6. Shopping in Estes Park

The shopping in Estes Park was a fun activity.

So many shops in walking distance which is convenient and fun. We had lunch and spent an hour or two shopping afterward. Of course, we grabbed an ice cream cone as we walked the streets. The riverwalk is a great place to begin your shopping journey.

We highly recommend starting your walk here.

7. Trying Breweries or Wineries In Estes Park

Estes Park offers a range of wineries, breweries, and distilleries. We didn’t get to try all of them, but we loved the ones we tasted. This would be a great evening activity.

Some of the best we tried were:

  • Estes Park Brewery
  • Lumpy Ridge Brewery
  • Rock Cut Brewery
  • Snow Peaks Winery
Estes Park Brewery: Best Things to do in Estes Park Colorado
Estes Park Brewery Bottled Beer – Bear Lake

If you’re looking for a great place to visit Colorado- this, is it!

There are an abundance of things to do in Estes Park Colorado. Great places to eat and plenty to do keeping you busy for your whole trip. If you prefer to just relax and take in scenery this is a great place to visit for a calm sightseeing trip as well.

You will want to visit again after seeing Estes park the first time.