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10 Things to do in Estes Park, CO for First Time Visitors

As a base camp, Estes Park is a favorite place to launch explorations into Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s been named “Best Mountain Town” in Travel Awards 2018 by Sunset Magazine due to its full range of outdoor activities, spectacular views, great restaurants, and cultural events. With three million visitors each year, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular in the United States and it is open every day of the year, around the clock, with activities for every season.

1. Enjoy A Get Acquainted Stroll

Estes Park is known for its scenic walking trails. The Downtown Riverwalk passes by places to eat, shop, and enjoy entertainment at the Riverwalk plazas. Following the trail along the Fall River toward the east leads to the Lake Estes Loop. This paved trail is paved and accessible on foot or bike. The trail is popular for its views of the lake and 365-degree views of the Estes Valley. Bikes are available to rent at the Estes Park Marina. Parking is available at the Estes Park Visitor Center for those who’d enjoy a stroll.

2. Take in the Wide View

Take a guided tour by jeep to see the incredible beauty of Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Professional guides provide informative excursions around town and into the countryside. Their jeeps offer fun access to little traveled backroads, national forest access roads, hidden waterfalls, historic Old West 1800s buildings time has nearly forgotten, high mountain lakes, exclusive photo spots, or a chauffeured brewery tour of Estes Park breweries. Many of these high-altitude destinations are best seen the first time with a knowledgeable guide and off-road capable vehicle.

3. Unleash Your Inner Monkey

The family-owned and operated Aerial Adventure Park is a 90-minute experience filled with above the ground challenges. Adventure seekers choose their own activities, selecting from 32 elements located at 10 and 21 feet above the ground. Crossing moving platforms, negotiating swinging log steps, navigating aerial tightropes, and crossing rope bridges are all part of the fun. With 840 feet of explorations available, course challengers can try any level from easy green elements to medium blue elements or take on the ultimate with the difficult black elements. There are minimum and requirements to play the self-guided course, a waiver to sign, and safety cables connected to all players, but staff members can help those who find they are really stuck.

4. Ride a Tram to the Top

Since 1955, the Estes Park Aerial Tramway has transported 3 million people to visit the summit of Prospect Mountain. The spectacular tramway is open every day from May to September. The tramway was built using the free span design more typical in Europe, which doesn’t require support towers. The steep terrain allows for an entirely free length of support wires between the bottom and top stations. Mr. Robert Heron was the designer and builder of the tramway at Estes Park, and it is still operated by the Heron family today.

5. Snow Sledding at Hidden Valley

From the beginning of winter until the snow disappears, Hidden Valley is open. It’s the only place within Rocky Mountain National Park where sledding is allowed; and it’s roped off and designated for it. Hidden Valley is located off Trail Ridge Road. It’s just below and to the west of Many Parks Curve. Throughout the winter and spring season, families come to slide down the hill on sleds, tubes, skis and snowboards without bindings. Created from a former ski hill, the park service has contoured the hillside for enhanced safety, though the old ski runs are off limits. It’s the perfect place for families with snow toys. On weekends, a warming hut is available and there are always heated restrooms. Sledders can bring their own equipment or rent outdoor gear in town.

6. Dine on Wild Game

Definitely for the adventurous, The Grubsteak occupies the space where the first Estes Park bowling alley was established in 1908. It’s now owned by Matt Garcia, who grew up in town. Locals and visitors come to try out the burgers made of North American Wapiti Elk, Yak, Buffalo, and farm-raised American Duck. The menu does include a range of classic American favorites, but there are also Wild Boar Scotch Eggs, Rocky Mountain Trout, Elk and Buffalo Sirloin, Wild Game Meatloaf, and Elk Shepherds Pie to savor the mountain flavors.

7. Take in a Bluegrass Jam

The Rock Inn was built to be a dance hall during the Big band Era. It opened in 1937, and it still features live music, a comfort food menu featuring All-Natural Colorado chicken and Gold Canyon Natural Angus Beef, original Colorado bands performing on the almost 80-year-old stage, dancing, two wood-burning stoves for toasty meals, and summertime patio views of the Continental Divide. Featuring acoustic music acts, Thursdays during the winter are devoted to open Bluegrass jam sessions. Whether pickin’ or listenin’, there’s plenty of fun.

8. Canoe Tour Lake Estes

Open through the season from May through early in October, the Lake Estes Marina store rents canoes, one-passenger kayaks, 10-passenger pontoon boats, paddle boats, and paddle boards for leisurely exploring the lake. The store is also a good source for snacks, beverages and sun products. The lake includes 185 acres to explore just east of Downtown. The views of the surrounding mountains are exceptional and hours on the water in the sunshine is complete relaxation.

9. Check Out the Annual Wool Market

In Estes Park, it’s not just about sheep. Alpacas, Goats, Paco Vicunas, Llamas, Rabbits, and Sheep all gather together so everyone can experience the wide variety of fleece and fiber products available. From the Handspun Yarn Contest, the workshops, demonstrations, food, shopping, and activities for everyone, this is a vibrant fair showcasing the local natural animal fiber industry. There’s a children’s tent, sheep shearing, herding dogs show, and much, much, more.

10. Go on as Private Photo Safari

While the majesty of the Estes Park area is undeniable, the wildlife of the area is also majestic, regardless of the season. Capturing images of Elk, moose, mule deer, and small mammals like Pika, marmots and coyotes is varied during the summer months. Spring is the best time to capture Big Horn Rams, Elk Mule Deer, various hawks, Magpies and squirrels. Great Horned Owls nest March through May. Winter is the time for Snowshoe Hares, Big Horn Sheep, Coyotes, Turkeys near town, and Bull Elks sparring. Fall is the time for the Elk and Moose Rut, with hundreds moving through the park.

Estes Park Web Cams offer live streams to enjoy the views while past and future visitors plan things to do in Estes Park. There are views of Longs Peak from Tahosa Valley, which is the highest summit in Rocky Mountain National Park with an altitude of 14,259 feet:

Benjamin Smith

Written by Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith is one of the managing editors of Moneyinc. Ben's been focusing on the auto and motorcycle sector since 2005. He's written over 1000 articles in the space and continues to learn about it each day. His favorite car is "any Bugatti" and he's a die hard Harley Davidson fan.

Read more posts by Benjamin Smith

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