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Climb High in the Rocky Mountains

Just a little over 15 minutes from town rises Rocky Mountain National Park, over 1,000 square kilometers of unforgettable mountain landscape, including 100 peaks that top 3,300 meters. Hike around lakes and gorges, through basins and waterfalls and up summits on a variety of trails. Drive Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuously paved road in the USA, which winds through the park’s rocky interior and reaches more than 3,600 meters. Recreation is spectacular here every season, with fishing, cycling and horseback riding popular pastimes in the warmer months and snowshoeing, sledding and cross-country skiing all the rage in winter. Before you leave, take a guided tour through the park with the Rocky Mountain Conservancy, learning about everything from alpine survival skills to elk habitats.


Explore Estes Park's Natural Beauty

Though you may be tempted to spend all of your time in the national park, the town itself teems with gorgeous natural environments. Head to Lake Estes, a reservoir off the Big Thompson River, and rent a kayak or canoe. Hang out on the wading beach, or look for elk, deer and bald eagles around the lake (there’s a bird sanctuary nearby). Two scenic drives showcase the area’s abundant peaks and forests. On the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, you’ll pass Lily Mountain and Twin Sisters as well as old gold mines and ghost towns. Inside the national park, Old Fall River Road lives up to its name; built in 1920, it was the park’s first road open to cars. A slow route up through the high country, this uphill-only road is a dizzying squeeze through forests, offering views of the Rocky Mountain environment you wouldn’t get otherwise. Just outside the park lies the YMCA of the Rockies, a recreation area designed to fully immerse you in mountain culture. Settle into a cabin, and then plan a day of Rocky Mountain-style fun, whether you’re into whitewater rafting and archery or yoga and campfires. 


Commune with Local Culture

If you’re traveling with children, a visit to Estes Park Memorial Observatory is in order. There, you’ll learn about everything in the sky above those magnificent mountain peaks. Take a look through the massive telescope and check out the site’s Sundial Project. Curiosity about the physical world is definitely rewarded in Estes Park, but if you’re into the paranormal, there’s a place for that, too. Head to the Stanley Hotel, a sprawling, turn-of-the-century resort made famous for inspiring Stephen King’s “The Shining.” In addition to enjoying incredible views of the national park, guests can embark on both historic and “Night Spirit” tours around the property. Leave the grandness of the Stanley behind and enjoy a stroll along downtown’s Riverwalk for shopping, dining and art-hopping at more than 200 stores, restaurants and galleries nestled on charming Elkhorn and Moraine avenues.

Fun Fact

Serene and foggy day at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
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Rocky Mountain National Park is the fourth most-visited national park in the USA.

Photo: Richard Hahn

Common sight in Estes Park – a herd of elk resting and coexisting with people
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Around 3,000 elk call Estes Park home.

Photo: Visit Estes Park

The charming and historic Stanley Hotel with views of the Rocky Mountains
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Stephen King’s “The Shining” was inspired by Estes Park's famous Stanley Hotel, where the site’s paranormal activity makes for a popular ghost tour.

Photo: The Stanley Hotel/Scott Dressel-Martin

Overlooking Estes Park in winter
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