Where to Stay in Estes Park
Discover the gateway to the Rocky Mountains with our guide to Estes Park.
Estes Park is the main base for exploration of Colorado's Rocky Mountains National Park. So, dust off all that climbing gear and ski equipment, and get a move on. What people forget – so single-minded in their excitement to tackle the Rockies – is that the town is an attraction unto itself. It lies in a valley surrounded by dramatic mountains, snow-capped for much of the year. Aerial tramways lift passengers straight from the valley floor to the peaks of the mountains, so that you can be snow-capped too.
The area is mostly visited for its outdoor activities, but you still need a place to rest your weary head at the day’s end. Of course, we’d recommend you stay at one of our luxury homes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t at least take a tour of the Stanley Hotel; the place that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining. Quaint shops and galleries skirt the central avenues in the town centre, with all manner of bars, cafés and bistros to keep you entertained in this trendy town. We at the Plum Guide have put together a guide of where to stay in Estes Park.
The Town Centre
We’ll start with the obvious choice when it comes to where to stay in Estes Park: the centre of the town. This is a lively hub where you'll find all of Estes Park's main attractions and things to do. It's packed with galleries and bars; it’s where you can rest your feet and knock back cocktails, forgetting about a hard day of rock climbing and hiking. Better go easy on those G&Ts, if you plan on doing the same tomorrow morning. Although… that’s a problem for tomorrow's you. ‘Another whiskey…on the rocks’. Get it? On the rocks... OK, so you might want to take a day off from all that nature stuff, to nurse your hangover. Still, it’ll be nice to get some air and wander around the town centre. Pop into the Images of the Rocky Mountain National Park gallery to feel as if you are there. It’s a great cheat for when you’re not feeling up for a long trek. Simply admire the works of art and photos of the national park. Another highlight is the Aspen and Evergreen Gallery, with its modern, intriguing works.
Pick up some candy for the kids (that’ll make up for not taking them to the park today) at the Taffy Shop and enjoy a meal at one of the myriad restaurants skirting the main street. With a swollen tummy, sit back and relax in Bond Park, which has great views of the mountains you’re too lazy to climb.
The Stanley Hotel
Perched on the northern end of the town centre lies the (in)famous Stanley Hotel. We don’t actually want you to lodge here, because we have a range of luxury accommodations that aren’t haunted, such as cosy Alces or the airy Number Theory. But if you're looking for a spooky experience when looking at where to stay in Estes Park, you can't go wrong with the Stanley Hotel. This supposedly haunted hotel inspired The Shining. Snap photos of its imposing façade and imagine the protagonist going crazy and slicing up his family, before freezing in the maze. Drop in for a meal in the elegant Cascades Restaurants or go to the Whiskey Bar to be served a few drinks by the ghosts of your past. Well, they employ living staff too. Enjoy the views of the pointy mountains that seem to surround and consume the hotel, like ghouls of nature.
This vast water basin makes for a stunning spot to rest your feet after a few days of hiking in the Rockies. There are plenty of water sports activities to try and rentals available around the reservoir, allowing you to take a kayak or go stand-up paddling (you’ll never be able to stand up, and that’s a challenge right there). Visit the Matthews-Reeser Bird Sanctuary or play a few rounds at the Lake Estes 9-Hole Golf Course at the western end of the lake.
Embark on a trail around the circumference of the lake, taking in the fresh mountain air and views of nature. On the route, drop in at the Estes Park Museum, the Estes Park Dog Park and the Estes Valley Recreation & Park District. Your kids will love the Estes Park Ride-A-Kart amusement centre on the eastern bank of the lake. It has mini-golf, go-karting and climbing frames. On the northern bank of the lake lies the Marina Pavilion, providing views of the boats.
Estes Park Aerial Tramway
Propping up the southern end of the town is the Estes Park Aerial Tramway. Stay in this area for easy access to this scary mode of transport, as well as a host of other attractions. Right beside the lower station stands the Fun City amusement park, which is a bit of a gloat for a name, but it is inwdeed pretty fun. Bump into your pals with the dodgems, battle one another inside big bubbles on the water and clamber up the ropes of the climbing frame. The park is right by the Open Air Amusement Park, which is an aerial obstacle course taking you high above the ground. Just make sure you don’t get confused between that and the aerial tramway, or you could be in for a heck of a fall.
The aerial tramway takes you way up high above the earth and is positively terrifying as modes of transport go. You’re in a little red cabin dangling from a thread. That aside, it’s pretty convenient and affordable, granting you stunning views of the valley and the city down below, as well as the encroaching mountains. Reach the observation deck at the summit of the Prospect Mountain for unforgettable views and sip coffee at the charming café.