Colorado is known for its stunning scenery, and Estes Park is just the place to soak it all in. As the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, wilderness experiences are on the doorstep of Estes Park, as well as trails, lakes, and activities right within the town’s boundaries. This charming mountain town also offers its share of shopping, dining, and entertainment options, so there’s always a broad assortment of Estes Park things to do in Summer and Fall to add to the fun on your Estes Park vacation!
Stay & Play in Estes Park
Enjoy life right on the lake from one of our Estes Park cabin rentals. These luxury cabins are situated right along the shores of the picturesque Lake Estes, with its crystal-clear blue waters and rolling mountain backdrop. Our 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom cabins in Estes Park boast a spacious great room with vaulted ceilings, a full kitchen, and a comfortable living room complete with a grand stone fireplace. A loft area overlooking the great room adds a unique touch to these well-appointed homes. Enjoy additional perks such as a spacious deck complete with an outdoor fireplace and hot tub, as well as easy access to the many activities available on Lake Estes! The shopping and dining of Estes Park, as well as the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park are just a short drive away.
Must-See Estes Park Sights
Get the lay of the land from the Estes Park Aerial Tramway. These iconic red tramway cars have been operating in Estes Park since the 1950s, carrying visitors to the top of Prospect Mountain for stunning views. Enjoy a smooth ride to the top, where you’ll take in scenic views over Estes Park and the surrounding mountains!
To further explore Estes Park’s charming downtown, begin by strolling along the Riverwalk. Tucked just behind Estes Park’s main downtown thoroughfare, this paved path follows the contour and soothing sounds of the bubbling river, taking you past scenic views, shops, and restaurants. It’s not uncommon to spot elk right within Estes Park’s downtown, especially in the areas surrounding the Estes Park Visitor’s Center. Pause on one of the Riverwalk’s benches to soak it all in or stop in some of Estes Park’s best shops and restaurants that are located along the route!
If you’re up for a road trip, the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway offers some of the most breathtaking sights in the area. If driven in full, this route from Estes Park to Blackhawk takes approximately 1.5 hours without stopping, but you’ll want to leave time for plenty of stops along the way. The 55-mile route weaves its way through beautiful natural areas such as the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, and Rocky Mountain National Park. Scenic overlooks, hiking trails, and even opportunities for gold mining are all along the route, providing plenty of options for added activities that will keep the whole family entertained. Drive the entire route or simply meander until you’ve taken in your fill of epic Colorado views!
Top Estes Park Things to Do in Summer and Fall
Estes Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground, with mountains, waterways, and nearly limitless Summer outdoor sports and Estes Park fall activity access. Avid hikers will find a myriad of trails both in Estes Park as well as in the adjacent Rocky Mountain National Park. Home to 355 miles of trails, Rocky Mountain National Park offers literally miles to explore by foot. Whether hiking or driving through the park, wildlife viewing is another favorite pastime. Elk, bighorn sheep, and mule deer are just a few of the species you’ll see enjoying the park as their home. Whether you’re an avid hiker or you prefer an easier jaunt, trails of a variety of length and difficulty can be found throughout the park. Relatively flat trails that encircle scenic alpine lakes are great for family hikes and picnics, while you’ll also find challenging summits that boast panoramic views across forbidding terrain that will challenge even the fittest hikers. Fishing, horseback riding, and driving the scenic Peak to Peak Scenic Byway are just a few of the other memorable activities that can be enjoyed within Rocky Mountain National Park!
Lake Estes is also a top Estes Park attraction, both for enjoying beautiful scenery and for participating in outdoor activities. A paved path encircles the lake’s 4-mile shoreline, offering a peaceful place to enjoy a walk, jog, or bike along the waterfront. Trout fishing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, and boating are just a few of the ways to get out on the water. Gear can all be easily rented from the Lake Estes Marina, so it’s easy and convenient to enjoy long days on and around the lake!
Best Estes Park Restaurants
Home to small-town breweries and restaurants offering unique dishes made from local game meat, Estes Park is a great destination for foodies. Enjoy flavorful dishes and cold brews at some of these top Estes Park restaurants in this quintessential Colorado mountain town!
Start your morning off with the most important meal of the day at The Egg of Estes. This breakfast eatery prides itself on sourcing local ingredients as much as possible, resulting in fresh dishes that are perfect for fueling the start to your day. The comprehensive menu includes items such as omelets, benedicts, scrambles, skillets, sandwiches, salads, and items from the griddle. The portions here are generous, so you’ll feel full and energized to tackle the day ahead, whether that means adding some miles to the hiking shoes or browsing the shops of downtown. We suggest the Mediterranean frittata, topped with chicken, tomatoes, artichokes, and Swiss and parmesan cheese. For those who like starting out the day a bit sweeter, the apple cinnamon pancake is a real treat!
The Grubsteak is known for serving up hearty dishes that include wild game meats such as elk, buffalo, and yak. This laid-back eatery offers both indoor dining as well as an expansive outdoor patio. Start your meal off with an order of shrimp cigars before moving on to your main entrée. The burgers here are a favorite, cut thick and juicy with the option to choose your own meat – elk, yak, buffalo, or veggie. Sandwiches, salads, and more conventional entrees are also available for less adventurous eaters. Wash it all down with a cold one from the largest selection of Colorado microbrews in Estes Park!
Barbeque may not be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to Colorado dining, but Smokin’ Daves BBQ & Brew is a definite Estes Park favorite. This finger-licking good BBQ eatery began in Estes Park and now has six other locations in Colorado due to its popularity. Their barbecue sauces are all homemade and can even be purchased by the bottle to be enjoyed again at a later date. Choose among barbeque platters, sandwiches, and burgers at this laid-back eatery that boasts generous portions. The three-meat platter is a popular option, allowing diners to experience several dishes such as pulled pork, beef brisket, barbeque sausage, or pork ribs. It will be a challenge to save room for dessert, but you can always add an order to-go! Homestyle favorites such as pecan pie and homemade apple cobbler offer a sweet ending to your meal.
Where to Drink in Estes Park
Those who enjoy a cold brew will find plenty of options in Estes Park, which is home to several breweries. Estes Park Brewery, Rock Cut Brewing Company, and Lumpy Ridge Brewing Company all offer locally crafted brews. Estes Park Brewery offers a dozen handcrafted beers on tap, including favorites such as the aptly named Longs Peak Raspberry Wheat, Bear Lake Blueberry Wheat, and Estes Park Gold. If you’re not sure which you’d like best, head to the sampling area to decide! Beyond beer, Estes Park Brewery also offers delicious homemade root beer and a full menu.
Rock Cut Brewing Company is another worthy stop with great local brews. Although they don’t offer a full menu, there’s often a food truck onsite with bites to eat. Situated in Estes Park’s downtown, Rock Cut offers a convenient location for enjoying a brew after a day of shopping or an excursion in Rocky Mountain National Park. Grab a flight for 4 oz. tasters of their top five beers.
Wine connoisseurs should stop in Snowy Peaks Winery, where the wine is handcrafted from Colorado-grown grapes. Wine from other boutique wineries around Colorado as well as locally made gourmet foods are also available. Select handmade cheeses, chocolates, and unique jams and jellies to go along with your wine of choice! Check out the behind-the-scenes process on a winery tour or simply relax in the tasting room and enjoy mountain views with a glass in hand. The winery is family friendly and even offers a juice tasting room and playroom for the kids!
For a cool and refreshing cocktail, head to Ed’s Cantina & Grill, a casual local hangout. In addition to a full menu of Mexican dishes, Ed’s offers excellent margaritas. The avocado margarita is a clear favorite, with the perfect creamy texture. They also offer a margarita flight, so you can try several options while deciding which is your personal favorite!
Best Shopping in Estes Park
In downtown Estes Park, you’ll find everything from small boutiques offering locally crafted wares to quaint candy shops with sweet treats; it is particularly one of the best Estes Park things to do in Summer. For unique finds perfect for gift giving or discovering a personal treasure for yourself, stop in Mountain Blown Glass or Patterson Glassworks Studio & Gallery. Here you’ll find highly detailed treasures made from hand blown glass. Even if you don’t plan on making a purchase, the daily demonstrations of this craft by local artists are well worth a stop.
Satisfy your craving for a sweet treat from shops such as The Old Fashion Candy Store, Laura’s Fine Candies, or The Taffy Shop. Laura’s has been an Estes Park mainstay for over 50 years, handcrafting favorites such as fudge, salt water taffy, popcorn, and toffee. Their tantalizing treats are still made the old-fashioned way in small batches with authentic copper kettles and wooden paddles. The Taffy Shop has been serving Estes Park residents and visitors since 1935. Staying faithful to their tried-and-true process, the shop still uses a 74-year-old wrapping machine that can be seen in action on most mornings. Along with everyday favorites, special flavors of the day are chosen by the cook, so there’s always something new to try at The Taffy Shop. Sweet, fresh, and chewy, this taffy will fuel you along the trail or act as the perfect end-of-the-day treat. Favorite flavors include salted caramel with sea salt, pecan, lemon, peppermint, and cinnamon.
Estes Park Summer & Fall Activities
Summer days in Estes Park are ideal for hiking, with the greatest chance of trails being cleared of snow once the summer is in full swing. Hikes to alpine lakes are especially rewarding in summer when you can soak your feet in the cold water as a refreshing reward. Lake Estes is also alive with activity during summer, with plentiful water activities available.
Fall is an ideal time of year for wildlife viewing and viewing autumn foliage. This when the elk mating season, known as the rut, occurs. Herds of elk and bugling male calls can be seen and heard throughout Estes Park, without even having to head deeper into the wilderness! The grassy areas along the golf course as well as near the Visitor Center are ideal destinations in Estes Park to catch a glimpse of wildlife!
Also during fall months, aspens begin to turn to brilliant golden hues, contrasting beautifully with the surrounding pines. A drive down the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway is particularly stunning at this time of year, and one of the more popular Estes Park fall activities. Whether your Estes Park vacation falls during summer or autumn, the scenery is sure to be stunning and the activity options plentiful.
At Mountain Village at Lake Estes, we specialize in offering the best Estes Park accommodations. Contact our knowledgeable staff for more information about where to stay and what to do during your Estes Park vacation!