There's no more fitting segue from the relatively flat Front Range to the soaring Colorado Rocky Mountains than Estes Park — entering the quaint town is like being embraced by the Rockies.
Outdoor activities and the adjacent Rocky Mountain National Park are tops on the list of things to see and do, but like many Front Range towns, Estes Park is also home to more than 200 retail stores and a restaurant scene that rivals any mountain town in the state. In fact, since there are no commercial enterprises within the national park, many visitors flock to the town to satisfy their appetite. With its scenic riverwalk and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, Estes entices vacationers to linger as long they want.
Recreational opportunities abound in the vicinity. The soaring crags that surround the town are on the A-list for rock and ice climbers. Lake Estes offers tranquil boating, and mountain biking and horseback trails forge into the adjacent forests and meadows. While summer is certainly prime season, Estes Park is a wonderful winter respite for snow activities, soaking in a hot tub and watching the snowflakes gently fall. In autumn, aspens glow golden, and the whole town turns out to celebrate the Longs Peak Scottish-Irish Highland Festival the weekend after Labor Day each September.
The main draw is the town's exceptional backyard: Rocky Mountain National Park. The park is heavily visited in certain spots, and for good reason. Trail Ridge Road, a designated national scenic byway and the highest continuous roadway in America, takes visitors on a journey through an alpine wonderland. Wildlife can be seen in spades, especially the majestic elk that forage in verdant meadows and put on a spectacular show in fall when males seek mates by bugling into the crisp autumn air. Despite the popularity of such areas, the park is enormous. Solitude can be found any time of year, especially winter. Ask a park ranger for ideas, and they’ll be happy to guide you in the right direction.