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Estes Park, Colorado Travel Guide
Last Updated: Dec-01-2012, Hits: 3,643, Rating: 0, Reviews: 0, Votes: 0 Bookmark and Share
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Estes Park, Colorado Travel Guide Hotels and Lodging (87)
Restaurants (41)
Bars and Nightlife (13)
Attractions (37)
Services (11)
Maps (3)
Links (2)
Additional Articles (2)
Colorado Travel Forum (2)
Location: North America
Geography: Mountains, Forest
Vacation Type: Family, Adventure
Popularity: Touristy
Costs: Budget, Moderate
Attractions: Golfing, Scenery, Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Shopping, Spa & Wellness, Wineries, Rafting

Facts and Stats:
Population: 5,858
Land Area: 5.9 square miles
Elevation: 7,522 feet
Country Dialing Code: 1
Area Code: 970
Languages: English
Electricity: 110V
Currency: US Dollar
Time Zone: Mountain Standard Time (MST) - UTC-7
Current Time:

Estes Park is the gateway town closest to the eastern entrance of the Rocky Mountain National Park. Estes Park is a fun and quaint town to stay in while exploring beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park, with plenty of lodging, shopping and dining. It is also home to the Stanley Hotel, which is the elegant hotel Stephen King had in mind when he concocted his tale of terror, The Shining.

Estes Park lies along the Big Thompson River at an elevation of 7,522 feet. It is surrounded by the Roosevelt National Forest and is nestled at the base of the front range of the Rocky Mountains.

The Beaver Meadows entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park is located about 10 minutes west of Estes Park. Trail Ridge Road, or highway 34, runs from Estes Park to Grand lake through the Rocky Mountain National Park, and is the highest continuous highway in the U.S. peaking at 12,183 feet. The road runs above the tree line for 11 miles. Trail Ridge road spans 48 miles between Estes Park on the park's east side and Grand Lake on the west, crossing the continental divide. Trail Ridge Road is closed in the winter due to snow.

Brief History:
The area of Estes Park has been inhabited for at least 12,000 years. Archeological evidence suggests remnants from a Paleo-Indian group of people called the Clovis culture, or the Llano culture, have been found in the Rocky Mountain National Park. These people were the first known to cross the Bering Strait land bridge from Siberia to Alaska. There are also later findings from various Indian groups that would travel in the summer from the middle park region to south of Grand Lake. The trails they used to cross the Continental divide are still visible to this day.

In the 1800's, many adventurous types arrived from the east, making a living fur trapping, gold mining and ranching. One of them was a gold miner named Joel Estes, who "discovered" the valley on a hunting expedition with his son. He relocated his wife and 13 children to the area to raise cattle, but harsh winters forced him to move. The name Park after Estes means a valley or meadow. Though Joel Estes moved away, in the following years homesteaders and settlers staked their claims to the areas of what is now Estes Park in the following years, making a living from farming and ranching.

Today, Estes Park thrives from the large number of tourists coming to play in the natural wonders of Rocky Mountain National Park.

People and Culture:
Estes Park has an outdoorsy, relaxed vibe. It is a family friendly destination that receives a lot of tourists every summer, and the number of gift shops and lodging reflect that. The tourist draw is the staggering beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park, and they flock here to rock climb, bike, camp, fish, horseback ride, ice climb and snowshoe.

Wildlife viewing is also a huge draw to the park, and you will definitely see elk. With a little more effort, you might see bighorn sheep, moose, marmots, pikas, beaver, and mule deer, and peregrine falcons. Bears, bobcats, and mountain lions are also in the park, but rarely seen.

Estes Park is a popular wedding destination as well, and many of the lodging options provide wedding services.

Food and Nightlife:
There are a lot of dining options for such a small town, with a fair amount of variety for the cuisine type. The emphasis seems to be family friendly dining, there are a plethora of American style restaurants, both new and traditional, and a lot of pizza, fudge and ice cream shops.

Like most small towns, Estes Park doesn't have a ton of nightlife, but there are some good places along the river and the main drag. There are also a variety of performing arts, especially in the summer months. The drinking age in Estes Park is 21.

Money and Costs:
Most places in Estes Park are moderately priced, with a handful of more expensive places. Summer months will be more expensive, since that is when Estes Park visitor numbers are the highest. Tipping follows a 15-20% standard, and sales tax is 7.4%.

There are plenty of banks and ATMs available in town. Most establishments accept credit cards.

Getting there:
Estes Park is about an hour and a half from Denver International Airport. Shuttle service is available from the airport if you wish to go carless. Free Shuttle buses will take you get to Estes Park and into Rocky Mountain National Park. There are car rentals if you prefer to have one, and this is probably the most popular option. Once you have arrived in Estes Park, it is small and things are within walking distance if you do not have a car. If you do have a car, there is plenty of parking in town.

Estes Park gets 300 days of sunshine, on average per year. Summers are sunny and warm, but not hot, with cool nights. Winter is sunny and snowy, but with protection from the more severe storms from the Rocky Mountains. The weather does change a lot from day to day, though, so it is best to prepare yourself by dressing in layers. Below are the current conditions and weather forecast for Estes Park, Colorado.

The table below shows the average high and low temperatures, and precipitation.

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg High 40 41 46 52 60 71 79 78 69 58 47 40
Avg Low 19 19 24 29 38 48 55 53 45 35 26 19
Precipitation 0.57" 0.77" 2.11" 2.56" 3.26" 2.56" 2.45" 2.37" 1.78" 1.54" 1.03" 0.66"
Snowfall 3.8" 6.3" 8.6" 4.0" 0.5" 0.1" 0" 0" 0.5" 1.0" 3.7" 5.5"

Important Contacts:
  • Emergency - 911
  • Directory Assistance - 411
  • Rocky Mountain National Park - 970-586-1206
  • Trail Ridge Road Information (recording) - 970-586-1222
  • Recorded weather information - 970-586-5555
Tips & Additional Information:
  • Longs Peak is the highest point in the park at 14,259 feet.
  • RMNP attracts more than 3 million people per year.
  • There are no gas stations within the park, so make sure you fuel up in town.
  • The Aspen leaves begin to change at the higher elevations in early September, migrating to the lower elevations by late September/early Ocober.

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