If you haven’t yet guessed it, Colorado was one of my favorite states when I visited close to 30 of them this past summer during my road trip adventure through America. While I got my fill of amazing breweries and a thriving bike culture in the Napa Valley of Beer Fort Collins, visiting the town of Estes Park literally took my breath away.
It wasn’t just the high elevation that took my breath away, although it is 2,000 feet higher in elevation than “the mile-high city” of Denver. It was mostly the picturesque serenity that is just 90 minutes from Denver, the state’s capital and largest city. Truly vindictive of the Colorado culture, I found an old-fashioned, traditional Western vibe throughout with a modern twist. Restaurants serving game meats are right along with fine dining, contemporary places. Western ware stores sit beside trendy art galleries.
While the town has a wide variety of activities available, including fly fishing, kayaking and rafting, and indoor entertainment like shopping, museums, and movie theatres, for me, it was simply a serene, beautiful place to unwind and take a breath from a eventful trip.
Rocky Mountain National Park
The Rocky Mountain National Park calls Estes Park home, and the city is surrounded by it on three sides. This legendary park is reason enough to visit the town with intimidating views of 60 mountains towering 12,000 feet high. There is also more than 300 miles of hiking trails and plenty to do with opportunities to fish, camp, bike, and spot a plethora of wildlife.
Although I ended up not seeing a bear, which I eagerly anticipated, I did get to see a bright yellow hummingbird whose mesmerizing flight pattern could have kept me entertained for hours.
Where to Stay
Driving into town, I thought I was seeing Estes Park for the very first time. It turns out, I knew it all too well from Stephen King’s classic movie, The Shining. The historical Stanley Hotel was portrayed in the thriller and is still believed to be haunted since it opened in 1909. The hotel is also known for its beautiful architecture and Whiskey Bar inside, but clearly being haunted is going to steal the show. For guests that don’t quite want to spend the night, you can take a ghost tour of the hotel.
As tempting as sleeping in a hotel haunted by spirits from the past may be to some, my husband and I stayed at a gem of a place called Paradise on the River, home to RVs and cottages. There is no exaggeration in the name since we were literally stationed on the a peaceful river streaming through the mountains. The views were incredible, and the pictures by far do not do it justice. Grilling buffalo meat from a nearby butcher and drinking a growler filled with beer we picked up in Denver, made it a perfect night in Estes Park.