I recently asked our friend Erika to fill us in on all things Estes Park. I looked to her for Estes Park recommendations because she grew up in Estes Park. I therefore consider her an Estes Park authority! She did not disappoint. She sent me a wonderful list of Estes Park recommendations and I thought I would share the wealth (thank you Erika!). Estes Park, Colorado is considered the “Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.”
- Aerial Tramway (literally a red box that goes up and down Prospect Mountain). At the top there are amazing views and hungry chipmunks (they sell peanuts at the top which you can feed them). There’s picnic tables and rock croppings to explore so it’s a great place for a snack and to take in some nature. http://www.estestram.com/
- The View Restaurant at Crag’s Lodge. It was built in 1914 and maintains its mountainous charm, and yes, the chairs are handmade from when the hotel was built. Make a reservation for one of the balcony tables. The views are absolutely stunning and you are basically eating in the trees. The walnut crusted trout, brie chicken, and steaks are amazing. And who doesn’t love warm brie with berry couli as an appetizer with some wine or beer? Also, they have live music some nights. http://www.cragslodge.com/gallery.html
- Mary’s Lake Lodge. This hotel/restaurant/venue is rustic and charming and is open late. Which is hard to find in Estes. They usually have live music and a popular bar/grill. This is a wonderful late night spot with fun people in what seems like the middle of the wilderness. Definitely worth checking out. http://www.maryslakelodge.com/dining.htm
- Downtown strip (Elkhorn Ave) Now, if you want to do something fun go take an old time photo at one of the shops downtown. It’s a blast and 100 percent worth the keepsake if you haven’t done it before. There is a plethora of shops to wonder around and check out. I always love getting a caramel apple at the ice cream/fudge shops. There’s also a glassblowing place that is fun to check out on the far west side of the downtown strip. Also, check out the Stanley Hotel. (the hotel in which Stephen King based his book “the Shining“) http://www.stanleyhotel.com/
- If you feel like succumbing to your inner child definitely buy a $1.00 ticket to slide down the Rainbow slides at Fun City. Down the road a bit there is “Tiny Town Mini Golf” and it is by far the best mini golf course you will ever play. http://www.funcityofestes.com/
- Definitely stop by the Estes Park Brewery and do some beer tasting. http://www.epbrewery.com/
- Also in town it’s worth going to the Marina and renting a boat for an hour or two. Delightful! Or rent a few bikes and take an easy ride around Lake Estes, the entire loop will actually take you behind the dam and you can see the water being held and being released from the dam to the Big Thompson River. The dog park is right off Lake Estes and you can let your dog go swimming and socialize with the other pups. http://evrpd.com/marina/marina-info
- Other places to eat I would recommend would be “Nepal’s Cafe“, (on backside of downtown strip) they have the best lunch buffet with Naan, noodles, curry, potatoes, Masala, and Chai tea!
- Sweet Basilico, this is a little Italian restaurant that has an amazing dinner salad, pizza, and pasta for a very reasonable price. Tasty! (located by Fun City and the Tramway)
- If BBQ is what you’re looking for Dave’s BBQ has some delicious pulled pork and burgers. (by Tiny Town Mini Golf)
- If it’s a steakhouse you are looking for, Hunter’s Steakhouse is right by the Marina and has great game.
- Also, the best breakfast place is “The Sundeck” which is near Mini Golf. Their Chorizo, french toast, and strawberries and cream are delicious!
- As for the National Park you definitely want to check out, Sprague Lake, Bear Lake, Alberta Falls, and the Alluvial Fan. All are not challenging hikes and are gorgeous. Also, you definitely want to drive up Trail Ridge Road. It’s an exhilarating, scenic drive with many pull offs along the way for photos and a gift shop at the top. Bring a jacket! Even in the summer it can get chilly. You can look these up on any RMNP map.
- If you want an easy hike off the beaten path check out Lily Lake and St. Malo’s Church (they are not in the same place). http://www.scenicusa.net/090210.html. Both are on the same road passing Mary’s Lake Lodge. If you go to Lily Lake there is a wonderful picnic location. http://www.rmnp.com/RMNP-Areas-LilyLake.HTML (on this map there is a trail on the south side of the lake that bubbles out, take this trail instead of the one that runs right along the lake and you will find a picnic table tucked in the woods that’s quiet and peaceful)
- There are many hotels that are dog friendly and that have private hot tubs. Many of which are on Fall River Road.
Guess what we will be doing when the weather warms up–yes, finally taking a trip to discover, explore, and relish in the beauty of Estes Park, “Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.” Thank you so much Erika for the AWESOME recommendations!!