Eat, Sleep, Play: Estes Park, Colorado

When it comes to the perfect place to enjoy the shoulder season in Colorado, the charming small town of Estes Park is where it’s at. From world-class leaf-peeping, to outdoor adventures big and small, to a very delicious and always-growing beer and booze scene, Estes Park is the place to be this fall, and we’ve got the scoop on where to eat, sleep, and play when visiting this inviting mountain town.


Start your morning off right in Estes with a big breakfast at the Mountain Home Café. This unassuming eatery is a favorite among locals and with delicious and hearty breakfast and lunch items that (almost all) fall in the $10-and-under price range, it’s easy to see why. For a post-hike or post-ride recharge, head to Ed’s Cantina and Grill. Fall is the perfect time to post up on Ed’s upstairs deck and breathe in the fresh mountain air while you devour one (or several) of the cantina’s many menu items. Ed’s is also serving up a happy hour menu from 3-5 pm every day which includes $2.5 tacos, $5 nachos, $3 draft beers, and $5 house margaritas. For a taste of the local craft beer, wine and spirits scene, you won’t have to venture far. Estes Park is home to three craft breweries, a winery and a handful of wine tasting rooms and bars, and two distilleries. For a beer and a burger, post up in the funky Estes Park Brewing Company dining room where you’ll find a handful of wheat beers and other house-brewed brews along with a menu loaded with comfort food dishes perfect for replenishing those calories you lost while playing in the nearby mountains. If sipping wine is more your style, head to Snowy Peaks Winery. Every Saturday in October, the winery is inviting wine aficionado’s into the winery itself to witness the wine-making process and watch the bottle process in real time. Aside from using all Colorado-grown grapes in their vast variety of tasty wines, Snowy Peaks also offers live music in the tasting room every Friday from 4-6 pm.  And if spirits are more your style, Estes Park recently gained a new locally-owned distillery, and tourists and locals alike are fans. The Elkins Distilling Co. opened near the waters of Lake Estes in 2015, and they’re making a corn-based whisky and serving it up in craft cocktails on the picturesque outdoor patio.

Accommodations at the cozy River Rock Cottages.
Accommodations at the cozy River Rock Cottages.


There isn’t a shortage of quaint cottage and cabins to stay in during your visit to Estes Park, but perhaps the most-well known place to lay your head, is the regal Stanley Hotel, which looms over the town of Estes Park from its mountain perch. If ghost stories don’t frighten you, then grab a room at the Stanley and experience the popular hotel’s historic charm. Nightly weekend rates begin in the high $200s, but the famed hotel also offers up fall weekday specials beginning at $239 per night. If you’re looking for a more “budget-friendly” option, check out the charming cottages that make up the River Rock Cottages located just a stone’s throw from the Stanley Hotel. The cottages are fully equipped with everything you need to have a weekend getaway and are perfect for couples, or groups of friends traveling in the same outdoorsy pack. Nightly rates for cottages that sleep up to four people begin at $145 per night.


Whether you’re looking for some serious adventure, or a leisurely outdoor experience, there’s a little something for everyone in and around the Estes Park city limits. Hiking, biking, and fly fishing are all perfect excursions for the fall season. If fly fishing is your idea of how to spend a crisp fall morning, then call up the super knowledgable guides at Kirks FlyShop and get out on the water. The Big Thompson River runs through Estes Park and is one of the top rivers to fly fish on in the state of Colorado. The guides at Kirk’s will get you set up with the best gear and and show you the best spots to catch the big one’s in the area. If hiking is more you’re style, you couldn’t have picked a better place to visit. Nearby Rocky Mountain National Park is full of amazing scenic trails where you’ll walk through veils of changing leaves and unbelievable natural beauty. Dream Lake and Gem Lake are the most popular hiking trails on the east side of the park, so aim to tackle those hikes during the week. But Estes Park is also filled with leisure activities, like biking and walking throughout the many miles of pedestrian trails that weave in and around town. Hop on one of the pedestrian paths, and explore the beauty, unique shops, and atmosphere in this charming Colorado mountain town.

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