Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park and northern terminus of the Peak to Peak National Scenic Byway, is quite a contrast to the pristine nature that surrounds it. The small city has several hotels, restaurants, and shops to distract visitors from the natural beauty.
The majority of the shops and restaurants are located along Elkhorn Avenue.
There’s also Bond Park, which is a wide-open green space. A sculpture honors Enos A. Mills, the “Father of Rocky Mountain National Park”.
Along Moraine Avenue is the Park Theatre. It was built in 1913 and is the oldest operating movie theatre in the United States.
Estes Park Aerial Tramway takes visitors up the side of a mountain for incredible views of the town and surroundings. An adult ride costs US$12. We didn’t have a chance to ride up because it was closed for the season. The Fall River and Big Thompson River both meander through town, adding to the scenery. The Estes Park Riverwalk follows their paths.
The top attraction in Estes Park is the Stanley Hotel. This 1909 structure might be recognizable to book lovers as the Overlook Hotel from the Stephen King novel “The Shining”. King and his wife spent a night in Room 217 in 1974 as the only overnight guests in the hotel. The eerie silence and emptiness gave him the inspiration to write the novel. The hotel has a channel dedicated to the movie starring Jack Nicholson. The uncut version is played on a loop 24 hours a day.
Visitors can wander around the lobby and peer into the Music Room and MacGregor Room.
The hotel is said to be haunted with several reports of paranormal activity. Ghost tours and historic tours of the hotel can be reserved in advance on the official website.