36 Hours in Estes Park, Colorado: Moose, Mountains, and Room 217

The trip to Estes Park, Colorado was a last-minute whirlwind. Only two nights and one full day means that the time spent in Colorado was jam-packed with activities. Here are activities, dessert stops, and tips for your visit to Estes Park!

MUNCHIN HOUSE

Delicious ice cream, perfect for those hot summer days! We stopped at Munchin House twice because it was so delicious, but with four or five other ice cream options in the area, feel free to taste around for your favorite! I recommend the salted caramel oreo. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Spotted on the walk to Munchin House on our first night: A gorgeous sunset over the Rockies.

Rocky Mountain National Park

A trip to Estes Park isn’t complete without a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park. There are parking lots further down the mountains where you can park your car and shuttle to the entrance, or you can park at the entrance. The cost of a vehicle day pass is $20, while the weekly is $30. If you plan on spending more than one day exploring (and there certainly are enough hiking trails and paths for multiple excursions), go with the weekly! Hopefully, you are traveling with friends or family who can split the cost with you, making it a super affordable activity!

Bear Lake. Elevation: 9,475 ft.
Rocky Mountains. I’m in love.
On the Beirstadt Trail on a beautiful day!

Tip from a local: If you plan on parking at the entrance to the park, get there by or before 8 am! We got there around 8, and when we left a few hours later, the parking lot was packed. They will tell you to come back in a few hours if the parking lot is full, even if you have already paid for a day pass!

FUN CITY

A great place to spend a day or an afternoon for those with kids (or those who are kids at heart). Go-karts, a giant slide, bungee jumpers, mini golf… A perfect way to spend a day in the sun after being cooped up in a car, a plane or an RV!

Tip from a local: Wear sunscreen. Even if the sky is cloudy, at a higher elevation, the sun is closer and the UV rays are more powerful. Hats and sunglasses are aso recommended!

DONUT HAUS

Only open from 6am to 12pm, Donut Haus is definitely worth the stop if you want a delicious, unhealthy breakfast. Their selection is scrumptious, and their employees friendly. My fave? The shaved coconut and cream! It is right next to Fun City, so it’s a great place for a mid-morning sugar rush (not that Fun City won’t give you enough energy ;)).

Everybody deserves a donut!

Roosevelt National Park

Roosevelt National Park is a drive (maybe 45-60 minutes) compared to Rocky Mountain National Park, but there are upsides to making your way out of the Estes Park area. Both Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are crowded, full of fellow tourists and explorers. They both have so much to offer, but if you are looking for a reprieve, a place to go where you can truly connect with nature, Roosevelt National Park is it. It is peaceful, quiet, and there are plenty of trails for those who don’t their hike disturbed by as many people. Roosevelt National Park is where we experienced our first moose sighting!

Moose sighting. This was only one of the four or five that we saw in this area!
Because of spectators getting too close and blocking the road, it took a while for the moose to cross the road to its water source!
The watering hole, at the foot of gorgeous Rockies.

Tip from a local: Please be respectful and mindful of the moose and their needs. Give them a safe distance not only for your safety, but for the well-being of the animals. It took extra long for the moose to feel comfortable enough to cross the road to their water source, because spectators were not giving them a wide enough berth!

Read this: What is Ethical Travel?

The Stanley Hotel

We were lucky enough to stay at the Stanley Hotel. For those of you who aren’t huge nerds, the Stanley Hotel is the source of inspiration for Stephen King’s novel, The Shining. The level of excitement I reached when I found out I would be able to stay in and explore the Stanley is indescribable. It is a five minute drive from downtown Estes Park, so it is well-located for shopping and dining options. The Stanley does offer tours (free for hotel guests), but if you do not sign up prior to coming to town, you will miss out. Our trip was last minute, and so we had to be satisfied with wandering the hotel quietly on our own. The day tour is $23 and ages 5+. The nightly spirit tour is $28 and ages 10+. They run 90 minutes. I plan on returning and taking the night spirit tour!

The Stanley Hotel.
The grand entrance stairs.
The mirrors and the old portraits added to the spooky aura of the hotel, even in daylight.
The mirror where Stephen King saw the twin girls.
Room 217.

The Stanley Hotel costs a pretty penny to stay in, let alone tour. Be warned, if you aren’t a hotel guest, parking costs $10. It is definitely not a cheap site to see!

Tip from a local: When entering the parking lot, you’ll stop at a ticketing booth. If you say you are going to check in as a hotel guest, you will not have to pay for parking. I would not be comfortable doing this, but let your own moral compass be your guide. 

Estes Park is a beautiful destination. It has quaint shops and dining we did not have enough time to explore. I only did one short hike, and as stunning as the views were, it only made me want more. I will definitely be returning to Estes Park, so I can hike, shop, and wander to my heart’s content!

Have you been to Estes Park, or somewhere else in Colorado? I’d love to hear your experiences, tips and recommendations! Leave them in the comments below. Happy travels! 🙂

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4 Comments

  1. Tina

    Dang! I hiked in the Roosevelt National forest while you guys hung out and I saw no wild life although I did see Moose poop as identified by a local! 😃

  2. Sam

    Sounds like a wonderful adventure! Any experiences in The Stanley? For future trips i cannot sing the praises of Manitou Springs enough! Manitou Springs, CO is another gorgeous area with lots of rich history and events (annual coffin races), beautiful scenery (Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak), and has enough funky shops to satisfy everyones taste, they even have a vintage penny arcade!

    1. Naomi

      It was! We didn’t have any ghostly encounters – we actually stayed in the new building added across the street. The main hotel fills up so far in advance! I didn’t know you had been to so many places in Colorado. Thanks for the suggestions! 🙂

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