The Official Guide Book On What To Do And Where To Go™

Explore Rocky Mountain National Park from Estes Park

Estes Park has a 415-square-mile playground in its backyard. From scenic drives, picnics and sightseeing to hiking and adventuring, the Rocky Mountains beckon, so get up there!

Road Trips & Scenic Drives

If you enjoy sightseeing and love to road trip, make sure to enjoy these drives:

  • Drive the 48 miles from Estes Park to Grand Lake on Trail Ridge Road. The trip begins in the forests of aspen and ponderosa pine that give way to fir and spruce as you gain altitude. Use the pullouts to take in the expansive views. At about 11,500 feet the last wind-battered trees turn to alpine tundra.
  • From the Park’s north entrance, drive to the Alluvial Fan and witness how the stunning power of floodwaters have changed the landscape. In 1982, the Lawn Lake Flood unleashed millions of gallons of water that gouged a ravine along the Roaring Fork River. The 2013 flood changed the course of the river yet again.
  • Looking for a driving adventure? Fall River Road is a nine-mile drive on a one-way, gravel road that winds through a thick forest, past a stunning waterfall and then emerges above tree line within sight of the Alpine Visitor Center.

Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park

In the mood to lace up the hiking boots and hit the trail?

  • Hike to four stunning lakes in less than two miles at the Bear Lake trailhead. Pause at Bear Lake for the perfect picture and then hike a half mile to Nymph Lake with its lily pads. Next is Dream Lake, every photographer’s dream. At the end of the trail is Emerald Lake with its brilliant water and breathtaking view.
  • Alberta Falls is one of the most beautiful and accessible falls in the Park. From the Bear Lake trailhead, hike the connecting trail south to Glacier Gorge, and then travel through a gorgeous aspen forest along a steep gorge to Alberta Falls, one of the most photographed spots in the Park.
  • At the trailheads in Moraine Park take a hike to Cub Lake, a two and a half mile trek to a lake covered in lily pads. See the effects of the 2012 Fern Lake Fire on the far shore. Or, park a mile further at the Fern Lake trailhead, hike past the churning Pool to Fern Falls and finally Fern Lake nearly four miles distant.
  • Want to get a little wild? At the Wild Basin Trailhead 12.5 miles south of Estes Park, hike past Copeland Falls and then climb toward Calypso Cascades. Ouzel Falls makes a perfect destination for a picnic under the spray of the falls. Afterwards, the ambitious can head out to Ouzel Lake or Thunder Lake.

It’s lunch time. Where’s the best spot for a picnic and a relaxing stroll?

  • Endo Valley Picnic Area is large, well-shaded and along a river. From the Fall River Entrance Station it’s about a four mile drive.
  • South of Estes Park along Highway 7 near the Baldpate Inn, Lily Lake offers a relaxing spot along a calm lake with Longs Peak in the background. Take a walk on the wheelchair-accessible trail around the lake.
  • Abner Sprague built Sprague Lake for the guests of his lodge. The lodge is gone, but the lake remains, with gorgeous views of the mountains. Ducks beg for food at the picnic tables. Don’t give in to the temptation.

If you’re planning a trip to Estes Park and you want to explore Rocky Mountain National Park, be sure to keep our high altitude hints in mind, and don’t forget to stop by the visitor center for more information.

Tags: What to Do