Nestled in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, Estes Park is a world of outdoor thrills and gorgeous natural scenery in winter. You can experience the awe of Rocky Mountain National Park, a paradise for snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, and sledding; take a stroll downtown; savor local flavors and spirits; and unwind in a cozy cabin with a view. Keep reading to discover how winter in Estes Park will invigorate and relax you in equal parts.
Top outdoor adventures
With Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park’s backyard, it’s easy to experience winter wonders as a new world of outdoor adventures emerges with each layer of snow. Hit the trails with accessible snowshoeing routes. Strap on your snowshoes or crampons and venture into the park’s serene wilderness with popular day routes like Dream Lake, Upper Beaver Meadows, and Cub Lake. And more heart-pounding adventures await in this cold-weather destination too.
Ski and sled Hidden Valley
A former ski resort, Hidden Valley may have closed its lifts years ago, but its slopes are still open to sledding and tubing for those who want to take the plunge. Grab your sled rental from Estes Park Mountain Shop, bring the entire family if you’d like, and ride down one of America’s greatest sledding hills.
For the more ambitious and skilled skiers and riders, ascend to descend and explore Hidden Valley’s backcountry terrain. Trail Ridge Road cuts through the middle of the old ski area, leading you to an authentic backcountry experience. Whether you’re skinning or snowshoeing, the unplowed, vehicle-free road is the lifeline to the backcountry runs of your choice with beginner and intermediate terrain below and steeper options above.
Go beyond the backcountry basics and sign up for a backcountry ski excursion with Kent Mountain Adventure Center, which will help you find the best local terrain. When exploring the backcountry, remember to equip yourself with avalanche safety gear and check local conditions before heading out. And if you don’t feel comfortable adventuring on your own, hire one of several Estes Park’s local guides.
Scenic snowcat rides
See the Rocky Mountains like you’ve never seen them before when you embark on a distinctive experience with Estes Park Outfitters’ Mountain Journey, just minutes from town. Go off the grid with minimal effort as a snowcat whisks you away to a secluded mountain lodge to enjoy epic views and fireside drinks next to a wood-burning stove. It’s the ultimate way to immerse yourself in nature. Don’t want to leave? Book your stay in the cozy cabin—snowcat transportation included.
Breweries and restaurants for après adventures
Toast to a day on the mountain with a drink at one of Estes Park’s breweries, wineries, or distilleries. For those who enjoy craft beer and entertainment, a stop at Rock Cut Brewing Company for beer, weekly food trucks, bingo, and trivia is a must. Or check out live music at Lumpy Ridge Brewing’s first location in an old gas station on Route 7 or at its newest location downtown, inside a historic building that’s been renovated with local repurposed materials. Lumpy brews all its beers in Estes Park which means you can enjoy true local flavor.
Raise your spirits with a visit to two local distilleries, Estes Park Distilling and Elkins Distilling Co. And for a unique whiskey-tasting experience at the historic Stanley Hotel you can sample their curated collection of exclusive whiskey at The Vault. For the whiskey aficionado or the simply curious, the private tasting invites you to sample from single barrels and special bottles only found at the hotel—with most being one of less than 200 in existence.
Local restaurants range from casual eateries to upscale dining. For dinner, dig into a local favorite serving Colorado cuisine and seasonal dishes at Bird & Jim—named after two pioneering spirits from the late 1800s, Isabella Bird and Mountain Jim, who made Estes Park their home for adventure.
You can also enjoy a peaceful winter evening watching the snow fall as you savor a mouthwatering steak from the Twin Owls Steakhouse. Or cozy up to beautiful mountain views and classic American fare at Claire’s Restaurant and Bar. Grab the family for pizza at Poppy’s Pizza or enjoy brunch with friends at Brunch & Co. at the Stanley Hotel.
Shopping (and coffee) in a winter wonderland
Strolling the tree-lined streets of downtown Estes Park in winter is akin to walking through a picture-perfect snow globe as snow quietly falls and colorful storefronts beckon you inside to discover their treasures. Whether you want to window shop or hunt for a rare find, you’ll discover a vibrant hub of art galleries, charming boutiques, and flavorful provisions. From jewelry stores to outdoor gear and sweet treat stops, shopping in Estes Park has something for everyone.
When it’s time to refuel, you have your pick of 10 coffee shops to choose from—after all, a warm cup of joe and mountain views go hand in hand. Enjoy serene surroundings and a steaming brew at Coffee on the Rocks or round out a morning walk along the Riverwalk (a picturesque path that winds through town) with a stop at Kind Coffee where they pour feel-good coffee and their philanthropic efforts will leave you feeling good too. And for those who like to take a moment to slow down, sip, and shop at Inkwell & Brew which combines the art of pen-to-paper writing and coffee drinking, offering fountain pens, hard-pressed papers, and slow-brewed coffee.
Catch the Glow and more at these holiday events
There’s perhaps no other mountain town that celebrates the holidays like Estes Park. A case in point is its Catch the Glow extravaganza. The season kicks off with the Catch the Glow parade, an annual event taking place the day after Thanksgiving and part of a season of festivities that runs through New Year’s. The enchantment includes life-sized ornaments for picture-perfect moments, a holiday market, carolers, llamas, and more. Continue the winter festivities with the Wine and Chocolate Festival in February and in March, the Whiskey Warm Up and Frozen Dead Guy Days—a yearly cult classic celebrating the crypto-preservation of a Colorado legend.
Warm welcomes and lodging
Choose from Estes Park’s historic hotels, cozy cabins, and stylish mountain homes. Rest and rejuvenate with spa time at the Qi Lounge at Estes Park Resort, enjoy riverside relaxation at Estes Park Condos, or cozy up at Estes Park’s newest boutique hotel Trailborn. Warm up with rare whiskeys and fireside ghost stories with a stay at the historic Stanley Hotel. Or find classic mountain cabins and modern home rentals with Rocky Mountain Resorts or enjoy the best of both worlds at Aspen Winds on Fall River with the outdoors and downtown at your doorstep.