Backyard Travel: Day Trip to Estes Park

Katelyn Mitchell

Estes Park (Photo courtesty of profnohair)

Estes Park is one heck of a town, and you now have the best day guide for making your way around the amazing views, haunted properties and even odd, hole in the wall places.

Estes Park was has been a traveler’s destination since the early 1900’s. With the views that exist in the valley, it comes to no surprise that people, even back then, wanted a piece.


The Stanley Hotel (Photo courtesy of Sean Hobson)

The entire town became famous worldwide, or at least a certain hotel in town did, when it was used as inspiration for a horror movie called “The Shining.” That’s right, the phenomenal horror movie with Jack Nicholson, who gets possessed and tried to kill his family, was based on the real life Stanley Hotel. The property, overlooking the valley, is absolutely beautiful, and the building only improves the view.

Besides a horror movie being based around the building, the hotel is actually believed to be haunted. With a long list of different tours to go on, you can see if you feel the spirits presence. For a price, you can even stay the night in one of the alleged haunted rooms.

Besides being scared for fun, you can enjoy a delicious meal at the hotel’s Cascade Restaurant. Be sure to stop by the gift shop as well to get your “Shining” memorabilia and souvenirs from the hotel.

Everybody’s got to eat. and there is one place in Estes Park that I highly recommend. Rock Inn Mountain Tavern is probably the best place in Estes Park for a decent price. The menu fits even the pickiest of eaters with everything from hamburgers to steak to fish. The food is even better paired with wine or beer and the live music that plays every night.

Of course, if you go to Estes Park, you have to walk the main street of Downtown. As it is a tourist town, there is a huge selection of Colorado and Estes Park gear for some pretty low prices. Downtown is also a place where the artists gather to sell their works, featuring of glass work, pottery, and even yard art. There’s plenty of ice cream and little restaurants to eat at while you’re shopping too.

There is one thing that you must do every time you visit Estes Park, and that is to get yourself some saltwater taffy. There are two stores that make mouth-watering candy right in their front shop window. The Taffy Shop and The Estes Park Taffy Company are both worth visiting, with each offering a huge amount of flavors to choose from. Plus, if you bring taffy home for your friends, you’ll get two thumbs up. Delicious is the only word to describe the little pieces of heaven.

Estes Park (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Finally, there is a rite of passage for any go-seers in Estes Park. Estes Park Aerial Tramway is a tramway car that takes you up a short, ten-minute ride to the top of Prospect Mountain. Besides all the photo-ops, the top of the mountain is covered in cute chipmunks that go crazy over peanuts. Not by chance, peanuts are sold by the bag in the gift shop. The cute little critters will come up and take the nuts right out of your hand. This not only fun for the kids, but even as grown adults, there is something about giving a peanut to a tiny animal that brings immense joy. Fair warning, the tramway is not open on windy days due to safety regulations, so make sure you check the weather before you go up!

Feeding the chipmunks (Katelyn Mitchell| Collegian)

Estes Park is a wonderful little town and has managed to only improve the older it gets. So, if you have never been before, take a day trip up next weekend. It’s only an hour drive from Fort Collins, and it’s a drive that never gets boring, since the entire trip is filled with nothing but incredible Colorado views. For those of you who have been, go again. Find new places to adventure through and make memories.

Collegian writer and Blogs Assistant Editor Katelyn Mitchell can be reached at or on Twitter at @mitch_kate_1. Leave a comment!!



*Addendum: Article has been changed to reflect the proper shooting location of the film “The Shining”. The film was mostly shot on set in England, despite being based on the building in Estes Park. The TV series was shot in the actual hotel.