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Getaway to Estes Park, Colorado: A perfect fall escape for leaf-peeping, wildlife and a little spook

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Nestled between the Rocky Mountains and the more urban sprawl of Boulder, Colorado, lies Estes Park, the entryway town to hours of hiking, exploring, and heart racing elevation. Although you can certainly adventure to your hearts content for days on end, a day trip is also completely viable if you are short on time. If you only have a day or two and are coming from the Boulder or Denver area, here is your perfect Fall escape blending outdoor nature, shopping, so many Elk causing wonderful traffic jams, art, live music, and great food.

Start your morning (preferably before 10am) in Lyons, Colorado, just north of Boulder on US36. As always while driving in Colorado, make sure you have the correct vehicle for the time of year and check CDOT daily. The roads are paved in and out of town and sedan friendly, but if you are planning to hike, an SUV is highly preferred in the Fall season to get through mud and rocks into the trails. Grab a delicious roast of coffee and some breakfast fuel before you day out in the mountains at The Stone Cup or Barking Dog. While you’re there, be sure to check out all the wonderful art and galleries in town!

Next, keep heading on US36 towards Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. If you only have a couple hours to hike, and the trail is open, check out the famous Kruger Rock hike. A moderate hike up to the top of the peak where you will find 14’ers, snow capped mountains. An exciting scramble up rocks at the top will bring extra gratitude for your efforts while you sit and take in the expansive scenery. If an uphill climb is not in your plans, there are hundreds of miles of flat (or steeper) hikes to choose from. Be sure to check for closures before you head out.

If you didn’t bring enough snacks and you’d like an early dinner by now, keep heading up on US36 into the town of Estes Park for some fuel and drinks.

Another few miles of beautiful winding roads and you’ll pass Lake Estes on your right. Take a stroll and see if you can spot the Bull Elks swimming about in the Fall. A

few more blocks in and you’ll be in the heart of town where there is an abundance of shops, galleries, music, ice cream and confections! The shops and restaurants are all along the main street, Elkhorn Ave. There is plenty of paid and free parking all around town. Before you go, make sure you check out the Riverwalk which goes along the road behind the retailers where you’ll find a few more hidden gems and beautiful scenic water views and bridges.

If you only had the day available, you should be heading back by now. If you have some extra time and the sun is still out or if you’d like to stay overnight in some haunted digs, be sure to visit the famous Stanley Hotel. The hotel has rich history, dating back to the 1800’s, and was the inspiration for Stephen King’s famous, The Shining, when he and his wife stayed in Room 217 on vacation!

Get your mix of leaf-peeping, wildlife, and spooky encounters all in a day, in the Estes Park region of Colorado.


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