Estes Park (credit: Colleen Bement)

The crisp fall air and amber colored leaves make up the perfect time of year for a day trip to Estes Park, Colorado. Also known as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, it is just a brief two hour drive to find an escape in this charming mountain town. Hunt for ghosts at the historic Stanley Hotel and stroll through the streets filled with flowers, unique shops and restaurants.

Getting ThereThis trip is only a 92 mile drive from downtown Denver. Take I-25 North and then merge onto US-36 W toward Boulder and travel 35 miles. Turn left onto CO-66 W/US-36 W/Ute Highway for about a mile. Turn left onto Main Street and then take the second right onto CO-66 W/US-36 W/5th Ave/W Main Street and continue on US Highway 36 for about 20 miles. Turn left onto Elkhorn Avenue/US Highway 36 and follow the signs to Estes Park.

Along The Way

Colorado Cherry Company (credit: Colleen Bement)

Colorado Cherry Company
12311 N St. Vrain Drive
Located on HWY 36 between Lyons and Estes Park
(303) 823-2324

A must stop along the way is the Colorado Cherry Company. Located on the right just before heading down the hill to Estes Park is a pie and cider shop you will not want to miss. A chance to stretch your legs, you will find jugs of delicious ciders, jams, syrups and freshly baked pies to satisfy a sweet tooth. There’s even hand dipped ice cream to tempt the taste buds.

What To Do

Stanley Hotel (credit: Colleen Bement)

The Stanley Hotel
333 Wonderview Ave.
Estes Park, CO 80517
(970) 577-4000

Price: Free Admission.  $15 – $25 for the ghost tours

The highlight of any Estes Park trip is a visit to the historic Stanley Hotel. Widely believed to be haunted, this elegant old hotel is best known as the inspiration for Stephen King’s novel “The Shining.” The unmistakable beauty of the white architecture entices visitors to stop and take a look. Make time to take the ghost tour and learn the history that surrounded F.O. Stanley’s journey that brought the town its fame, and Stephen King his inspiration.

Simply Christmas (credit: Colleen Bement)

Simply Christmas
129 W Elkhorn
Estes Park, CO 80517
(970) 586-8990

Christmas shopping is a year around activity at the family owned Simply Christmas shop, which has has been serving tourists and locals of Estes Park for 20 years. At first sight you will see will be a beautiful Christmas tree filled with unique ornaments. As you make your way around the shop you will find handmade treasures for gifts as well as baubles to add to your own collection.

Estes Park Brewery (credit: Colleen Bement)

Estes Park Brewery
470 Prospect Village Drive
Estes Park, CO 80517
(970) 586-5421

This brewery and restaurant offers a family atmosphere and a friendly staff who serve up good food and a good time. The place is a bit off the main street, but with a wide selection of unique quality beers, it is well worth the walk. Giant glass windows allow visitors to see the brewery vats and the downstairs tasting bar gives visitors a chance to sample, mix, and match their favorites to take home with them. There’s plenty of indoor seating, yet minimal outdoor areas. As far as entertainment goes, there’s plenty to do––enjoy the views and take photos from the outdoor scenic overlook, play a few games of pool, challenge each other to video games or check out the brewery’s 200 foot mural.

Where To Eat

Taffy Shop (credit: Colleen Bement)

The Taffy Shop
121 E Elkhorn Ave
Estes Park, CO 80517
(970) 586-4548

A highlight for visitors with a craving for sweets is The Taffy Shop. With taffy being pulled right in the front window, this old fashioned candy shop along the main area of Elkhorn Avenue will catch the eye of everyone walking by. In business since 1934, this shop has served up its famous saltwater taffy and created fond memories kids never forget for nearly eight decades. Inside the store you will find the quote that sums it up: “This store serves up some mean taffy!”

Hayley’s (credit: Colleen Bement)

102 W Elkhorn Ave.
Estes Park, CO 80517
(970) 586-4207

Hayley’s is a great place for an afternoon break for some delicious old fashioned ice cream. With fun and friendly service, customers are treated to delicious milk shakes, floats, carmel apples and fudge. Shoppers will be able to enjoy their ice cream inside the shop or outside on the many benches nearby.

Wapiti Colorado Restaurant and Pub
247 W. Elkhorn Ave.
Estes Park, CO 80517
(970) 586-5056

From the moment you walk into Wapiti Colorado Restaurant and Pub to the time you leave satisfied, you will be treated like family. This pub serves up mouthwatering starters, burgers, juicy chicken, tender steaks, elk and original pasta dishes along with crisp salads and thick sandwiches. The buffalo chicken wings boasted a tasty sauce that took the owner eight years to perfect. They offer pretty patio seating outside as well as fun seating indoors.

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Colleen Bement is a freelance writer covering all things Denver. Her work can be found on