Have Your Own Vehicle Or Rent A Car
If youre not traveling to Estes Park by means of your own personal vehicle, I recommend renting a car upon your arrival.
Though Downtown Estes Park is walkable, the city of Estes Park itself is quite spread out.
You definitely need a vehicle to get around during your Estes Park family vacation, as well as if you prefer the convenience of having your own vehicle to visit Rocky Mountain National Park.
If youre opposed to renting a car, however, there are trains, buses, and taxis to Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as free park shuttles during the summer vacation season.
The Estes Park Visitor Shuttle, for instance, operates daily from late June through mid-September.
Get more details at Visit Estes Park.
Ride-share cars such as Uber and Lyft do operate in the Estes Park area, but availability and number of drivers are limited.
Be Sure To Make Reservations For Rocky Mountain National Park
Gone are the days of a spontaneous visit to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Visitation to Rocky Mountain National Park has surged within the last decade and has led to severe crowding at many park destinations.
In order to control the crowd level and improve visitor experience, a vehicle reservation permit is required when visiting the park during the busy months of May through October.
Vehicle reservations are available in advance online at Recreation.gov , Recreation.gov app, or the Recreation.gov Call Center and require a $2 processing fee.
Once available, reservations sell out fast and are not available for purchase at the park.
*Details for the 2023 summer season are not yet available but are expected to be released in January 2023.
In past years, a portion of the available vehicle reservations were released 120 days in advance of the effective date .
The remaining vehicle reservations were released at 8 AM MDT the day before the effective date .
*In other words, mark your calendars and set a reminder alarm to book accordingly!
Also, note that vehicle reservations do not guarantee parking spaces in popular areas.
You should still expect congested and busy conditions throughout the park.
Sled At Hidden Valley
Come winter, Hidden Valley is the place to be for snowy all-ages fun. This gentle hill is perfect for sliding on tubes, sleds, and saucers. Bring your own since there are no rentals available in the park. On weekends, kids can toast their chilled toes in a staffed warming center, and toilets are available. Call the park before your trip to check snow conditions, as windy weather can sometimes blow the prime white stuff right off the mountain.
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Estes Park Aerial Tram
If your kids are tired of hiking this is a great activity to get an aerial view of the park without a lot of effort. Operates daily from the end of May to early September but check the website for current pricing and details. This tram is one of the few European-style cable cars operating in the US.
Best Hikes For Teenagers In Rocky Mountain National Park:
Mount Ida: This difficult 9.6-mile hike is said to be the best hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. The elevation change is 2,500 feet, but this hike is worth the work. Once hikers reach the peak of Mt Ida, which sits at 12,889 feet above sea level, they will be rewarded with incredible 360 degree views of Never Summer Mountains towards the west, the Mummy Range towards the northeast, Terra Tomah Mountain, Mt. Julian and Cracktop Mountain immediately to the east, Longs Peak to the southeast, and the Kawuneeche Valley, Julian Lake, Big Meadows and Shadow Mountain Lake towards the southwest.
Bluebird Lake: This difficult 12.6-mile trail is another one of the best long hikes in RMNP because it gives hikers a taste of many of the unique things about Rocky Mountain National Hikes. The trail changes around 2500 feet in elevation. Along the trail hikers are rewarded with amazing flora and fauna, alpine lakes, jagged mountain peaks, About 6 miles into this hike, the trail crossed with the Upper Ouzel Creek Backcountry Campsite which would be one of the best campsites in Rocky Mountain National Park for experiencing pure nature!
Alluvial Fan was a very short and very rewarding hike to do with little ones!
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Take A Class At The Rocky Mountain Conservancy
There are a number of classes, bus tours and excursions available at the Rocky Mountain Conservancy, including several kid-friendly programs.
Look for nature art activities, photojournaling, fly fishing and nature hikes just for little ones. As a bonus, the Field Institute offers more than 40 free kids classes in the summer.
Go Fishing At Trout Pond
There are plenty of opportunities for fishing in Estes Park. One of the best places to go is the well-stocked Trout Haven Fishing Pond. Or simply, Trout Pond.
Rent fishing poles and pick up bait at the pond. The staff will clean, pack and freeze anything you catch to take it home. Its a great way to introduce children to fishing.
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Best Places To Stay In Estes Park For Families
There are dozens of exciting overnight accommodations in Estes Park, Colorado.
Where you end up staying will depend on your personal preferences, prices, and availability.
Our favorite convenient, family-friendly Estes Park hotels include:
- Murphys River Lodge Located on Fall River 2 blocks from Downtown Estes park, indoor pool and hot tub, free breakfast, and friendly staff.
- Silver Moon Inn Located in Downtown Estes Park on Fall River, outdoor pool and hot tub, free breakfast, free nightly smores, family owned and operated.
- The Ridgeline Hotel, Estes Park Large indoor pool area and hot tub, onsite bar and restaurant, kids game room and movie screen, rustic-chic decor.
- YMCA of the Rockies 9 lodges and 206 cabins, great for big groups, dozens of free onsite activities plus extra activities for a fee .
- The Historic Crags Lodge Incredible mountain views, outdoor pool and hot tub, onsite restaurant, and a game room.
Day 6 Local Hiking & Fun
- Get a fresh-baked cinnamon roll from Cinnamons Bakery
- Hike Knoll Willows Open Space Trail
- Have a family fun day at one of the Estes Park amusement parks
- Go to the LazyB Chuckwagon Dinner Show
Start the morning off at Cinnamons Bakery a popular must-do, fresh-baked cinnamon roll experience in Estes Park!
Visitors and locals start lining up 30 minutes before opening, as they sell out daily within a few hours.
When finished with breakfast, walk the easy 0.5-mile Knoll Willows Open Space Trail in Estes Park.
Populated with elk, youll also cross a small bridge, view a rustic cabin from the 1980s, as well as get views of the historic Stanley hotel.
Afterward, spend the afternoon at one or more of Estes Parks family-friendly amusement centers.
Amusement parks in Estes Park include:
- Fun City A giant rainbow slide, mini golf, bungee trampoline, bumper boats, go-karts, gemstone panning & more.
- Meadow Mini Golf A traditional 19-hole miniature golf course
- Ride-A-Cart Go-karts, bumper cars, bumper boats, miniature railroad, mini golf, batting cages & more.
- Open Air Adventure Park A zipline aerial adventure park and axe throwing.
End this awesome, fun-filled day by attending the LazyB Chuckwagon Dinner Show.
This indoor dinner show features an authentic BBQ dinner served at 5:30 PM, followed by a Western Show featuring family-friendly humor and songs of the old west.
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Best Hikes For Kids In Rocky Mountain National Park:
Latham sitting on the shore of dream lake
Dream Lake: A 2.2 mile hike that has a moderate 450-foot elevation change. Your work will reward you with outstanding lake views and wildflowers! Continue on tis trail for another 0.5 miles to also visit Emerald Lake. This addition makes the trail total 3.2 miles and is one of the best family friendly hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park!
Holzwarth Historic Site: This hike is 1.3 miles and offers scenic views and youll get to explore the historic ranch. Youll also get up close to the Colorado River and sweeping views of the Kawuneeche Valley.
Get On The Water At Lake Estes
Whether by kayak, pontoon boat or canoe, its a must to get out on 185-acre Lake Estes. As a bonus, the Lake Estes Marina has a beach, a wading area and a childrens playground.
You may also want to rent a bike or pedal cart to ride along the paved 3.75-mile Lake Estes Trail that runs along the perimeter of the lake. You can walk the lake loop trail, too.
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Fun Things To Do In Estes Park With Kids
Both a charming mountain town and a year-round recreation destination, Estes Park is one of our favorite communities in Colorado. As the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, it offers everything you need to embark on an outdoor adventure: scenic drives, a full range of hikes and bike rides, fishing, rock climbing and more. But even outside this destination park, the village is home to tons of attractions for more adventure, local shopping, sweet treats, tours, go-karts, costumed family portraits and more.
In this guide, we rounded up all the necessary kid-friendly activities to make sure everyone in your group has a great time. For a guide with even more things to do, check out Everything You Need to Do When You Visit Estes Park.
Video courtesy of Trout Haven Resorts
Operated by Trout Haven Resorts, this fishing pond offers fun activities all year long. During the spring and summer, guests can enjoy hassle-free fishing with a mountainous backdrop. The pond is regularly stocked with Rainbow Trout, no license is required, and their team provides all the equipment, including bait! During the winter, the pond turns into a winter wonderland complete with ice fishing, ice skating and skate rentals. For all the details and prices, .
Tips For Your Estes Park Family Vacation
A family trip to Estes Park, Colorado is a US bucket list destination for many families.
With its charming downtown, easily-accessible hiking trails, and beautiful river views, the mountainous backdrop of Estes Park creates an atmosphere you cant help but fall in love with.
As a base camp for amazing adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park, its important to understand the general layout of the area and to know what there is to do there before your arrival.
Though Estes Park is a popular tourist destination, knowing what to expect will make your family trip less stressful as well as ensure that you see and do all that is of interest to you.
Here are a few travel tips for your Estes Park family vacation thatll help you prepare before you go.
Things To Do In Estes Park
No one questions that our natural playground comes first when planning activities. But even in Eden, there are times when we want diversions especially suited to children and the young-at-heart.
A wide array of commercial activities expands the outdoor enjoyment of the area. Rent a bike. Take a fly-fishing lesson. Ride the aerial tram to the top of a small peak for a breathtaking view of the valley and downtown below. Play miniature golf or slide down a giant slide. Take a spin on a go-cart track.
These are but a few of the activities offered in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. No matter what type of activity you enjoy, it is sure to be better here!
Estes Park Visitor Center
Hermit Park Open Space
Hermit Park Open Space is a sprawling area of preserved parkland totaling more than 1,300 acres of ground.
Located at elevations of 7,800 to close to 9,000 feet, it is open from March to the middle of December and is one of the coolest tourist attractions in Estes Park, Colorado for those who want to really get back to natures roots.
Camping options are available all around Hermit Park Open Space, with cabin rentals, a large campground, and space for RVs and tents alike.
There are also lots of trails to explore that are ideal for biking, hiking, and even horseback riding.
Pavilions for picnics, fire pits for cooking, and open areas of wetland and forest make for an exciting and invigorating vacation.
Do note that camping permits are required if you plan to set up a tent or RV!
Address: 17 Hermit Park Rd, Estes Park, CO 80517, United States
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Things To Do In Estes Park For Kids
Looking for activities with kids in mind? Estes Park has two amusement parks, a bowling alley and several other activities like trout fishing and outdoor seminars that the whole family can enjoy.
There is a plethora of fun Estes Park kids activities to keep your little ones happy. Estes Parks two amusement parks are Fun City and Estes Park Ride-A-Kart. Fun City has a giant slide, bumper cars and boats, go-karts and a climbing wall. The Ride-A-Kart has a few of these activities and a miniature railroad, 4-person bungee trampoline and two 18-hole mini-golf courses.
If youre in the mood for a quieter, more relaxed afternoon and have children interested in fishing, another great place to go is the trout pond at Trout Haven Ranch. Privately owned and stocked, Trout Haven Ranch does not require a Colorado fishing license and guarantees a catch. All of the equipment required is available free of chargeyou only pay for the fish you catch.
A third option is Chippers Lanes, a site for parties, music and a game of bowling. Chippers Lanes participates in the Kids Bowl Free program, so visitors under 18 who have been signed up online can get two free games.
Finally, we recommend visiting the Rocky Mountain Nature Associations website for a list of seminars that take place during the summer. Several of these are planned with kids in mind and can provide an exciting and educational outdoor experience.
Best Things To Do In Estes Park With Kids
If youre looking for the best things to do in Estes Park, Colorado with kids you are in the right place. All of these kid-friendly hikes and activities near Estes Park will not require a reservation to Rocky Mountain National Park, but some may even get you into the park.
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Open Air Adventure Park
Open Air Adventure Park
Open Air Adventure Park is one of the most fun and unique places to visit for an outdoor experience in Estes Park, Colorado.
Packed with all sorts of activities, it is an adventure location providing a total of 32 outdoor challenges that range in difficulty for people of most ages.
Among the things youll be able to try at Open Air Adventure Park include crossing moving platforms, tightrope walking, traversing bridges of rope, swinging from logs high above the ground, and ziplines.
Some of these things are up to 21 feet above ground level, but dont worry its all perfectly safe thanks to the use of harnesses and the guidance of knowledgeable staff!
The course is also self-guided, so you can take your time trying out each obstacle one at a time with no pressure and tons of encouragement.
Address: 490 Prospect Village Dr, Estes Park, CO 80517, United States
Take An Outdoor Photography Class
Take an outdoor photography class! These classes are custom individual photo tours catered to you. Options include short to moderate hikes to beautiful alpine lakes or photography tours catered to remain closer to the vehicle and roads. Tour itineraries are based on your photography needs, skills, and abilities.
the kids hiking down from dream lake
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East Portal To Sprague Lake Hike
, moderate difficulty, and 856 elevation gain) This one is for older kids or good hikers and will technically put you in Rocky Mountain National Park without requiring a reservation. The river rushes along the trail and the hike also includes smaller waterfalls along the way. More details and a map can be found here.
Hike Rocky Mountain National Park
Explore Estes Parks awe-inspiring surroundings with a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. Bring your hiking shoes, and tackle one of the parks many kid-friendly trails. Look for moose on the 1-mile, stroller-accessible Coyote Valley trail, or hike less than a half mile to a stunning waterfall on the Adams Falls trail. If youre after great mountain views, head for the Milner Pass trail for stunning photo opportunities. In town, the paved trail around Estes Lake is a great spot for biking and walking.
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Top 10 Things To Do In Estes Park With Kids
Tucked deep in the Rocky Mountains, Estes Park in Colorado is an outdoor paradise. Whether your kids are into biking, hiking, or adrenaline-filled adventures, this small city has plenty of activities to fill your schedule. Book one of many cozy Estes Park vacation rentals today. Check out the most prominent local attractions and family-friendly things to do in Estes Park.