Yes, we did say beaches. Not necessarily the kind where you'll be surfing waves, but instead taking in incredible mountain views, and potentially dipping in your toes, if you're brave.
While the lake is the largest in the area, the beach-front isn’t gigantic. The largest sandy area is right around the Lake Estes Marina. Conveniently, that’s also where you can find a sand volleyball court – a staple of any beach day. The marina also rents kayaks, pontoon boats, stand-up-paddleboards, and canoes to get you out on the water. If you’d prefer to stick to the shore, you can rent fishing gear and buy your license. Otherwise, rent a bike, or simply walk, the scenic 3.75-mile trail around the lake. Note: While you can get out on the water in other ways, swimming is not allowed in Lake Estes.
Sandbeach Lake is aptly named and offers the unique opportunity for a true alpine beach. The hike comes in at a 9-mile round trip and almost 2,000’ elevation gain. So you’ll earn your beach day in Rocky Mountain National Park's, as you take in views of Mt. Copeland, St. Vrain Mountain and Longs Peak's nearest neighbor, Mt. Meeker. Pack a picnic lunch, maybe a lightweight hammock, and some flip flops to make the most of your alpine beach day. Dip your toes or dunk your feet for a refreshing way to cool off after the hike in, and to prepare you for the way back down. Note: Because this hike is in Rocky Mountain National Park, you'll need a timed-entry permit. Full info.
Sure the beach may be quite small, but you’re surrounded by dramatic granite cliffs in this natural bowl of a lake. The hike is shorter than Sandbeach, and while it does have a steep section, it doesn’t have nearly as much elevation gain at just over 1,200 feet. It offers more breathtaking views of Estes on the way up, with overlooks of the valley and west to the Continental Divide's dramatic peaks. You can even find a window out of the cliffs at the bowl to look westward toward the stoic Longs Peak. Note: Because this hike is in Rocky Mountain National Park, you'll need a timed-entry permit. Full info.
While Lake Estes is dog-friendly, you can really make the most of your pup time at the dog park. Just across the lake from the marina (and on the other side of Highway 36), the Estes Valley Dog Park offers a place for your dog to fetch, swim, and get in some much-needed playtime with other dogs.