Answers to all of your burning questions about Estes Park.

No one in town fields more questions about Estes Park than the well-informed staff and volunteers at the Visitor Center at 500 Big Thompson Avenue. Want to know the best time to visit? Where to hike? When the deer turn into elk? (Spoiler alert: they don’t.) Here’s their best advice for the most popular queries.

Which season is best to visit Estes Park?

All of them. Seriously. But we live here and are clearly a little biased. Estes Park is a year-round destination though, so it really depends on what you like to do or want to try. There is always something going on, outdoor adventures to tackle, and good food to eat. For solitude seekers and the hearty, the shoulder seasons and winter are great.

How much does it cost to get into Estes Park?

The short answer? It’s free! The long answer is that Estes Park is the town at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park, which does charge an entry fee and requires a timed entry permit. We know; all the different uses of “park” can be confusing! Learn all about the many meanings of the word park here.

Which hikes do you recommend?

All of them! But there may not be enough time for that. Call or visit the Rocky Mountain National Park visitor centers. Rangers will be happy to chat through your wants, needs, the weather, and how you’re feeling that day in order to recommend the perfect hike. Check out some of our favorite spring hikes, waterfall hikes or winter hikes and don’t forget to consider Roosevelt National Forest as an excellent alternative to the national park on a busy day.

Is Estes Park dog-friendly?

There are a growing number of dog-friendly lodging properties, plus dog-friendly trails in Roosevelt National Forest and a doggy day care. Check those out here.


When is the best time to see the leaves change?

Look to higher elevations first, normally around mid-September, and follow the colorful foliage down to the town as October approaches. The shimmering shades of gold often peak around the end of September.

It’s raining! What is there to do?

Go enjoy a hike in the rain, as long as there is no lightning and you have the adequate gear, of course. A walk in the rain can be something special, a real memory maker. And help you find some solitude. If that does not sound appealing, you can watch the rain fall from the indoor pool or golf simulator at the Estes Valley Community Center or any of the other indoor workout options Estes has to offer. Visit a spa or a museum. Sip on your beverage of choice from one of the local coffee shops, distilleries, wineries or breweries. See a movie or hit the arcade.

Can I get around town without a car?

In the summer, yes, you can get around the town of Estes Park without a car via the free shuttle system. Our recommendation is to park at the parking structure and walk into town along the riverwalk. Its pleasant and takes the stress out of finding parking. In winter, you’ll need your own car. Check out our parking and shuttle guide here

Is Estes Park family friendly?

Absolutely! Families with kids young and old find plenty to do in Estes Park, even when it is raining. Bicycling, museums, a craft center, an aerial obstacle course, two via ferrata routes, a mountain coaster, mini golf, an indoor leisure pool, and picnics. Browse a complete list here.

lake estes kids
What types of events are there in Estes Park?

Estes Park is buzzing, especially from July to September. Live music? Yes. Festivals? Yes. Artisans and farmers markets? Yes. Find out what is happening in town by checking here.

When do the deer turn into elk?

Don’t laugh! We really do get this question. The answer is they don’t, possibly to the chagrin of some young male deer. Deer and elk look similar because they are both a part of the Cervidae family of hoofed mammals, but they are two separate species within it.

We want to experience snow while we are there. When should we come?

Typically, spring is our snowiest season, although it varies year to year. A safe(ish) bet is to plan a trip in February or March and pack accordingly.

Is Estes Park open in the winter?

While we’d really like to keep winter in Estes Park our little secret, we cannot tell a lie. Estes Park in the winter is absolutely open and totally fabulous. Pick your reason to visit in the winter here.

rocky mountain national park january winter

What do I need to know to visit Rocky Mountain National Park?

Plan ahead. Start early or start late and buy your entrance pass ahead of time, online. If you’re visiting between the end of May and October you’ll need a timed entry permit if visiting the park between certain times. Direct specific questions to park rangers by calling 970-586-1206, or find answers by visiting Rocky Mountain National Park’s site.


Have a burning question not listed here?

Give the fine folks at the visitor center a call: 970-577-9900