Estes Park breathes history. You sense it as you gaze upon the Stanley Hotel’s white magnificence or the Birch Ruins on the knoll. Learn about the Valley’s fascinating history through the eyes of Estes Park’s excellent museums.
The Estes Park Museum
The Estes Park Museum is the town’s crown jewel, offering permanent exhibits of an old general store, a furnished historic cabin and vintage National Park Service uniforms. You can touch the past through interactive, hands-on exhibits. Several times a year the museum hosts exhibit grand openings, with recent displays featuring the ancient bison and adventurer Isabella Bird. In addition, the museum collects, interprets and preserves local history for the enjoyment of visitors of all ages. The Museum is located at the corner of U.S. Highway 36 and Fourth Street and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sundays May 1 through Oct. 31. From Nov. 1 through April 30, the Museum is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. There’s no admission fee.
The Stanley Museum
The first thing you notice when you walk into the Stanley Museum is the 1909 Model R Stanley Roadster, invented by one of Estes Park’s most influential forefathers, F.O. Stanley. Known for building the historic Stanley Hotel, Stanley used his Stanley Steamer Mountain Wagon bus to transport visitors from railroad depots to Estes Park. He was a well-known inventor of photography techniques and helped develop the town’s power, sewer, and water systems. The museum has examples of F.O. Stanley’s inventions on display and provides programs on the Stanley Steamer’s place in transportation history. The Stanley Museum, which is located in the Lower Stanley Village shopping center, is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Historic Fall River Hydroplant.
F.O. Stanley built the Historic Fall River Hydroplant to power the Stanley Hotel in 1909. The museum’s interpretive center features the original equipment installed in 1909, machinery from an addition in 1921, and a diesel unit installed by Public Service in 1938. In addition to the equipment, there are panels that document the story of the plant, the growth of Estes Park’s insatiable need for electricity, and the Lawn Lake Flood of 1982. In addition, there are displays that allow children first-hand experiences in creating electricity.Located on Fish Hatchery Road, the Hydroplant is open seasonally, from the day after Memorial Day to the day before Labor Day every day except Mondays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. There is no admission fee.
MacGregor Ranch Museum
Take a step back in time as you drive through the front gate of MacGregor Ranch, the last remaining working cattle ranch in Estes Park. If you’re lucky, you may see Black Angus cattle grazing in the meadow and ranch hands working with Percheron draft horses. Opened to the public in 1973, the MacGregor Ranch Museum welcomes children’s groups and summer visitors to discover how the MacGregor family lived from 1873 to 1970. Take a self-guided tour of the museum, milk house, smokehouse, blacksmith shop and horse-drawn machinery exhibits. The ranch has 42 buildings, 28 of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.The MacGregor Ranch Museum is open to the public June, July and August, Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Other Museums to Explore
Moraine Park Visitor Center/Museum in Rocky Mountain National Park is located in an historic building with interactive exhibits on the past and present landscape, a bookstore, and a half-mile nature trail. The historic Baldpate Inn boasts a collection of more than 20,000 keys. The collection includes keys from the White House, Mozart's wine cellar, the Stanley Hotel, and Jack Benny's dressing room at Paramount Studios. The Lula Dorsey Museum supports the mission of the YMCA of the Rockies through preservation and documentation of its corporate history.