Pick up some food at a local restaurant and head out into the fresh air for a meal with a view.
First: find what you’re hungry for
Most Estes Park restaurants provide a takeout option with utensils, napkins and condiments included, so if staying within walking distance from the restaurant or driving to your picnic location, grabbing takeout is an excellent way to go: you can eat whatever you want because a potentially messier cuisine – picnic wise – isn’t going to stop you.
Packable options (for destinations that require hiking, biking or a horseback ride to get there or when a messier option just won’t do) include sandwiches from Scratch Deli & Bakery, Rocky Mountain Deli, Country Market & Deli, or Inkwell & Brew and breakfast burritos from KIND Coffee, which are served all day long.
Bonus for the coffee lovers: Country Market & Deli, Inkwell & Brew and KIND Coffee serve coffee all day, which goes quite well with a sandwich and exceptionally well with a breakfast burrito. While coffee shops are not allowed to fill personal coffee tumblers or thermoses at this time, bring it along to pour your drink into after purchase and take it with you.
Second: pick the perfect location
There are quite a few excellent picnic spots in and around Estes Park. Find yours.
435 W Elkhorn Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
Performance Park abuts Fall River, has a picnic area with tables and bathrooms, lots of green grass, and a rock face set up for beginner climbers. An amphitheater shades the rock face, and is used for evening outdoor concerts in the summer (all concerts are cancelled for 2020, due to COVID-19).
291 W Elkhorn Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
Performance Park feeds into Tregent Park as you head toward the shops of Elkhorn Avenue along Fall River. Smaller than Performance Park, Tregent has picnic tables, bathrooms and an area where you can sit and dip your feet into the river.
Along the Big Thompson River
South side of Elkhorn Avenue, behind the shops
There is a paved path that runs the length of the river, as it goes through town, with park benches set along the way. Known as the Riverwalk, this area is perfect if you want to enjoy a meal then hit the shops. Read more about Estes Park’s Riverwalk.
George Hix Riverside Plaza
111 E Riverside Dr, Estes Park, CO 80517
This plaza was designed to create a riverside oasis in the downtown area. Trees shade small pools where children play. Bronze sculptures dot the scenery and a sensory garden awaits the curious. In the summer, the Monday Artisans Market fills the plaza, offering handmade wares from local artisans.
170 MacGregor Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
This small green space has stunning views of Rocky Mountain National Park, and is a popular place for elk to congregate in the fall. The area has picnic tables, an awning and nearby public bathrooms at Town Hall.
Just outside of downtown
East of the Estes Park Visitors Center, 500 Big Thompson Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
Enjoy your picnic somewhere on the banks of the lake, with Rocky Mountain National Park as your backdrop, or on the lake itself on a rented pontoon boat from the Lake Estes Marina. A paved 3.75-mile trail encircles the lake, which is dotted with park benches, picnic tables and incredible views.
Lake Estes Picnic Areas
- Cherokee Draw. Paid-picnic area located on the south side of the lake on N. St. Vrain Avenue, across from the Estes Park Museum. Map it.
- Fisherman’s Nook. Small picnic area with big views. Where Lakefront St. meets Lake Estes on the north side of the lake. Map it.
- Lake Estes Marina. Lakeside picnic options, a playground, bathrooms and primo access to the marina. Permitted parking only. Inquire at the marina for details.
- Marina Pavilion. Paid picnic area covered by an awning, near the Lake Estes Marina. This area is rented by the Estes Valley Recreation & Park District.
- Wapiti Meadows. Lush meadow with river access, a paved walking path and outdoor exercise equipment. Located at the far east end of the lake, accessible on foot from the Lake Estes trail that encircles it or by car from Mall Road. Take the unnamed road on the west side of the street, across from the Upper Thompson Sanitation District buildings to reach a small parking lot. Map it.
N. St. Vrain Avenue and Community Dr.
Stanley Park has a bike park, ball field, paved walking path running through it, a playground and a fenced-in dog park. The dog park has access to Lake Estes. There’s more: 360-degree views of the national park and surrounding forests. Map it.
Just outside of town
17 Hermit Park Rd, Estes Park, CO 80517
Go here for a day of mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, and if you like: camping. Views from trails look down into the Estes Valley and across it into Rocky Mountain National Park. An entrance permit is required.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Of course, there are stunning, not-to-miss picnic areas in the national park. Check out this list to find one.
At your accommodations
After a long day in the great outdoors a hotel-room picnic – tucked in on the bed, a good movie on the TV, takeout in hand – can feel simply luxurious. Cabins or lodge rooms may have a private deck or common area with a picnic table, allowing for a picnic-feel while close to the amenities of your room. Check out lodging options in Estes Park.
Insider tip: currently, restaurants are allowed to sell to-go alcoholic beverages with your meal. They must be consumed at your place of lodging; not in public areas. Score one point for the hotel-room picnic!
Third: Leave no trace
Remember Smokey the Bear? Only you can prevent forest fires – it’s a mantra we all grew up with. The idea is to take responsibility for your actions while in the wilderness because they can have real consequences, whether a wildfire catches, litter builds up around trails or trails erode. Only you can leave no trace (of your trip) certainly isn’t as catchy, but equally critical to the preservation of our public lands and safety of our wildlife. Want something that is catchy? Watch this video about how to leave no trace in Colorado.
Confused by so many uses of the word park?
Us too – learn about the many meanings of “park” specific to the Estes Park (yep, there it is again) area.