Certainly one of the oldest activities in the area has to be hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park and the Estes Valley. What could be simpler than strapping on a pair of good boots and heading out to see, hear, feel and experience nature? With over 300 miles of trails in the national park and more in the national forest, there is truly a trek for every skill level and interest.
There are plenty of amazing options inside the national park - more than 300 miles of trails, in fact. Be sure to visit Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park for suggested hikes at every skill level. Remember that hiking in Rocky consists mostly of people (or horses) only, so try the national forest for hiking with your canine companion.
Four-legged friends are allowed only along roadsides, in parking areas, picnic areas and campgrounds (full details) inside Rocky Mountain National Park, but there are many places to hike in Estes Park that are pet-friendly. For walking around town, there are several miles of trails that spiderweb out from the Lake Estes Trail, reaching downtown, Stanley Park (including the dog park) and beyond.
The national forest allows hiking with your leashed dog and can be accessed in a number of areas around Estes Park. Northeast of Estes Park, Crosier Mountain, near the town of Glen Haven, offers four trailheads with access to the forest: Garden Gate, Rainbow, North Fork, and Bulwark. Additional forest access can be found at Hermit Park Open Space (entrance fees apply); and the Lily Mountain Trailhead, 5.8 miles south of town along Highway 7. Additional information on these trails can be found at PoudreWildernessVolunteers.org.
As in a hiking guide, not therapy. Guided hikes can offer even the experienced hiker or backpacker some lessons in navigation, endurance, and form - making you a better hiker for life. Of course, guides also ensure that you make it home safely and before dinner time - more added value. Check out the Guided Excursions section to read more about guided hikes, fishing expeditions, snowshoeing, climbing, backcountry exploration and more.
Fortunately, the trail system near Estes Park accommodates hikers of all levels. Choose one that is right for you. If hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park during warm weather months, consider taking the hiker shuttle from the Estes Park Visitor Center to the national park’s Park & Ride lot, as trailhead parking often is minimal. Stay safe.
What better way to take in all the spirit of Estes Park than to stroll through the enchanted village, taking in the high-peak views and deep breaths of pine-infused air? Try some of the favored ventures below to roam the Estes Valley without strenuous effort, but with great reward
Enjoy beautiful flowers, romantic waterfalls and relaxing parks as you travel the downtown Riverwalk. Constructed in the years following the Lawn Lake Flood, the Estes Park Riverwalk spans the downtown area from the Estes Park Visitor Center to Performance Park on the west end of Elkhorn Avenue, and beyond. Along the way, guests can stop at various businesses to shop, grab a bite in an open-air café and even sample some local wine. Live music, festivals and events dot the Riverwalk plazas throughout the year. Continue west along the Fall River to reach many lodging properties or simply to enjoy a longer stroll.To the east the Riverwalk trail meets up with the Lake Estes Loop.
This premium paved trail takes you on a grand exploration of the lake and a 365-degree visual tour of the Estes Valley landscape. You can enjoy this venture on foot by parking at the Estes Park Visitor Center, or rent a bike at the Estes Park Marina to bike the route. The trail also connects to the downtown Riverwalk and the Estes Valley trails system that takes you through Stanley Park, near the fairgrounds, and farther south along Fish Creek Road. Elk, waterfowl and even beaver often can be spotted along this popular trail.
Park along Wonderview Avenue, across from the Stanley Hotel to access this trail. Head south to view what is known as "The Knoll," a lookout to downtown and site of ruins from a stone cabin built in 1907. Once a beautiful spectacle with a wraparound porch and massive fireplace, the cabin was built by Albert Birch, former city editor of the Denver Post, but burned down on December 21, 1907. Follow the trail back north and downhill to the west to find the cabin Birch built in 1908 to replace the original. The Birch family enjoyed the later cabin until the 1980s; today, it is on the State Register of Historic Places.
For scenic walks or hiking in the national park, please visit our Rocky Mountain National Park section. Information on hiking around Estes Park, including outfitters and guided hikes, can be found in the Hiking section.
Where hikers tread, so do runners. Favoring gravel or dirt paths over paved roads, trail runners seek solace and scenery in places where cars don't go. They find ample opportunities in Estes Park thanks to trails in Rocky Mountain National Park and the national forest lands. Run along river paths or head towards mountain summits. A trail favorite is the Pole Hill area located in the national forest. After an initial steep climb, the trail levels out to a more moderate terrain, all the while showcasing sweeping views of the village of Estes Park and the lofty mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Estes Park is home to the US Trail Running Conference, an annual celebration of trail running. Whether you're an experienced trail runner, an ultra-marathoner, a trail newbie, a trail race director, or somewhere in between, this Conference is for you, providing inspiration & education through expert guest speakers, presentations and an expo. The Conference is held in partnership with the American Trail Running Association. After the Conference, take part in the annual Estes Trail Ascent, a 5.9 mile trail run held by the Estes Park Running Club. More trail races are being added to the roster, so make sure to check back for latest updates.