Estes Park is one of our favorite places to visit in Colorado during the winter. From hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park to the best restaurants in Estes Park, there’s plenty to see and do here. We spent the weekend celebrating our 5th anniversary and I don’t think we could have picked a better place to be! If you’re trying to find somewhere to visit in Colorado or thinking about coming back to Estes Park for another visit, you’ve come to the right place!
Where to Stay
There are plenty of options when it comes to Estes Park hotels. We stayed at the Estes Park Resort. The hotel is located right on Lake Estes and the lake view rooms have a stunning view! The Estes Park Resort is one of the best places to visit in Colorado with family. Not only do they have traditional rooms within the hotel, but they also have individual cabins that can be rented for larger groups. If you’re looking for Estes Park hotels that are closer to the downtown area, there are plenty to choose from! Check out these recommendations from the Visit Estes Park website.
Estes Park Restraunts
Although we’ve visited Estes Park a few times before this trip, we’d never eaten at any of the local restaurants before. I feel like it’s safe to say that we found some of the best restaurants in Estes Park!
Notchtop Bakery & Restaurant
This locally-owned bakery was our first stop in town. I had a waffle that was incredible, but it was nothing compared to Hunter’s order. If you’ve ever been to Denver Biscuit Company- I have to say that this biscuit rivaled anything on their menu! (Bold statement, I know…) Chicken fried steak and egg on a biscuit the size of both of your hands put together. He said it was amazing!
They also have plenty of options for pastries to take home with you!
Twin Owls Steakhouse
We had dinner at Twin Owls Steakhouse for our anniversary celebration and we were absolutely blown away! The front desk at the Estes Park Resort recommended this restaurant to us and it definitely made our night special. Because of the restaurant restrictions, we made our reservation online and one of the questions they ask is if you’re celebrating a birthday or anniversary. On arrival, both the hostess and our waitress congratulated us on our anniversary and really made us feel special! They offer two free glasses of champagne or a free dessert when you celebrate your birthday or anniversary with them (and I bet you can guess which we chose)!
We both had the filet for dinner. I have to say, other than the steak my dad cooks, this might be the best I’ve ever had. It was perfectly cooked and I was really impressed that they actually asked us to cut it with them standing there to make sure the temperature is exactly what we wanted. We opted for the Chocolate Toffee Mousse Cake for our anniversary freebie and it was phenomenal! I can’t wait to go back for more!
To make the night even more special, while we were eating dinner, the couple at the table next to us actually got engaged! I was so impressed when I saw the bartender surprise them with a bottle of champagne for them to celebrate. It didn’t stop there- he actually gave them the cork and a Sharpie to write the date on it!
Twin Owls is a restaurant I’d definitely recommend saving for a special occasion, but it’s definitely one of the best restaurants in Estes Park! And they really know how to help you celebrate!!
Rocky Mountain National Park
We’ve been waiting to visit Rocky Mountain National Park for quite a while now. It definitely lived up to our expectations! Although parts of the park are closed for the winter season, there are still some really beautiful hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park!
Weather in Rocky Mountain National Park
We haven’t visited in the summer yet, so I can’t quite speak to that. But during the winter, expect to be pretty cold! We also found out that RMNP is incredibly windy in the wintertime, too! Take a lot of layers. Hats, scarves, jackets, waterproof pants (I’d recommend just wearing ski pants!), and thick socks are a must.
During the winter, the trails are also fairly icy. Hunter and I decided to rent spikes to put on over our hiking boots and poles from a local outdoors store downtown and we were so thankful we did! While we were hiking, we saw several people slipping because of the ice. You can rent poles and spikes for only $9 a day at Outdoor World. You’ll be glad you did!
If you want to get a parking space easily, I’d definitely recommend getting to the park really early in the morning. We got there at around 11:15 and had to wait about half an hour for a spot to open.
The hike to Bear Lake was very short! (Literally just a couple of minutes) The lake itself was totally frozen and we were able to walk out into the middle of it! There’s also a pretty long trail that goes around the entire lake and the views are beautiful!!
Dream Lake definitely lives up to its name! This hike was quite a bit more difficult- especially if you’re not used to the altitude. But the views are worth every step to get there! The entire lake was frozen solid, so we were able to walk across it! I don’t recommend trying to walk across the lake without spikes- the wind was blowing me sideways, even with spikes on my shoes!! The views are absolutely astounding! I can’t wait to do this hike again in the summer to see what the unfrozen lake looks like.
If you’ve never been to Estes Park, I can’t recommend it enough. Beautiful hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. Delicious restaurants. Jaw-dropping views. Estes Park is one of the best places to visit in Colorado (for families, too)!
Have you ever visited Estes? What’s your favorite place to visit? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!