Winter in Estes Park

On our previous trip out west to Sedona, we rented a Toyota Prius which served as a faithful steed on our road trip across the rugged terrain of Arizona. For our January trip out to Colorado, we knew we would require something more “off-road” that could handle the mountainous landscape and potentially icy roads of the Rockies. When we arrived at Enterprise at the Denver airport, we didn’t choose the car…the car chose us…

Our rental car in Rocky Mountain National Park

Estes Park

Estes map

We spent our three nights in Estes Park at the Cozy Cabin, a short walk from the shops and restaurants on Elkhorn Ave. The cabin was the size of a Brooklyn studio, but the easy access to downtown Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park (15 minute drive) made it the perfect place to spend the long weekend. Not to mention, there was a family of deer hanging out in the driveway at all times and they were completely unphased by our presence.

winter estes park

Estes Park itself was a nice little mountain town, albeit a little touristy, but since it was the off-season, it was much less hectic than it would have been in the summer. Even though the mountains were covered in snow, it was sunny the entire weekend and the temperature in town was in the mid-50’s. Not bad for January. We are also convinced that this is the candy capital of the world, or at the very least the United States. Every other store on Elkhorn Ave is either a candy store, a saltwater taffy store, or an ice cream shop that also happens to sell candy. Since Laura requires daily (and sometimes hourly) candy fixes, our proximity to Laura’s Fine Candies could not have been more convenient. Their turtles were a revelation.

Also down the road from our cabin was the Stanley Hotel. The allegedly haunted hotel’s claim to fame is that it inspired Stephen King’s bestseller, The Shining… Blah blah blah. The real reason anyone should visit the Stanley is that it is the setting of the comedy movie of our generation: Dumb and Dumber.  We didn’t spend much time there, but walking the halls is truly walking in the footsteps of American heroes Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne.

Elk Watching

winter estes park
Elk in Estes Park

We saw countless elk in town and in the national park. In town we saw a herd in the park across from the Stanley Hotel between MacGregor and Wonderview Ave. People also told us that they like to hang out on the golf courses. In the national park, we saw another herd by the Sheep Lakes at dawn.

winter estes park

Deer Mountain Hike

winter estes park
View from Deer Mountain

One of the hikes that we did in Rocky Mountain National Park was Deer Mountain. This is a popular winter hike since it can easily be climbed with either snowshoes or microspikes. For the first mile of the hike, we didn’t even encounter any snow. After that, microspikes did the job and we didn’t need snowshoes. At 10,013 feet, Deer Mountain is a bit of a lightweight compared to some of the 14ers in the park, but the views along the trail are phenomenal. There is no signage along the way, so when the trail is covered in snow it is easy to take a wrong turn. Also, when the trail starts to descend when you feel like you should be at the top, keep going because there is still another .75 miles or so to go before reaching the summit.

As beautiful as Deer Mountain was, it was no match for the hike we did to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes. See our post on the Dream Lake Trail.

winter estes park

Where to Eat: 

The Wapiti Pub – Get the Colorado nachos.

Claire’s on the Park – Good spot for breakfast, lunch or dinner.



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