Estes Park Road Trip Routes: Discover Scenic Drives


Known for their incredible views of the Rocky Mountain area, Estes Park road trip routes offer some of the most beautiful scenic drives in the United States. Estes Park, located at the eastern entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park in north-central Colorado, is a popular year-round tourist destination known for its stunning mountain scenery, abundance of outdoor recreational activities, and close proximity to the wildlife and trails of Rocky Mountain National Park.

The town is conveniently accessed by a few key routes: Highway 34/Fall River Road, Highway 36/Moraine Avenue, Devil’s Gulch Road, and Highway 7/S. St. Vrain Avenue and the famed Trail Ridge Road – the highest continuous paved road in the U.S. These roads all offer gorgeous views and access to trailheads, lakes, wildlife sightings, and the quaint downtown of Estes Park.


  • Estes Park is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, with beautiful drives and outdoor adventure.
  • Major access roads include 34, 36, Devil's Gulch Rd, 7, and Trail Ridge Rd.
  • Abundant activities: hiking, mountain picnics, thrills like mountain coaster.

Local Experiences and Culture

Beyond the mountain adventures, Estes Park offers many quintessential Colorado cultural experiences. The downtown area along Elkhorn Avenue has a charming mountain town vibe, with local restaurants, galleries, shops, and bars. Don’t miss local favorites like the Estes Park Brewery, Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ, or Poppy’s Pizza for a taste of Colorado cuisine.

In town, keep an eye out for elk! The majestic elk herd often grazes and roams right through downtown and residential areas. Fall brings abundant local festivals like Elk Fest and Autumn Gold. And no trip to Estes is complete without picking up a handmade souvenir like elk antler art from a local Colorado artisan in one of the downtown shops.

Navigating the Routes

Each of Estes Park’s access roads offers stunning Rocky Mountain views and attractions, making it a must for your Colorado road trip.

Highway 34/Fall River Road

Fall River Road is a scenic mountain drive following the steep eastern wall of the Fall River Valley. Stop at trailheads, cascading waterfalls, or turnouts overlooking the valley.

Highway 36/Moraine Ave

Moraine Avenue enters Estes from the south, following the Big Thompson River through the valley with abundant river access along with access to Moraine Park.

Devil’s Gulch Road

Devil’s Gulch Road accesses several trailheads just north of town.

Highway 7/S. St. Vrain Ave

St. Vrain Avenue enters from the southeast of town, leading to quieter areas of the Rocky Mountains.

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road is a renowned alpine route through Rocky Mountain National Park, crossing the Continental Divide with some of Colorado’s most breathtaking vistas.

Some other scenic drive routes include:

  • Bear Lake Road
  • Colorado Scenic Byway

Outdoor Adventures and Activities

With Rocky Mountain National Park at its doorstep, Estes Park unsurprisingly offers boundless outdoor recreation. The diverse terrain here includes alpine tundra, forests, valleys, and peaks up to 14,000 feet. Over 200 miles of hiking trails access stunning mountain landscapes, like the easy 3-mile Bear Lake loop or the challenging 14-mile Sky Pond Trek.

For more leisurely outdoor fun, have a picnic in one of the park’s many roadside areas or in downtown Bond Park. Thrill-seekers can tackle the Estes Park Aerial Tramway up Prospect Mountain, soar on the Estes Park Soaring glider tours, or zip down the mountain on the Estes Park Mountain Coaster.

Pet-Friendly Experiences

Estes Park offers many pet-friendly lodging options, notably the Ridgeline Hotel and Avalanche Ranch Cabins which have off-leash pet parks. Several trails allow leashed dogs, like the Old Fall River Road, Lily Lake, and Twin Sisters trails. Dogs can also enjoy Bond Park and the Estes Valley Dog Park for playtime.

Be sure to respect wildlife and pick up after pets when exploring the area’s natural spaces. Pet owners should come prepared to care for dogs responsibly in changing mountain conditions.

Planning Your Visit

With abundant lodging options, from hotels and motels to rental cabins, Estes Park can accommodate most budgets and group sizes. Peak visitor seasons are summer and fall, though winter sports and wildlife viewing also attract crowds.

When planning your itinerary, must-see stops include downtown Estes Park, Bear Lake, the Alpine Visitor Center, and at least one drive along Trail Ridge Road, Old Fall River Road, or over to Grand Lake. Be sure to stop by the Estes Park Visitor Center to learn about current attractions and wildlife sightings. Reservations for activities, restaurants, and lodging are highly recommended during peak seasons.

Seasonal Activities and Events

Summers offer endless warm-weather pursuits like hiking, biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, fishing, and camping. Fall’s golden hues create stellar photo backdrops, particularly during the Elk Rut mating season when bugling elk fills the valley. Winters transform the area into a frozen wonderland popular for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or easy wildlife spotting against white snowy backdrops.

The local events calendar fills up quickly. Top annual highlights include festivals like Elk Fest, Autumn Gold, and Scottish/Irish Highland Fest, along with holiday events like the Estes Park Winter Festival and Catch the Glow Parade.

Additional Information and Tips

Estes Park Road Trip Tips

  • Stop at overlooks for photos and scenery.
  • Fill up on gas before heading into the park.
  • Pack layers for changing mountain weather.
  • Watch out for wildlife suddenly crossing roads.

Estes Park Historical Landmarks

Top landmarks include the historic Stanley Hotel (the inspiration for “The Shining”), Seven Keys Lodge, Mountain Village, and Fall River Hydro plant.

With stunning alpine scenery, outdoor adventures, and charming mountain town vibes, Estes Park offers an unforgettable Colorado Rocky Mountains getaway. Follow one of the iconic drives into the area, then spend your days exploring the trails, sights, and local culture using these road trip tips.


How long should I stay to see Estes Park properly?

To experience the top sights at a relaxed pace, plan for 2-4 nights. Extend your visit to enjoy more hiking trails and seasonal activities.

What is the best way to get from Denver to Estes Park?

The most popular route is taking I-25 north to Highway 66 into Lyons, then Highway 36 north to Estes Park. Expect a 1.5 hour drive without traffic.

Are pets allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Pets are only allowed in areas accessible by vehicle, not on trails. Respect leash laws and pick up all pet waste.

What is the best time of year to visit Estes Park?

Late summer and early fall offer pleasant weather and stunning scenery. Spring and winter are lovely but can bring unpredictable weather.

What is there to do in Estes Park when it rains?

Duck into the downtown shops, grab a local brew, enjoy the Estes Park Museum, catch a show at the Historic Park Theatre, or relax in a local spa.

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About the author

Simone Weisman

My deep appreciation for nature and active living strongly aligns with the vibrant outdoor culture of Colorado. My enjoyment of yoga, hiking, and exploring scenic trails provides me with a unique perspective that I bring to This personal passion enriches my ability to connect with and inspire our audience, whether they’re local residents or visitors seeking to explore all that Colorado has to offer.