Colorado Vacations 
Family Travel Colorado 
Your Guide to Visiting Colorado with the Kids
Vacation with the Kids in Estes Park Colorado
Estes Park, Colorado 
is the gateway town
for Rocky Mountain National Park.

It offers visiting families a wide variety of services and activities to complete their high country vacation.

See Colorado's National Parks with the Kids!

Our nation's National Parks have been called the
crown jewels of America. 

Colorado is the proud home of four National Parks: 

  • Rocky Mountain 
  • Mesa Verde 
  • Great Sand Dunes 
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison 

Plan your great Colorado family vacation with our
series on Colorado's National Parks - 45 pages of information and inspiration

Start with the National Parks Directory at

Colorado mountains were named for early explorers to the area.

However, Stephen Long never climbed Long's Peak,

and Zebulon Pike never climbed Pikes Peak!

Add a touch of nineteenth century elegance when you travel in Colorado with the kids.

Read our article:Colorado's Historic Luxury Hotels

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Did You  Know?

In 1899, the Colorado General Assembly adopted the white and lavender Columbine, Aquilegia caerules, as the official Colorado State Flower.

Later the General Assembly determined that it is the duty of all citizens to protect this rare species from needless waste or destruction.

The Prettiest Places
in Colorado
to Visit with the Kids

From the Far View Lodge in Mesa Verde to Eagle's Nest on Vail Mountain, read about the Most Scenic Places in Colorado that are still accessible to kids and their families.


Did You Know?

More than 360 miles of hiking trails wind through Rocky Mountain National Park.

One of our favorites for trekking with kids is the easy 0.9-mile Alberta Falls hike in the rugged Glacier Gorge area.


Feeding the Kids
 in Estes Park,

Although this town has been known for over 100 years as a beautiful vacation spot, we honestly were hard pressed to find any really great places to eat.

While you can buy all the salt water taffy your kids can eat, parents who are looking to provide their offspring with some actual nutrition might want to try Ciscos Restaurante and Cantina and Shakes Alive! smoothie bar.

Both establishments are located in the Stanley Village Shopping Center off Big Thompson Avenue
(US Highway 34).

Ciscos and Shakes Alive! are decidedly down scale, but the food was delicious, healthy, and kid-pleasing.  

Photo: Estes Park, Colorado offers families an abundance of cute places to shop. 

Tourism ranks with Colorado’s top industries, and the state is speckled with appealing little tourist towns. The queen, however, of all the tourist towns is Estes Park, Colorado.   

While the rugged peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park rear in the background, the town below bustles with folks booking tours, shopping for T-shirts, and scooping up salt water taffy by the bagful. 

Estes Park was founded for tourists, and Estes Park still thrives for them. You may be headed to Rocky Mountain National Park’s pristine wilderness, but on the way you pass through Estes Park. And while all those rugged mountains are truly wondrous to behold, at the end of the day many families find it nice to come back to civilization.  

We spent three days in Estes Park. We drove go carts, took tours, went horseback riding, ate in the restaurants, and shopped in dozens of cute little stores. We had a surprising amount of fun and came away with a new appreciation for the town that lies within the arms of some of Colorado’s prettiest mountains. 

Where in the World?

Estes Park lies northwest of Denver about 50 miles as the crow flies. It takes just over an hour and a half (about 65 miles) to drive from downtown Denver to downtown Estes Park, if the weather and traffic cooperate. 

US Highway 34 and US Highway 36 converge in the town, and both offer scenic approaches. Highway 34 climbs west from the town of Loveland up through the Big Thompson River Canyon to Estes. Highway 36 leads from I-25, north of Denver through Boulder and Lyons, along the North Saint Vrain River for a ways, then westward through undulating hills to Estes Park. 

After meeting in Estes Park, the two highways split from one another again, and form two separate entrances to Rocky Mountain National Park, which lies directly west of the town. About 10 or 15 minutes drive into the park, the highways join up again at a place called Deer Ridge Junction. From there the road becomes Trail Ridge Road, one of the most spectacular drives in Colorado, and proceeds west over the Great Divide. 

Lay of the Land

In Colorado, the term “park” has more than a few meanings. It can mean an area in town with lawns and playgrounds (as in City Park in Denver). It can also be defined an area the US government sets aside to preserve for its scenery (as in Rocky Mountain National Park). 

And in Colorado, a park can also mean a high mountain valley offering wide grassy meadows with few or no trees.  In 1859 Joel Estes and his son Milton ventured into a just such a beautiful, grassy park beneath a rampart of rugged mountains. The next year they brought their family back to settle, and the place became know as Estes Park. 

The town lies across the splashing confluence of the Big Thompson River and Fall River, both of which originate in Rocky Mountain National Park. Lumpy hills with big, protruding boulders wind through the area, and many of Estes Park's buildings are built right up against or into these hills. 

Consequently, the simple grid pattern of streets, common to so many towns in the west, is absent from Estes Park. Instead, the roads wind and loop along stream sides, over lumps, and through forests. A good map is essential to finding your way. 

However, orienting yourself to directions is a snap here. Just look for the high, rocky peaks that soar above timberline. They are always to the west. Stand with your left hand towards these mountains, and you will always be facing north. 

Elevation and Climate

Although its elevation rises and falls with the terrain, most of Estes Park sits at about 7,600 feet above sea level. 

At the height of summer (July) highs average about 77 degrees Fahrenheit, cooling to a chilly 39 degrees during the nights. So even in the height of summer, plan to pack jackets, long pants, and shoes and socks for the kids. 

In the winter, December and January highs may climb as high as 32 degrees during the day, and are likely to drop down close to zero at night. 

Precipitation is light, generally running less than two inches per month. August sees the most rain, typically coming in afternoon thundershowers that roll off the high peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park. 

At the higher elevations above town, be prepared for it to snow any month of the year.


Estes Park is a fair sized town, with around 6,000 permanent residents. Summertime is the high season, when visitors swell the ranks to many times that. Another blip comes over Thanksgiving weekend, when hotel rooms fill again for the annual Catch the Glow Holiday Parade and Celebration. 



Check out our site map for a well-organized list of over 140 articles on great Colorado vacations for families.