When families decide to go on vacation, many choose Estes Park because there’s so much to do. Rocky Mountain Park is a natural playground, but when a family wants a break from the trail, Estes Park offers activities for the preschooler, the grandparent and everyone in between.
Dangle from a Rope
Introduce the entire family to rock climbing in the safety of an indoor gym. Estes Park Mountain Shop, one of the nation’s best small climbing gyms, has 4,500 square feet of climbing terrain, including a 600-square-foot bouldering wall. There is no age limit. Private outdoor rock climbing guides are available and cater to everyone’s ability level. The shop offers courses for beginners to the advanced climber. Open daily 8am-9pm. 970-586-6548, estesparkmountainshop.com.
Try the “Y”
YMCA of the Rockies offers activities for everyone’s idea of adventure. Try the three-sided outdoor climbing wall or new two-story indoor climbing wall, indoor swimming pool, guided hikes, mini-golf, disc golf, craft and design center, and much more. You can also go horseback riding. The Y also offers kids’ day camps run by trained counselors. If you’re not staying on-grounds or are not a member of the YMCA of the Rockies, purchase a wristband day pass at the new Boone Family Mountain Center, Sweet Memorial Program Building, or the Admin Building. $25 adults, $10 kids (6-12), five and under free. 970-586-3341, ymcarockies.org.
All the Fun Stuff
Ride-A-Kart is a family-owned entertainment center that offers the full gamut of amusement park-style adventures for the entire family. In business for more than 60 years, Ride-A-Kart has go-karts, bumper boats, bumper kars, batting cages, Casey’s Train, extreme bungee trampoline, and mini-golf, plus an arcade with skee ball, basketball, air hockey, video, pinball, and interactive games. They also offer yummy munchies to satisfy your hunger after your fun! 970-586-6495, rideakart.com.
Rocky Mountain tours
An environmentally-conscious company, Green Jeep Tours can take you off-roading or on a scenic adventure. Their entertaining guides bring you high into the mountains to waterfalls and wildlife while sharing amazing facts and stories. Tours include Trail Ridge Road and Old Fall River Road. For more information, call 970-577-0034, or visit
Pedal, walk, or rollerblade the four-mile, paved loop that circles Lake Estes. Across from the fairgrounds, the path branches to the south under US Hwy 36. The trail takes you through Stanley Park, past the dog park and the ball fields for another .7 miles.
Rent a Mountain Bike
There’s no better place to ride mountain bikes than in the mountains! Estes Park Mountain Shop rents full-suspension mountain bikes that are perfect for exploring the single- and double-track trails in the area. The staff has some great trail recommendations. 970-586-6548, estesparkmountainshop.com.
Get Them Hooked
Fishing gear and licenses are available at Estes Anglers, 970-586-2110, estesangler.com; Estes Park Mountain Shop, 970-586-6548, estesparkmountainshop.com; Kirks Fly Shop and Mountain Adventures, 970-577-0790, kirksflyshop.com; or True Value Hardware, 970-586-3496, estestruevalue.com.
Rocky Mountain Conservancy – Field Institute programs offer a wonderful way for kids (and you too) to learn about nature. Fun classes such as Who Pooped in the Woods?; Bugs, Beetles & Butterflies: Tiny but Amazing Creatures of Rocky; Lions, Coyotes, & Bears! Oh, My!; and Kids’ Map & Compass Exploration. 970-586-3262,
Become a Junior Ranger
The Junior Ranger Program at Rocky Mountain National Park is a great way to teach kids about nature and animals. Free age-appropriate Junior Ranger booklets filled with activities and games are available at visitor centers. A successfully completed book earns a badge! Junior Ranger Headquarters, located at Hidden Valley along Trail Ridge Road, is open June 22 through August 18, 2019. nps.gov/romo.
Estes Park is the ideal place to teach children (and adults) to respect wildlife, keep a safe distance, and not feed that cute chipmunk begging at the picnic table. At any given time you can see herds of elk and deer, roving bands of wild turkeys, bighorn sheep, elusive coyotes and bobcats, or red-tail hawks. Everyone should learn not to pick the wildflowers (it’s illegal) and resist the temptation to load their pockets with pretty rocks.
Trail tags, the small cloth patches sewn on backpacks, tell a story of adventures. The green-bordered trail tags speak of short, easy walks of less than five miles round-trip to Alberta Falls, Nymph Lake, Calypso Cascades, and Bierstadt Lake. Patches with red borders are for more strenuous hikes of five to ten miles to Twin Sisters, Odessa Lake, Mills Lake, and Deer Mountain. Things get more serious with the blue-lined patches that denote hikes of 10-15 miles to Fern Lake, Lawn Lake, and Ouzel Lake. Patches rimmed in gold are hikes of more than 15 miles to far-flung lakes and mountain peaks. Earn a gold trail tag for Thunder Lake, Key Hole, or Longs Peak, and the locals take notice. Virtually every hike in Rocky Mountain National Park has a trail tag. It’s a great way to remember vacation fun and the perfect motivator to return and earn more.
Stop by Estes Park Mountain Shop, Kirks Fly Shop, Miller’s Indian Village, and Village Store at National Park Village for your tags. They cost about $1.50