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Winter Fun in Estes Park

Estes Park, Colorado, is an idyllic mountain town located at 7,522 feet above sea level, which serves as a base camp for the many adventures to be had in Rocky Mountain National Park. A trip to Estes Park is perfect for families, couples, and friends alike, and there are activities everyone will enjoy. 


From exploring the Colorado Rockies to wildlife viewing to scenic drives, Estes Park is unmatched in the outdoor adventures it offers. Although it was once primarily a summer tourist destination, the town is now a year-round getaway, and events continue throughout every season, including during the colder winter months.

Contrary to popular belief, winters in Estes Park are mild. Winter temperatures are typically between the twenties and forties, with some snow throughout the season. When winter snows do come, any snow that is on the ground usually melts within a few days.

What to do in Estes Park in the Winter

Although some activities may not be available in Estes Park in the colder months, there is still plenty of fun to be had during this season. 

No matter what time of year it is, there is always wildlife wandering around town, and the winter views of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains are spectacular. 

Here are five outdoor adventures to try during the winter season in RMNP:

1. Hiking

With three hundred sixty-five miles of trails, ranging in difficulty from easy to strenuous, there are trails for hikers of all levels. Park rangers are also available to help visitors find the trail that fits their needs. 

With lighter snow falls on the east side of RMNP, many of these lower-elevation trails remain open during the winter months. Some popular winter trails include Fern Lake, Cub Lake, Chasm Falls, Gem Lake, Deer Mountain, and Upper Beaver Meadows. Before departing, hikers should check with park rangers regarding current trail conditions and avalanche hazards.

2. Sledding

Happy Valley is the only place in RMNP open for sledding. The fenced hill is for sleds, tubes, and saucers. Restrooms are located near the snow play area, and a warming hut is also available on certain days.

3. Snowshoeing 

If you can hike, you can snowshoe, and this is a great way to explore some of the higher-elevation trails during the winter. Ranger-led snowshoe hikes are offered for free from  January to March, as conditions allow. Reservations are required for these hikes, as they are very popular.

4. Cross Country Skiing

Whether you are a beginner or have been skiing many times, there are a variety of options for cross-country skiing in RMNP. The western side of the park features deeper snow and flatter skiing, which makes for better skiing, but skiing is permitted throughout the park.

5. Wildlife Watching

With many of the park roads remaining open in the winter, visitors can easily spot wildlife such as snowshoe hares, ptarmigans, coyotes, elk, and mule deer. Moose are often seen along the Colorado River on the western side of the park.

6. Estes Park Winter Events

There are several winter events that take place in Estes Park, including:

  • Tree Lighting Ceremony: This holiday tradition, which has been happening for more than sixty years, features free holiday festivities for the whole family and takes place in late November.
  • Catch the Glow Parade: The annual parade occurs the day after Thanksgiving and attracts more than twenty thousand visitors.
  • Holiday Wine Festival: The day after the Catch the Glow Parade, visitors can knock out some Christmas shopping at the Holiday Wine Festival, featuring tastings from Colorado wineries.
  • Wine and Chocolate Festival: In February, Estes Park visitors can sample sweets from local chocolatiers and sample wines from a variety of wineries at the Wine and Chocolate Festival.

7. Places to Visit

Estes Park is full of unique attractions, from restaurants to historical places. 

  • The Stanley Hotel: F.O Stanley (of Stanley Steamer fame) moved to Estes Park to recover from a severe case of tuberculosis. His health improved dramatically after the move, and he went on to build the famous Stanley Hotel. He continued to invest in the town and its infrastructure throughout the remainder of his life.

Most people recognize the Stanley Hotel because it inspired Stephen King’s book (which was subsequently made into a movie), The Shining. The hotel offers historical tours, a variety of unique rooms and suites, and a top-notch restaurant and bar.

  • The Park Theater: The Park Theater is the oldest operating cinema in the western United States and is clad with a huge neon-outlined tower. While it closes down its film showings during the winter, it is a great location to grab a drink. 
  • Downtown Estes Park: With shopping, restaurants, art galleries, and the Riverwalk, exploring this adorable town is the perfect way to spend a winter day.

High Peak Camp

High Peak Camp is a Christian camp located in Estes Park and operated by The Salvation Army Intermountain Division. High Peak’s mission is, “To use nature and the great outdoors as a setting to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, teach environmental awareness, encourage pro-social behavior and safely provide an opportunity to every camper for fun and adventure.”

During the winter, High Peak’s facilities are available for groups to rent for retreats and events. To learn more about Camp High Peak or to rent it out for your next retreat, contact us!