Estes Park (/ˈɛstɪs/) is a statutory town in Larimer County, Colorado, United States.[1] The town population was 5,904 at the 2020 United States Census.[4] Estes Park is a part of the Fort Collins, CO Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Front Range Urban Corridor. A popular summer resort and the location of the headquarters for Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park lies along the Big Thompson River. Landmarks include The Stanley Hotel and The Baldpate Inn. The town overlooks Lake Estes and Olympus Dam.

Estes Park, Colorado
Town of Estes Park[1]
Estes Park Golf Course
Estes Park Golf Course
Location of the Town of Estes Park in Larimer County, Colorado.
Location of the Town of Estes Park in Larimer County, Colorado.
Estes Park is located in the United States
Estes Park
Estes Park
Location of the Town of Estes Park in the United States.
Coordinates: 40°22′38″N 105°31′32″W / 40.377117°N 105.525514°W / 40.377117; -105.525514[2]
CountryUnited States
IncorporatedApril 17, 1917[3]
 • TypeStatutory town[1]
 • MayorWendy Koenig-Schuett
 • Total6.897 sq mi (17.862 km2)
 • Land6.822 sq mi (17.668 km2)
 • Water0.075 sq mi (0.194 km2)
7,522 ft (2,293 m)
 • Total5,904
 • Density865/sq mi (334/km2)
 • Metro
359,066 (151st)
 • Front Range
Time zoneUTC−07:00 (MST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−06:00 (MDT)
ZIP Codes[5]
Area code970
FIPS code08-25115
GNIS feature ID0204674



Early history


Before Europeans came to the Estes Park valley, the Arapaho Native Americans lived there in the summertime and called the valley "the Circle." When three elderly Arapahoes visited Estes Park in 1914, they pointed out sites they remembered from their younger days. A photograph at the Estes Park Museum identified the touring party as Shep Husted, guide; Gun Griswold, a 73-year-old judge; Sherman Sage, a 63-year-old chief of police; Tom Crispin, 38-year-old reservation resident and interpreter; Oliver W. Toll, recorder; and David Robert Hawkins, a Princeton student.[6]

In the 1850s, the Arapaho had spent summers camped around Mary's Lake, where their rock fireplaces, tipi sites, and dance rings were still visible. They also recalled building eagle traps atop Longs Peak to get the war feathers coveted by all tribes. They remembered their routes to and from the valley in detail, naming trails and landmarks. They pointed out the site of their buffalo trap, and described the use of dogs to pack meat out of the valley. Their recollections included a battle with Apaches in the 1850s, and fights with Utes who came to the area to hunt bighorn sheep, so all three of those tribes used the valley's resources.[7]

Whites probably came into the Estes Park valley before the 1850s as trappers, but did not stay long. The town is named after Missouri native Joel Estes,[8] who founded the community in 1859.[9] Estes moved his family there in 1863. One of Estes' early visitors was William Byers, a newspaper editor who wrote of his attempted ascent of Longs Peak in 1864, publicizing the area as a pristine wilderness.[10]

Griff Evans and his family came to Estes Park in 1867 to act as caretakers for the former Estes ranch. Recognizing the potential for tourism, he began building cabins to accommodate travelers. It became a dude ranch in Estes Park, with guides for hunting, fishing, and mountaineering;[11] when Isabella Bird arrived in 1873, Evans already had nine men and women as guests.[12]

Lord Dunraven (1841-1926), the famous Irish nobleman, politician and journalist, in later life. His ancestral seat was Adare Manor in County Limerick.

The 4th Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl, a young Anglo-Irish peer, arrived in late December 1872 under the guidance of Texas Jack Omohundro, subsequently made numerous visits, and decided to take over the valley for his own private hunting preserve.[13] Lord Dunraven's 'land grab' didn't work, but he controlled 6,000 acres before he changed tactics and opened the area's first resort, the Estes Park Hotel, which was destroyed by fire in 1911.[14]

Bird, the daughter of an Anglican minister, came overland to Colorado, where she borrowed a horse and set out to explore the Rocky Mountains with a guide, the notorious James Nugent, aka 'Rocky Mountain Jim'. She wrote A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains, a memoir of their travels, including the breathtaking ascent of Longs Peak, where she was literally hauled up the steep pitches "like a bale of goods."[15]

On June 19, 1874, Rocky Mountain Jim and neighbor Griff Evans (see above) had an argument. Having had bitter history with each other, Nugent and Evans hated each other and were deep personal rivals when it came to tour guiding tourists. The argument escalated until Evans blasted Jim in the head with his rifle shotgun. Evans then traveled to Fort Collins to file an assault charge against Nugent, but he was arrested and tried for first degree murder when Jim Nugent died on September 9, 1874, of the bullet wound. Evans was put on trial, but the case was soon dismissed due to the lack of witnesses to the shooting. On August 9, 1875, the Loveland court-house acquitted Evans of any charges in the case.

William Henry Jackson photographed Estes Park in 1873.[16]

Albert Bierstadt was commissioned by The 4th Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl to make a painting of the Estes Park and Longs Peak area in 1876 for $15,000. The painting, originally displayed in Dunraven Castle in Glamorgan, is now in the collection of the Denver Art Museum.

Alex and Clara (Heeney) MacGregor arrived soon after and homesteaded at the foot of Lumpy Ridge. The MacGregor Ranch has been preserved as a historic site. In 1874, MacGregor incorporated a company to build a new toll road from Lyons, Colorado, to Estes Park. The road became what is today U.S. Highway 36. Before that time, however, the "road" was only a trail fit for pack horses. The improved road brought more visitors into Estes Park; some of them became full-time residents and built new hotels to accommodate the growing number of travelers.[17]

In 1884, Enos Mills (1870-1922) left Kansas and came to Estes Park, where his relative Elkanah Lamb lived. That move proved significant for Estes Park because Mills became a naturalist and conservationist who devoted his life after 1909 to preserving nearly a thousand square miles of Colorado as Rocky Mountain National Park. He succeeded and the park was dedicated in 1915.[18]

Enos Mills' younger brother Joe Mills (1880-1935) came to Estes Park in 1889. He wrote a series of articles about his youthful experiences for Boys Life which were later published as a book. After some years as a college athletics coach, he and his wife returned to Estes Park and built a hotel called The Crags on the north side of Prospect Mountain, overlooking the village. They ran that business in the summer while he continued his coaching career in winters at University of Colorado in Boulder.[19]

Many early visitors came to Estes Park in search of better health. The Rocky Mountain West especially attracted those with pulmonary diseases, and in Estes Park some resorts catered to them, providing staff physicians for their care.[20]

Recent history

Main Street, 1912

In 1903, a new road was opened from Loveland through the Big Thompson River canyon to Estes Park, increasing access to the valley. In 1907, three Loveland men established the first auto stage line from Loveland to Estes Park with three five-passenger touring Stanley Steamers. The following year, Mr. Stanley built nine-passenger steam busses and opened a bus line between Lyons and Estes Park.[21]

By 1912, Estes Park had its own seasonal newspaper, the Estes Park Trail, which provided advertising for the local hotels and other businesses. It was a year-round weekly by 1921.[22] In 1949, Olympus Dam was finished, creating Lake Estes, giving the town its main source of drinking water.

Land was still being homesteaded in the area in 1914, when Katherine Garetson (1877-1963) filed on land near the base of Longs Peak. She built a cabin and started a business known as the Big Owl Tea Place. She proved up on her homestead claim in 1915, and left a memoir of her years there.[23]

In 1916 the Estes Valley Library was founded by the Estes Park Women's Club. It originally formed part of the old schoolhouse and contained only 262 printed works.[24]

Estes Park was also the site of the organization of the Credit Union National Association, an important milestone in the history of American credit unions.[25] In 1992, members of the modern American militia movement attended the three-day Rocky Mountain Rendezvous in Estes Park, which focused on "guns, resisting the federal government, and white supremacy".[26]

Major flooding events


Flood of 1982


The town suffered severe damage in July 1982 from flooding caused by the failure of Lawn Lake Dam, "after years of disrepair and neglect."[27] The flood's alluvial fan can still be seen on Fall River Road. The downtown area was extensively renovated after the flood, and a river walk was added between the main street, Elkhorn Avenue, and the Big Thompson River.

Flood of 2013


Both U.S. Highway 36 and U.S. Highway 34, the major routes into town, were severely damaged. Hundreds of Estes Park residents were also isolated by the destruction of sections of Fish Creek Road and all nine crossings across Fish Creek. Damaged sewer lines dumped raw sewage down the creek and into the Big Thompson River.[28]



Estes Park sits at an elevation of 7,522 feet (2,293 m) on the front range of the Rocky Mountains at the eastern entrance of the Rocky Mountain National Park.[29] Its north, south and east extremities border the Roosevelt National Forest. Lumpy Ridge lies immediately north of Estes Park.

At the 2020 United States Census, the town had a total area of 4,414 acres (17.862 km2) including 48 acres (0.194 km2) of water.[4]

Historic ski areas


Estes Park was home to a number of now defunct ski areas:[30]

Estes Park vicinity was also the home of other resorts and tourist attractions.[30]



Estes Park has a humid continental climate (Koppen: Dfb). Summers are typically warm, sometimes hot, while winters are usually cold, with lows dropping into the teens and sometimes the single digits.

Climate data for Estes Park 3 SSE, Colorado, 1991–2020 normals, extremes 2001–2021
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 60
Mean maximum °F (°C) 50.6
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 37.1
Daily mean °F (°C) 26.6
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 16.1
Mean minimum °F (°C) −7.5
Record low °F (°C) −19
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.82
Average snowfall inches (cm) 9.8
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 6.3 9.3 8.9 10.1 12.4 9.4 14.1 13.4 8.8 7.3 6.0 6.9 112.9
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 7.4 10.3 9.5 8.0 3.7 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.3 3.8 5.8 8.6 57.5
Source: NOAA (mean maxima and minima 2006–2020)[35][36]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census
Estes Park city center

In August 1900, Estes Park[37] had a population of 218 in 63 households. Many (73) were born in Colorado. Eighteen were born in other countries: Canada (4), England (4), Germany (4), Finland (3), and one each from the Netherlands, Scotland, and Ireland. Eighty had been born in midwestern states, and thirty from states in the northeast.[38]

As of the census[39] of 2010, 5,858 people, 2,796 households, and 1,565 families resided in the town of Estes Park. The population density was 929.5 inhabitants per square mile (358.9/km2). There were 4,107 housing units at an average density of 570.6 per square mile (220.3/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 91.0% White, 0.3% African American, 0.5% Native American, 1.2% Asian, 2% Pacific Islander, 5.5% from other races, and 1.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 14% of the population.

There were 2,541 households, out of which 20.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.3% were married couples living together, 6.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.4% were non-families. 31.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.11 and the average family size was 2.61.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 17.6% under the age of 18, 5.8% from 18 to 24, 26.6% from 25 to 44, 29.4% from 45 to 64, and 20.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.7 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $43,262, and the median income for a family was $55,667. Males had a median income of $31,573 versus $20,767 for females. The per capita income for the town was $30,499. About 3.2% of families and 4.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.6% of those under age 18 and 0.8% of those age 65 or over.

Arts and culture

The historic Stanley Hotel, which opened in 1909.

Estes Park's outskirts include The Stanley Hotel, built in 1909. An example of Edwardian opulence, the building had Stephen King as a guest, inspiring him to change the locale for his novel The Shining from an amusement park to the Stanley's fictional stand-in, the Overlook Hotel. Olympus Dam, on the outskirts of the town, is the dam that creates Lake Estes, a lake which is the site for boating and swimming in Estes Park. There are some hotels on the shore.[40]

Roughly three to four million tourists visit Rocky Mountain National Park each year, with 2021 seeing 4.4 million tourist visits; most use Estes Park as their base.[41] In the spring and fall, wapiti travel through the town on their migrations to and from the national park.[42]





Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous highway in the United States, runs from Estes Park westward through Rocky Mountain National Park, reaching Grand Lake over the continental divide.[43]

Public transportation


The main airport serving Estes Park is Denver International Airport, located 75 miles southeast. Service between the airport and Estes Park is provided by local carriers.[44]

The town of Estes Park operates Estes Transit, a free shuttle during the summer months.[45]



Notable people

  • Jacob M. Appel, author, wrote The Mask of Sanity while living in Estes Park[46]
  • Tommy Caldwell, rock climber
  • Jim Detterline, climber, resident of the Estes Park–Allenspark area at the time of his death[47]
  • Tom Hornbein, mountaineer & anesthesiologist. He was part of the U.S. expedition that climbed Mt. Everest in 1963. He and Willi Unsoeld were the first climbers to reach the summit via the West Ridge route, and the first to complete a traverse of a major Himalayan peak by descending by a different route than the one used to summit. In climbing circles, his climb is considered to be among the great feats in the history of mountaineering. He also designed the oxygen masks for the climb.
  • Wendy Koenig, is an American middle-distance runner. She competed in the 800 metres at the 1972 Summer Olympics and the 1976 Summer Olympics. She is currently the mayor of Estes Park.
  • Loren Shriver, astronaut, commander on STS mission that launched the Hubble Telescope
  • Freelan Oscar Stanley, inventor of the Stanley Steamer and builder of the Stanley Hotel
  • William Ellery Sweet, 23rd Governor of Colorado, built a summer home in Estes Park in 1912, now used as a residence by his descendants
  • Anna Wolfrom, pioneer homesteader, first successful businesswoman in Estes Park, writer, and teacher[48]
  • Estes Park was the setting for Nicholas Sansbury Smith's Trackers series of novels.
  • The Stanley Hotel inspired Stephen King to write the novel The Shining. He checked into the hotel in 1973 for a one-night stay with his wife Tabitha.
  • The lavish ‘Danbury Hotel', featured in the 1994 film "Dumb and Dumber" in which Harry and Lloyd stay, is the Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado.
  • Setting for the "Cozy Corgi Mysteries" series by Mildred Abbott.

Sister city


Estes Park's official sister city is Monteverde, Costa Rica.

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e "Active Colorado Municipalities". Colorado Department of Local Affairs. Archived from the original on December 12, 2009. Retrieved October 18, 2021.
  2. ^ "2014 U.S. Gazetteer Files: Places". United States Census Bureau. July 1, 2014. Archived from the original on February 7, 2015. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  3. ^ "Colorado Municipal Incorporations". State of Colorado, Department of Personnel & Administration, Colorado State Archives. December 1, 2004. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved September 2, 2007.
  4. ^ a b c d "Decennial Census P.L. 94-171 Redistricting Data". United States Census Bureau, United States Department of Commerce. August 12, 2021. Archived from the original on December 17, 2021. Retrieved September 10, 2021.
  5. ^ "ZIP Code Lookup". United States Postal Service. Archived from the original (JavaScript/HTML) on March 5, 2012. Retrieved September 13, 2007.
  6. ^ "Shep Husted, Arapaho Tour". Archived from the original on July 3, 2014. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  7. ^ Clement Yore, "Estes Park Region was Formerly the Playground of the Arapaho Indians," Estes Park Trail, January 27, 1922, p. 7 and February 3, 1922, pp. 7-8. An account of unidentified Indians raiding white ranches for horses is given in Abner Sprague, "Roads and Trails," Estes Park Trail, December 8, 1922, p. 3.
  8. ^ "Profile for Estes Park, Colorado, CO". ePodunk. Archived from the original on May 15, 2019. Retrieved October 7, 2012.
  9. ^ "Estes Park Colorado". Estes Park Colorado. Archived from the original on September 19, 2012. Retrieved October 7, 2012.
  10. ^ William Byers, "Ascent of Longs Peak," Rocky Mountain News, September 23, 1864, p. 2, quoted in James H. Pickering, "This Blue Hollow": Estes Park, the Early Years, 1859-1915 (Boulder, Colo: University Press of Colorado, 1999), chapter 1.
  11. ^ Betty D. Freudenburg, Facing the Frontier: The Story of the MacGregor Ranch(Estes Park, Colo.: Rocky Mountain Nature Association, 2005), p. 61.
  12. ^ Sprague, Marshall (February 1967). "Love In The Park". American Heritage. Vol. 18, no. 2. Retrieved September 28, 2023.
  13. ^ Jane Rawlings, June 2023, "He Tried to Own Estes Park,"p. 2 of The Senior Voice Vol. 43, No. 7.
  14. ^ Freudenburg pp. 61-67.
  15. ^ Isabella Bird, A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains (Sausalito, Calif.: Comstock, 1980), Letter 7, p. 87.
  16. ^ USGS photo in Freudenburg, p. 56.
  17. ^ Freudenburg, chapter 7.
  18. ^ Pickering, "This Blue Hollow": Estes Park, the Early Years, 1859-1915, pp. 220-235.
  19. ^ A Mountain Boyhood (New York: J.H. Sears, 1926, republished 1988 by University of Nebraska Press), introduction.
  20. ^ Pickering, This Blue Hollow, 127-128.
  21. ^ "First Auto Stage Line to Estes Park Established Spring of 1907," Estes Park Trail, January 5, 1923, p. 1.
  22. ^ Colorado Historic Newspapers, Archived August 22, 2023, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ Katherine Garetson, Homesteading Big Owl, 2d ed. (Allenspark, Colo.: Allenspark Wind, 2001).
  24. ^ "Estes Valley Library". Archived from the original on March 12, 2017. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  25. ^ Creating CUNA Archived March 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine)
  26. ^ Markham-Cameron, Julia (June 2019). "Firearm Stockpiling as a Symptom of the White Patriot Identity, or: How Whites Learned to Start Worrying and Love The Gun" (PDF). Social Justice & Equity Law Journal. 2 (2): 178–80. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 5, 2021. Retrieved June 28, 2023.
  27. ^ Ann Depperschmidt (July 12, 2009). "Path of destruction:Flood of 1982 still evident in hike to Lawn Lake". Reporter-Herald. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
  28. ^ Fort Collins Coloradoan (September 17, 2013). "Estes Park vows to rebound from ravages of flood". Archived from the original on September 18, 2013. Retrieved September 18, 2013.
  29. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Archived from the original on August 24, 2019. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  30. ^ a b TCSP. ""Northern Front Range Resorts"". Colorado Ski History. Archived from the original on January 9, 2008. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
  31. ^ TCSP. ""Davis Hill"". Colorado Ski History. Archived from the original on October 9, 2007. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
  32. ^ Colorado Ski History: Hidden Valley Archived January 8, 2008, at the Wayback Machine (Ski Estes Park)
  33. ^ TCSP. ""Leydman Hill Jump"". Colorado Ski History. Archived from the original on October 9, 2007. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
  34. ^ TCSP. ""Old Man Mountain"". Colorado Ski History. Archived from the original on October 9, 2007. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
  35. ^ "NOWData – NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Archived from the original on May 8, 2021. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  36. ^ "Summary of Monthly Normals 1991–2020". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Archived from the original on August 22, 2023. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  37. ^ "Does The Estes Park Real Estate Market Need More Regulations?". Estes Park Home Search. Retrieved March 31, 2015.[permanent dead link]
  38. ^ U.S. census, Estes Park precinct, Larimer County, Colorado, August 1900.
  39. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on December 27, 1996. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  40. ^ "The Estes Park Resort". Retrieved March 10, 2024.
  41. ^ "Near-record crowds in 2021 intensified challenges for Rocky Mountain National Park rangers".
  42. ^ Heinz, Mark (October 29, 2023). "Huge Elk Herds With Wyoming Roots Take Over Colorado Mountain Town". Cowboy State Daily. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  43. ^ "Rocky Mountain National Park - Park Area: Trail Ridge Road". Archived from the original on September 18, 2009. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
  44. ^ "DIA Airport Shuttle Schedule and Rates | Estes Park Shuttle". Archived from the original on August 22, 2023. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
  45. ^ "Estes Transit (Free Shuttles) | Town of Estes Park". Archived from the original on August 22, 2023. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
  46. ^ Writing Today, June 2017, P. 3
  47. ^ "Jim Detterline: The passing of a hero". FOX31 Denver. October 27, 2016. Archived from the original on August 22, 2023. Retrieved June 24, 2023.
  48. ^ Jessen, Kenneth (March 15, 2022). "Women in Northern Colorado History: Anna Wolfrom was a pioneer Estes Park businesswoman". The Loveland Reporter-Herald. Retrieved March 7, 2024.