The Best of Estes Park, Colorado

The beautiful mountain town of Estes Park is home to a lot of restaurants - as you would expect from a popular tourist-y location. And while there definitely is quantity we wouldn't say there is 100% quality. But from two people, one of whom grew up in the town, will tell you, once you get off the main strip you can find some pretty delicious meals.


Below are a couple of our favorite places in and around Estes Park that will have you feeling happy and full, especially after a long day on the trails.


Breakfast

- Big Horn Restaurant $$

- Mountain Home Cafe $$ 

- Meadow Mountain Cafe (Allenspark) $$ *get there early, it gets BUSY

- Glen Haven General Store (the BEST cinnamon rolls) $


Lunch

- The Baldpate Inn, historic inn with salad and pie! $$

- Nepal's Cafe, an amazing lunch buffet $

- Peppers Fresh & Fast Mexican Grill $

- Smokin Dave's BBQ, especially nice at the Hanger/Golf Course $$

- Oppa Asian Bistro $$


Historic wooden inn in mountains
Historic (and beautiful) Baldpate Inn. PC The Denver Post.

Dinner

- Nicky's Steakhouse Restaurant, expensive but delicious $$$

- Poppy's Pizza & Grill $$

- Cafe de Pho Thai, amazingly authentic Thai food $$

- Rock Creek Tavern & Pizzeria, great pizza in Allenspark $$


Take-Out

- La Mexicana, amazing breakfast burritos and lunch $

- Antonio's Real New York Pizza $$

- Fresh Burger Stop, in a gas station but really tasty - and cheap $

- Country Market Grab-n-Go Sandwich's $$


Fancy Dinners

- Bird & Jim, local specialties $$$

- Dunraven Inn, their cannolis are out of this world $$$

- Cascades Restaurant at the Stanley Hotel $$$$

Coffee shop sign on log wall
Grab a cuppa at Inkwell and Brew. PC Estes Park Information.

Coffee Shops

- Kind Coffee, also has awesome breakfast food $

- Inkwell & Brew, eclectic shop with coffee and cartography $

- Coffee on the Rocks, wonderful setting near a pond and RMNP $

Now for the fun (-ner) part: the best things to do outside, including hikes in and around the area, dog-friendly trails and mountain bike routes that give you some pretty stellar views (and get your heart pounding).


Best Hikes

(Rated 1-3 for Difficulty)

- Chasm Lake 2

- Flat Top Mountain, best to go all the way to Mt. Otis 2

- Dunraven Glade, a nice back way into RMNP 1

- Black Lake 2

- Chiefshead and Mt. Alice 3

- Devil's Thumb Pass, down in Indian Peaks Wilderness but worth it 3

Hiker with black dog on mountain top
Hiking is better with a dog. PC Patrick Hendry.

Dog Friendly Trails

- Lily Mountain, go early because it gets busy

- Hermit Park Open Space

- Pierson Park, off Big Owl Road is just an amazing trail

- Pole Hill Road


Best Mountain Bike Routes

- Johnny Park, road that winds through forests and wildflowers

- Pierson Park Cross-Over, ~12 miles but gorgeous

- Pole Hill Road, rough start but pretty trail with views

- Picture Rock, in Lyons but good flowers and easy(ish) trail


Awesome Stargazing Spots

- Panorama Point, a long hike but nice and secluded

- McGraw Ranch Trailhead, very quiet

- Wild Basin area, not a lot of light pollution from town

Stars above dark shadowy pine trees.
You can't not admire the stars in the mountains. PC Clint McKoy.

Estes Park has a lot more to offer than touristy restaurants, taffy shops and RMNP. While we did mention a couple trails within the park (Black Lake, Flat Top Mountain) there are tons of really nice trails - that are dog and mountain bike friendly - outside of the park.

Alpine lake surrounded by flowers
How pretty is Indian Peaks?! PC Hiking Project.

Our recommendation is Indian Peaks Wilderness. It is near the cute town of Nederland and has some awesome trails that allow dogs. We love Devil's Thumb Pass because of the difficulty (you practically hike up to the Continental Divide) but there is also Blue Lake, Mt. Audobon and tons of other alpine meadows and waterways.


Hopefully, you will find this information useful when planning your own trip to Estes Park and would like to get off-the-beaten-path a bit more. If you want to see our itinerary for the best 3 days in Estes Park then check out this article.