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  • Andy Hitch

Estes Park Colorado

Estes Park is the number one tourist destination in Colorado. It’s the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is one of the top 10 parks in America.

I’ve seen way too many people make the mistake of only visiting for a day or two. There is so much to do here. You’re really missing out if you fail to plan. Many people realize this the moment they round the corner from the canyon over looking Estes Park. To see this small, bustling town completely surrounded by close quarter, massive white cap mountains is a very special thing to witness. I’ve been here my whole life and I swear, every day I round that corner and kept help but appreciate the beauty of it.

Evening view of Estes Park Colorado
Estes Park Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park is a must. The wildlife is abundant. Most likely you’re going to see black bear, mule deer, elk, and moose. The only thing I haven’t seen in RMNP is a wolverine. They even say grizzly bears are in the area. We all know there is a small population of wolves now.

The only thing more amazing than the wildlife is the beautiful terrain and views. It’s especially cool driving up Old Fall River Road to the Alpine Visitor at over 12,000 feet. A lot of people like to do it in a Jeep rental with Backbone Adventures. Along the way there are short hikes to amazing waterfalls and breathtaking views.

Bear Lake is one of the more popular destinations in Rocky Mountain National Park. In fact, I think there are more weddings held at Bear Lake than most churches in this country. The hike to it alone is worth the trip to Colorado. Then again, all of the hiking in the area is incredible.

Another huge attraction is the Stanley Hotel. It boggles my mind when people come here and know nothing about the Stanley Hotel. Come on people: “The Shinning”, oh my God. The Stanley is a real slice of American history. The story and that in itself is enough to demand you see it. However, it’s the inspiration behind The Shinning book and movie that is the most intriguing. Stephen King literally got the holy shit scared out of him so bad, he had to write a book.

The ghost tour at the Stanley Hotel is worth every penny. You have to do it. On a personal note, I’ve stayed in the one of the “most haunted” rooms. Room 403 on the 4th floor is said to be haunted by Lord Dunraven. Keep in mind, I am a VERY skeptical person when it comes to ghosts. I’m 50 years old and have never had an experience. Well, except for the time I stayed at the Stanley. I’m not going to go into detail because it really doesn’t matter. The bottom line is this: We left the room and hotel in the early morning hours. I’ll just say this: Something wasn’t right and some shit did happen. Nothing huge, but it was enough for me to get the HELL out of there. I will also tell you that I got a little shitty with the staff. I said something to the effect of, “If I find out someday you people are playing games, we’re going to have a serious problem”.

Two months later I was on a flight to Miami. I was seated with some friends right behind first class. Turns out the cast and crew from the show Ghost Hunters took up the whole first class. They were drinking and we were drinking so, we just decided to join the party. They were really cool actually. They were coming back from their 13th visit and shoot at the Stanley Hotel. They told us that like many places they shoot, anything big and undeniable they capture isn’t allowed on the show. When pressed why that was, they told us the network felt it was to risky to show such detail. When I pressed more, I was told it had something to do with religion and most peoples believe of what life after death is. I though that was really interesting. They told us about full blown apparitions, full on conversations, and all sorts of things. Definitely not the corny noises and the occasional door opening and closing you see on almost every episode. So, is it all true? I don’t know. Stay there and you be the judge.

There is so much to do in Estes Park. Obviously, we offer Jeep rentals, ATV rentals, snowmobile tours, dirt bike motorcycle rentals, and Razor UTV rentals. However, there is also amazing horseback riding here. A lot of people ride horses. Many of you reading this have ridden horses mostly on flat land. Imagine finding yourself in the Colorado Rockies at 10,000 feet, riding your horse through a lush, green alpine meadow and then crossing a river. All the beauty I spoke about Rocky Mountain National Park. Imagine yourself on horseback. SK horses offers such a ride and it is well worth the money.

Estes Park has white water river rafting tours and adventures for every comfort level. Estes has some of the best fly fishing in the world, guided and unguided. Are you a rock climber? Well, look no further, the rock climbing in and around Estes Park is amazing. Estes also has an indoor rock-climbing facility at the Estes Park Mountain Shop. Here, you can also rent snow shoes, bikes, skis, fishing, camping, and climbing gear. Plus, they have a really cool retail shop.

Estes Park also has multiple mini golf courses that also offer go-carts, bumper boats, slides, and other rides and games. There is a ropes course in town as well. I haven’t done it yet, but I hear it’s really cool. The aerial tramway is a favorite of course. It’s one HELL of a view. The shopping downtown is one of the big attractions. Downtown Estes Park is a Mecca really. So many shops with so many cool gifts and interesting stores. A cool thing to know for you guys: If you get sick of shopping with your lady, there is an outdoor bar right smack dab in the middle of it all. So, go ahead, hang out and have a few drinks at The Slab.

Speaking of “drinks”. Estes Park is home to a couple great local breweries and one bad ass distillery called Elkins. Elkins is a must in my opinion. They mix so awesome drinks. They have a tasting / retail location downtown, and their main hangout location is right next door to us at Backbone Adventures.

Let’s talk about food for a minute. Now, I’ve been all over this great country. I consider myself to be a steak connoisseur extraordinaire. Yep, I love me a good steak. Estes Park has two great steaks I would rate at 8 on a scale from 1-10. I’ve had Wagu. I’ve paid over $100 for a steak. In fact, I won’t eat a steak unless it’s at a fine dining restaurant because I know the quality won’t be there. I’d say it’s the only area of my life where I am a full-on snob. I hate, hate, HATE paying for subpar food. I like to cook, so if I can make it better, I won’t pay for it. The Dunraven Inn and the Rock Inn in Estes Park have a couple really good steaks.

Antonio’s pizza is some of the best real New York style pizza you’re ever going to eat and it’s right here in Estes Park. I seriously kid you not! Nordy’s in Loveland has some of the best BBQ you’re ever going to wrap your lips around, and there are a few more I’d like to at least mention: Twin Owls, The Glen Haven Inn, and Smokin Dave’s BBQ are also very good choices. I’m not a huge fan of Mexican food, but I’ve heard there is one really good one in Estes Park. I can’t think of the name off the top of my head. If you find it, please let me know.

So, if you’re still reading, I’d like to take this opportunity to sell you on my company. I personally think the ATV rentals we offer in Estes Park is one of the most exciting things you can do. Call us crazy, but we actually turn you loose in a $24,000 Polaris Razor 1000 XP, unguided, in the real backwoods of Colorado. I can honestkly say it is one of the most exhilarating things you’re ever going to do on vacation.

We are open 365 days a year. Yes, we even run ATV, Razor, and Jeep rentals in the snow. Personally, I think ripping a Razor in the snow is WAY more fun than a snowmobile. Not only that, but it’s 1000 times safer.

Do an ATV rental with us in the summer months and you’ll cross mountain rivers, alpine meadows, and traverse the most elaborately diverse trail system you’re ever going to see. Plus, our trail system has more moose close by than any other trail system in the state. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll see a moose if you’re looking. The wildlife, views, and National Forest access is a serious draw to our area. When you experience it in the open air on an ATV rental, it’s that much better.

In my opinion, Estes Park is an adventure town. The old folks around here might prefer to just keep people shopping. However, nobody can deny the masses of people coming here in order to seek a new adventure and thrill. Keep in mind though, this isn’t Disney land. The Rocky Mountains are unforgiving. If the horse doesn’t throw you, the ATV trail doesn’t kick your ass, and the hiking trail doesn’t rip your legs apart, the elevation will get you. Drink plenty of water and be wise out here. With that said, live a little. Come to Estes Park. I promise you won’t regret it no mater who you are or what you’re into.

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