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Brad McGinley Photography/Getty Images

Key Info

Price & Hours

$25 per vehicle; $15 per person
24/7 daily

Details

Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Hiking, Sightseeing Type
More than Full Day Time to Spend

scorecard

  • 4.5Value
  • 5.0Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses more than 250,000 acres and boasts 124 named mountain peaks. Subsequently, the massive park draws visitors interested in camping, biking, fishing and horseback riding, among other outdoor activities. If you're not an outdoorsy type, consider a scenic drive or a picnic to make the most of the outstanding views. Winter activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and sledding keep a flow of travelers visiting the park during the chillier months. The park's wildlife, which includes elk, bighorn sheep and moose, roam the verdant forests and glittering lakes, guaranteeing that every trip to Rocky Mountain National Park will be memorable.

One of the park's biggest draws is its collection of approximately 355 miles of trails. Avid hikers recommend the difficult Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge Trail, which runs about 10 miles and becomes more rewarding as you climb upward. For a more manageable hike, visitors suggest the roughly 3-mile Emerald Lake Trail. If you choose to tackle this trail, plan to arrive early in the day to beat the daily crowds that descend on the trail. For first-time hikers, travelers recommend the 2-mile Dream Lake Trail, a scenic out-and-back route that will prove manageable for most fitness levels.

The park's Beaver Meadows Visitor Center sits slightly less than 3 miles east of the center of Estes Park. Entrance passes to the park cost $25 for cars and motorcycles or $15 for pedestrians and cyclists. There are also a handful of free days every year, though the park is extra crowded on these select days. While this national park is open 24/7 year-round, it is busiest during the summer and fall. Additionally, many park roads, including the stunning Trail Ridge Road, close seasonally due to winter snowfall. For more information, check out our Rocky Mountain National Park travel guide.

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#2 Stanley Hotel

Not only is the grand Stanley Hotel a member of the Historic Hotels of America, but it's also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel opened in 1909 to provide a luxurious retreat for East Coast vacationers making a pilgrimage to Estes Park. Electric lights, telephones and automobiles all welcomed visitors, and the surrounding town developed rapidly in the Stanley Hotel's wake. Aside from its historic accolades, the property boasts another claim to fame: Fans of "The Shining" will recognize the hotel as the setting for the Stanley Kubrick movie adaption of Stephen King's horror novel. As if its association with the film weren't enough, the hotel also touts its own history of paranormal activity. To learn more, visitors can take one of two tours – a daytime tour that focuses more on pop culture and a night tour that concentrates on the property's ghost lore.

Whether day or night, past travelers said the tour guides are fantastic storytellers and that they impart a bevy of interesting tidbits.

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