The Best in Estes Park: A Cinnamon Roll Showdown

In January our family went to Estes Park on a mission to find the best chili in town. We had so much fun seeking out our favorite flavors, we decided to do another food adventure in May. This time we were craving our favorite breakfast treat – cinnamon rolls!

how we chose which cinnamon rolls to taste test

Unfortunately, we were somewhat limited on how many cinnamon rolls we could try during our trip to Estes Park. We decided since we were in town for a week we would taste a new cinnamon roll every other day. That means we tried rolls from four different restaurants. We chose the restaurants based on trip advisor, yelp reviews, and our own prior experience. Our cinnamon roll showdown contenders were Scratch Deli, Notchtop Bakery & Cafe, Trailhead Restaurant, and Cinnamon’s Bakery.

We judged based on appearance/presentation, taste and texture of the roll itself, and taste of the icing.

scratch deli & Bakery

Scratch Deli is one of our favorite lunch spots in Estes Park. The deli is inside a small space, so we always take our sandwiches to-go. This was our first time ordering anything sweet off their menu. The cinnamon rolls were very good. You could tell the dough was made fresh. The icing wasn’t overly sweet – even a little tangy. By the time we got home, we had to warm the rolls up a little bit in the microwave to get the full ooey-gooey effect.

notchtop Bakery and Cafe

One thing we noticed about all the cinnamon rolls we tried in Estes Park – they are generous in serving size! Every time we ordered, we split two rolls between our family of four and usually had some left over. The cinnamon rolls at Notchtop were delicious. The texture of the roll at Notchtop stood out among the others.

trailhead restaurant

This was the only cinnamon roll that we ate at the restaurant, so it had the advantage of being the warmest roll we tasted. Our girls (ages 3 and 5) both voted this as their top choice. I think they especially appreciate the sweetness of the frosting. We loved sitting on the back deck with views of Deer Mountain. Trailhead was the first restaurant we’ve been to for months because of COVID-19, which makes the memory even sweeter.

Cinnamon’s Bakery

Locals and visitors alike flock to Cinnamon’s Bakery for their fresh rolls. Considering how much we love cinnamon rolls, it’s surprising that this was our first visit to Cinnamon’s Bakery. This place is so popular, that my husband patiently waited in line outside and texted me, ‘should have camped’. Thankfully, the line moved quickly and he secured the rolls before they sold out.

And the winners are…

Best Roll – Notchtop
Kids Favorite – Trailhead
Best All Around – Cinnamon’s (but if they are sold out, head on over to Scratch and order some amazing sandwiches to go along with your rolls)

That’s our opinion, but we’d love to hear what you think!

estes Park restaurant News

We keep a list of our favorite places to eat and drink in Estes Park on our website. During our last trip, we noticed several location changes in town and wanted to share here:

The Dunraven Inn moved to a new location at the Estes Park Resort on Lake Estes. Dunraven has been our go-to date night spot, so we are eager to visit their new location. They are expanding service to include breakfast and lunch. You can read more here.

Twin Owls Steakhouse is moving to Taharaa Mountain Lodge. Several years ago we went to Twin Owls Steakhouse for an anniversary dinner. We are thrilled to see the change of location because it’s close to our old condo at Mary’s Lake Lodge. The views over there are unbelievable, especially around sunset.

Over the winter, The Other Side restaurant became Wayfinder. I took a look at their menu, and there are several items I’m eager to try.

I know there were many people (including us) who were sad to see Donut Haus closing last summer. The good news is the popular donuts will now be available at Tiny Town Sinclair (860 Moraine Ave).

Guide for Things to do in Estes Park, Colorado This Winter – 1 Day Itinerary

breakfast at a local coffee shop

The first thing on my mind when I wake up on a cold winter morning is drinking a warm cup of coffee. Our day started in downtown Estes Park at our favorite local coffee shop, Kind Coffee. I featured Kind Coffee when I wrote about the Best Places to Have a ‘Cup of Cheer’ in Estes Park. My girls were delighted to get hot chocolates. Along with our coffees, I ordered oatmeal and my husband enjoyed a breakfast burrito.

sledding in rocky mountain national park

The highlight of our day was going sledding as a family. After breakfast, we headed into Rocky Mountain National Park towards Hidden Valley. It is the only place within the park where you are allowed to go sledding. We were immediately hit with a strong blast of winter wind when we opened the doors to our SUV. We bundled up and started walking up hill to find the perfect sled run. Thankfully, the tall pines blocked the gusts. We flew down the hill on our little blue sled. We took turns – I was secretly competing with my husband to see how far I could make the sled go.

sledding at hidden valley in rocky mountain national park

Winter Hike at Lily Lake

After everyone had enough sledding, we decided to head over to Lily Lake for a short winter hike. The lake was mostly frozen over, but not solid. The wind made a marble pattern across the top. We enjoyed views of Longs Peak, the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Lily Lake frozen in ice. Views of Longs Peak, the highest mountain in rocky mountain national park

lunch

For lunch we went to my husband’s favorite sandwich shop. Scratch Deli makes fresh, delicious sandwiches. We took our meals back to our cabin and enjoyed lunch around our table. After lunch, we rested for awhile. We took showers and changed out of our snow gear. The girls happily played with each other, but refused to nap.

afternoon scenic drive around estes park

We decided to carry out our secret nap plan. An afternoon drive is a great way to explore the surrounding area. We saw a large herd of elk near our cabin. The girls drifted off to sleep as we cruised along the curvy mountain roads.

herd of elk in rocky mountain national park

shop estes park

In the late afternoon, we headed back to downtown Estes Park to go shopping. Cliffhanger Used Books is my favorite place to shop. I picked out three novels and several children’s books. Our total was under $20. Proceeds benefit the Estes Valley Library.

wine tasting in estes park

Happy with my deals, we walked further down the block to do a wine tasting at Snowy Peaks winery. The girls enjoyed their colorful play room and got to pick out a special rock from their treasure chest after they cleaned up the toys that entertained them while we sipped local wines.

family dinner in downtown estes park

For dinner we headed to a restaurant that has become a family-tradition, Mama Rose’s. The girls shared a milk flight and enjoyed spaghetti (our oldest) and meatballs (our youngest).

mountain retreat

After a full day, we headed back to our cabin. On a short trip, it’s hard to decide what to fit in. I hope our winter 1-day winter itinerary is helpful for anyone planning a trip to Estes Park this season. If you have any questions or suggestions, please comment below.

2 Day Itinerary in Estes Park with Toddlers

When we are on vacation with our young girls we try our best to stick to a regular routine and take advantage of unexpected moments. If you are looking for ideas on how to spend a couple days in Estes Park with your young family, here are a couple days we recently enjoyed in our favorite mountain town.

Day 1 Itinerary in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park 
First thing in the morning we drove to Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park so the girls could burn off some energy by walking around the gorgeous half mile loop. We love this hike because our girls can both walk at their own pace and stop to climb rocks and look at trout. The views of the Continental Divide are stunning – one time we spotted a moose right in the middle of the lake!

Sprague Lake Rocky Mountain National Park

Next we went to Trailhead Restaurant which is attached to the Fall River Visitors Center. We sat outside on the deck and sipped cups of hot chocolate and split warm, gooey cinnamon rolls. The girls played on the attached playground and we enjoyed views of Deer Mountain.

After some quiet time and naps at our cabin, we headed back out in the evening to Snowy Peaks Winery in downtown Estes Park. They have a great kids area with toys and art supplies which occupied our girls while we enjoyed Colorado wine. After the tasting we all headed downstairs and back out to the garden where local bluegrass duo Dahlby & Nadine inspired our own duo to joyfully twirl in circles behind our table.

We went to the playground across the street before heading down the River Walk to Mama Rose’s, an Italian restaurant for dinner. We weren’t lucky enough to grab an outdoor table by the Big Thompson River, but we enjoyed our spot inside. Our three-year-old enjoyed a flight of milk: strawberry, chocolate, vanilla and white. She was nice enough to share sips with her little sister.

Day 2 Itinerary in Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park & Brainard Lake
We started out our morning with another favorite lake hike. Lily Lake loop is less than a mile and it’s flat so our girls can hike on their own. Lily Lake is located six miles south of Estes Park on Highway 7. We enjoyed spotting muskrats swimming the in the lake as well as the awesome views of Twin Sisters Peaks, Longs Peak and Lily Mountain.

Mountain Views around Lily Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Next we enjoyed coffee and hot chocolate at Coffee on the Rocks. Our girls love walking around the duck filled pond behind the coffee shop. We also ventured into Red Rose Rock Shop which shares a parking lot. The girls each thoughtfully selected pink sparkly rocks from the abundant display.

Rock Shop Estes Park Colorado

We got back in the car with the treasure and our 1.5-year-old instantly fell asleep. We decided to seize the opportunity by grabbing an amazing take-and-go sandwich from Scratch Deli & Bakery and driving to Brainard Lake Recreation Area. This popular hiking destination has been on our bucket list all summer. It’s located 50 minutes away from Estes Park. After sitting in line at the entrance we eventually got a parking spot, which was lucky on a holiday weekend. We got out and hiked around the breathtaking setting.

Hiking with Kids in Rocky Mountain National Park, Brainard Lake Colorado

Even though it was overcast and eventually started to hail, the trip was still worth it!

Brainard Lakes Colorado, Indian Peaks Wilderness

Rainy Afternoon Activity in Estes Park, Colorado
The hail was brief but cut our adventure short. We decided to go swimming indoors when we got back to Estes Park. The Estes Valley Community Center opened a new pool with a lazy river, slides and water play area. There are resident and non-resident fees to use the facility. We had so much fun!

We wrapped up our vacation at Rock Cut Brewing Co. which has games and picnic tables outside. We ordered Chinese takeout from the restaurant next door and saw other people order pizza from across the street. There is typically a food truck option as well.