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.

10 Questions to Ask Before Booking Lodging in Estes Park, Colorado

Rustic mountain cabins, condos with sweeping mountain views, historic lodges, river-walk lofts – there are a wide-variety of options for your stay in Estes Park, Colorado. Beyond price, availability and customer reviews, here are additional questions to consider before booking your family’s Rocky Mountain vacation:

  1. Where is the cabin located in relation to attractions we are most interested in? Anticipate traffic during prime summer months. It’s worth considering if you prefer lodging close to downtown Estes Park, close to a Rocky Mountain National Park entrance, or in a more remote spot away from congestion.
  2. Where are we going to eat our meals? There are a lot of restaurants in town, but you’ll save money and time if you can make some of your own meals. Many vacation rentals come with grills, ovens, refrigerators and all the plates and utensils you need. There is a Safeway grocery store in Estes Park. Get a saver card at customer service to save extra money in-store and at the nearby Safeway gas station.
  3. Is there a good way to bathe our little ones? We bought our condo when our daughter was a baby without thinking about the challenges of bath time without a bath tub. Now she’s learning to use the shower which is great because she’s getting too big for baths in our kitchen sink.
  4. Will we have a way to wash dirty laundry? Not everyone wants to spend vacations doing laundry, but my girls go through several outfits a day. Having laundry in the condo or cabin you rent can be really helpful to cut down on the amount of luggage you transport.
  5. Are cribs available? Many hotels have cribs or pack n’ plays available. Call ahead to reserve them. If they don’t have cribs available, make sure the room is big enough to set up your portable crib.
  6. Could there be noise issues caused by traffic, event venues, etc. that could disrupt sleep? If you are concerned about noise, consider bringing along a small noise machine.
  7. Is there enough room and privacy for everyone? For us this comes up more when extended family or friends are sharing a space. If the condo says it sleeps 5, is one or more of those beds a pull-out couch located in a gathering space, a bunk bed, or in a loft?
  8. Does the facility have enough parking? And, is there a shuttle stop nearby? Estes Park has a free shuttle service that runs during peak times of the year. Different routes stop at various lodging, restaurants, shopping and information centers in town. You can learn more by visiting the Town of Estes Park, Colorado website.
  9. Does the hotel have the amenities we are looking for such as a pool, hot tub, mountain views, fireplace, free wireless connection, air conditioning, etc.? A good site to check out for lodging in Estes Park, Colorado is visitestespark.com. You can search with their map feature and filter by amenities.
  10. Are there any child safety concerns like high balconies, proximity to river/water, smoke-free rooms, steep staircases, open lofts, etc.? If you have any concerns, it’s always good to think ahead so you have a game-plan on how to child-proof the place you are staying the best you can.

    We have special memories from all of the places we’ve stayed in Estes Park, from sharing a bottle of wine on the patio after a long days hike as newly weds to worrying about how best to store milk for our baby as new parents. Here are a few pictures from places we’ve stayed along our way.
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