Estes Park & History

Estes Park & History

Estes Park is also known as the Estes Park Valley because it is a low area of land between mountains with a river flowing through. Fur trappers were coming to Estes Valley long before the 1850s but did not settle here. Pioneer Joel Estes founded the community in 1859 after moving his family from Missouri.

His short-lived attempt at ranching was unsuccessful, but he left enough of an impact to become the name bearer of our beloved town. Our inviting summers, cooled by snowcapped peaks, created the treasure that is Estes Park. Visitors annually returning to Estes Park, created a solid tourism base. By the turn of the century, rustic mountain lodges sprouted up throughout the valley. Eventually, much of the land became the fourth most visited national park: our beloved Rocky Mountain National Park.

Estes Park history is abundant with colorful characters, from wily wanderers to world-changers. Check out rapscallion Lord Dunraven and bear-ravaged Rocky Mountain Jim, as well as inventor/philanthropist F.O. Stanley. Isabella Byrd, the English lady/mountain adventurer, and Enos Mills were instrumental in founding Rocky Mountain National Park. Explore the rich history of our community at the Estes Park Museum. You’ll find intriguing exhibits illustrating early pioneer life in our rugged mountains. Sift through the books about the greatest contributors to Estes and engage in activities for the entire family.

You will enjoy learning about Colorado mountain ranch life in the late 1800s at McGregor Ranch Museum located at this working cattle ranch. Guided tours take you through the original home with many of the family's personal items, the milk house, the smokehouse and other historic buildings. While there, be sure to take in the mountain vista eye candy that surrounds the ranch, especially Lumpy Ridge. 


Estes Park’s elevation is 7,522 feet above sea level and sits in the eastern slope of Rocky Mountain National Park, with expansive views of the Continual Divide. Roosevelt National Forest is located east of Estes Park. The town of Estes Park is less than 7 square miles, taking approximately 20 minutes to travel from one end of town to the other. Estes Park generally has a mild and fairly predictable climate.

  • December – February: The average high is 35 degrees and the average low is 18 degrees.
  • March – May: The average high is 50 degrees and the average low is 30 degrees. These are the snowy months.
  • June – August: The average high is 75 degrees and the average low is 50 degrees. These are the rainy months.
  • September – November: The average high is 55 degrees and the average low is 35 degrees.

You won't be in Estes Park without noticing the mountain peak to the south that eclipses all others, Longs Peak. You will want to capture the adventure of the breathtaking views of our prized Fourteener. It's a favorite hike for the very fit hiker. Climbing to an altitude of 14,259 feet, Longs Peak takes some special preparation. We advise you to do your homework before attempting this strenuous hike.

If you are standing in the center of Estes Park and looking up to the mountain range, the names of the peaks are:

  • Prospect Mountain (to the south)
  • Mt. Olympus (to the east, looking over Lake Estes)
  • Mummy Range (to the north, and you can see the “Twin Owls” rock formation)
  • Deer Mountain (to the west, looking toward Rocky Mountain National Park)


Be Always Entertained via Abundant Wildlife!

Big Horn RamsElk can be found everywhere in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. If you don't spot elk in the wilderness, chances are you'll find them strolling around town. They love the golf courses. This magnificent creature may become aggressive during birth and rut seasons (spring and fall). Males are called bulls and lose their antlers each spring. Females are called cows and do not have antlers. Who knows, you may fling open your curtains in the morning and find yourself nose-to-nose with a statuesque group of elk.

Several big horn sheep herds wander in Rocky Mountain National Park, on the outskirts of Estes Park and in the Big Thompson Canyon. Males are called rams and have large, curved horns. Females are called ewes, and their horns are shorter with less curvature. Watch carefully and you may catch the long-sought-after glimpse of these elusive characters.

Other wildlife known to be in the Estes Park area are: white tailed & mule deer, black bear, bobcat, fox, moose, coyote, bald eagle among many other bird species, butterflies, bees, fish, chipmunks, squirrels, beaver, pike and marmot.

Here are a few local tips to remember. Mule deer and big horn sheep are very skittish. Bears are active in the summer and fall months. You will need to secure your food and drinks. They are in hibernation during the winter months. Keep a safe distance while staying alert. DO NOT follow or chase. Obey Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) rules. Never stop or block traffic. Respect Private Property. Please remember to NEVER approach or attempt to feed wildlife.

Wildlife are known to be creatures of habit.

  • September – October: Listen to the elk bugle with their harem of cows.
  • October – November: Watch the mule deer search for their does.
  • November – December: Be careful when observing ram head-butting.
  • January – April: Spot elk grazing around town.
  • May – June: Stay watchful as the newborn babies find their legs.
  • June – August: Look to the sky and into the trees for the birds.
Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Learn More about Rocky Mountain National Park
What to Do in Estes Park

What to Do in Estes Park

Resources to discover local events