Tourists often travel to Estes Park primarily because the Rocky Mountain National Park is adjacent to the city. In fact, the settlement has catered to the needs of travelers for more than one hundred and thirty years when news began to surface about the spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife across the country. Today, Estes Park offers shopping, dining, and lodging to meet the needs of almost all tourists. However, there is more to Estes Park than just being a big resort town. Estes Park has a rich history that can be relived with a simple walking or driving tour during your visit.
The first stop should be the Estes Park Museum, which has a wonderful display of Native American items. The Ute and Arapaho tribes, in particular, were frequent inhabitants of the region. Learn how Old Man Mountain (located a few miles from the museum) was believed to be a site for vision quests for centuries. The museum also has a preserved cabin to explore.
Which brings us to the 1860s, when the Estes family first settled in the region. Although they only stayed for a few years, a Denver newspaper editor named the area after him. If you look across the street from the museum on Lake Estes, formed in the 1940s along with the dam, you will be looking at the original site. Obviously, the 1900s did not have the same sensibility as the modern era in preserving history. However, a great example of original occupation can be seen on a visit to the MacGregor Ranch, founded in 1873. Tours of the cattle ranch that still operate are available.
The next stop, as you drive back to town, should be the Stanley Hotel. In short, after the world began to discover the great area that was Estes Park, there was a struggle for the development of the land. Basically, the wealthy Lord Dunraven wanted to turn the region into his own private game reserve and cattle ranch. The local settlers fought back and Dunraven eventually abandoned his plans. Now step into the steam car fame, FO Stanley, not only to buy some of Dunraven’s land in the early 1900s, but also to improve the region’s roads and infrastructure. Your hotel is a testament to man’s foresight. Even if you do nothing more than enjoy delicious food there, the Stanley is a must see.
Next, head into town and visit Macdonald’s Bookshop. In addition to offering a large selection of novels and magazines, the store is located in one of the original forest cabins built in 1907. Finally, consider catching a movie at the Park Theater, the oldest operating theater in the United States. The place started by showing silent movies.
Don’t you wish the history lessons growing up had been as fun as this one?