For over 100 years the town of Estes Park has been a resort destination for those looking to explore life in the mountains. As the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, the history of Estes Park comes with it a passion for preservation, recreation, and a dedication to mountain life. So, head back in time with us as we explore the history of Estes Park and how you can soak up a piece of history during your next vacation to Estes Park.

What’s in a name

The name Estes Park was established by William Byers, founding editor of Rocky Mountain News, who named the town after its first Anglo residents, Joel and Patty Estes. The word “park”, which means upland valley with respect to talk of the mountains, was added to capture the true essence of the town.

In the beginning

The town of Estes Park started its beginnings back in the early 1900’s with the help of Abner Sprague, for which a popular spot in Rocky Mountain National Park was named after, Sprague Lake. Within a decade the layout of the town as we know it today was largely in place. Most of the town’s early infrastructure came from the goodwill of F.O. Stanley, who had come to Estes Park to re-coop his health. His legacy currently lives on with the famous Stanley Hotel, built between 1907 and 1909.

Many significant steps were taken to create a town ideal for a summer escape such as the building of roads and trails, the reintroduction of elk into an area that had hunted them into extinction, and of course the proposal to create a new national park. In 1915, Rocky Mountain National Park was established and following two years later was the official incorporation of the Town of Estes Park.

Over the years

Over the years there have been many important milestones Estes Park has surpassed to become the destination it is today.  A few important events include the completion of Fall River road over the Continental Divide and Trail Ridge Road, to help counter issues with its predecessor. Plus, the addition of the Alva Adams tunnel in 1944, to help bring water from Grand Lake under Rocky Mountain National Park to help irrigate thirsty farms along the front range. All events and more have helped to shape Estes Park as it lives today.

Discover history today

Today there are many ways in which to discover the history of Estes Park. There are several sites in Estes Park that are listed on the National Historic Register including Stanley Hotel, Moraine Park, McGraw Ranch, Fall River Pump House, Leiffer House, and many others. Or visit the many museums in the area such as the Estes Park Museum and the MacGregor Ranch Museum.

Lodging in Estes Park

Whether you are visiting Estes Park for outdoor adventures, scenic landscapes or just to get away be sure to take the time to learn about the history of Estes Park. And when looking for comfortable and affordable lodging in Estes Park, browse our accommodations here at Rocky Mountain Resorts. We are located just minutes from downtown Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, making us the perfect choice for your Rocky Mountain Escape!