Planning to visit Estes Park this year and looking to get away from some of the crowds or desiring a more authentic experience? See Estes Park like a local with some of these hidden gems, shops, and restaurants that are off the beaten path!

El Mex-Kal, 160 1st Street, Estes Park
This family-owned and operated Mexican restaurant offers authentic (and delicious!) cuisine. Located near the intersections of Highway 36 and Highway 7, just south of Lake Estes, there’s plenty of parking and a little less congestion than downtown Estes Park. Make sure you try a house margarita along with their homemade chips and salsa. For your main dish, the carne asada burrito can’t be beat! And if you’re into spicy, don’t forget to ask for a pickled jalapeno. Open daily at 11 a.m.

Rock Creek Tavern & Pizzeria, 6 Ski Road, Allenspark
Take a short drive south on Highway 7 to Allenspark, a tiny town bordering the Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park, and enjoy wood-fired pizza and local craft beer! Rock Creek is owned by area locals and features a fun open mic night on Saturdays. Rub shoulders with residents instead of fellow travelers and be sure to look out for moose in the area! Open daily at 11 a.m.

The Grey House, 130 E. Elkhorn Avenue, Estes Park
Downtown shopping can get a little crowded in the summer but if you’re willing to brave the swarms, make sure you take the “shortest hike in Estes” – up a flight of stairs to the Grey House (right next to the famous Wheel Bar on main street). The Grey House is a cozy, comfortable, second-floor shop with unique and trendy apparel for everyone in the family. Yep, even the kids! And speaking of, children are welcome in the store and will find fun toys and games to play with while Mom & Dad shop. Open Sunday-Friday at 11 a.m. (closed on Saturdays).

Homer Rouse Memorial Trail, between Fish Creek Road and Lily Lake
If you want a hike outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, The Homer Rouse trail won’t be completely empty by any means, but it’s definitely more of a local spot. Leashed dogs are permitted on this path from Fish Creek Road to Lily Lake and it’s a relatively easy 1.5 mile (one-way) stroll. You’ll be walking at the base of Twin Sisters, near Cheley Camp and the Baldpate Inn. Restrooms are available at Lily Lake, too! For a map and more information about the trail, check out the Larimer County website.

Estes Park can be buzzing and busy, but there are still off-the-beaten-path spots to get your fix of authentic mountain town culture. To keep with the theme of solitude, make sure to check out our private vacation homes and cabins.