Best Rocky Mountain National Park Guide – Where to Stay

Where to Stay Near Rocky Mountains with Family

I grew up in Pakistan where the North is rich with mountain views and crystal-clear lakes. I love the beach but mountains most definitely have my heart from all my childhood trips up north in Pakistan. One of my family’s favorite National Parks to visit in the US is Rocky Mountain National Park and it reminds me of the breathtaking views of Pakistan’s north. I just made my fourth trip to RMNP and in this post I will tell you the best places to stay and all about different lodging options.

Before I dive into telling you about where we stayed, let’s get some basic facts out of the way:

Know Before You Go

Where is Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is located in Northern Colorado, sandwiched between the small towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake. The easiest way to head to the park is to fly into Denver and take an hour and a half scenic drive to Estes Park. The park is open year-round although some months are suited better for visiting than others. If you’re renting a vehicle and traveling during the winter or spring, you may want to acquire an all-wheel-drive capable vehicle, as snow storms are frequent in the foothills, and traction laws (and your own safety!) require appropriate transportation.

Who this is guide for?

This post is families with young kids or individuals who are new to experiencing the great outdoors. My Colorado family-friendly guide won’t give you the most difficult hiking trails or talk about cross-country skiing! Your entire family from grandparents to toddlers can enjoy this favorite place of mine. In fact we took my husband’s parents who aren’t avid hikers and they loved the spectacular views. The park has a bunch of wheelchair accessible trails and pathways as well.

Where to stay in the Rocky Mountains

Where is Estes Park?

The town of Estes Park is the base camp for RMNP. It’s about an hour and a half from Denver International Airport and only 10 minutes from the park entrance. It’s home to rustic cabins, glorious mountain peaks and is basically a Hallmark movie small town. Located on the park’s east side, it’s where you will want to stay for your trip.

What you need to enter the park?

Park entrance tickets are available year-round for a small fee. You can get a daily pass or a weekly pass. However, between May 2024 to October 2024 (peak season) you will need to purchase a timed entry permit in addition to an entrance pass. They release these permits for sale in May and they sell out pretty fast. You can get your timed entry permit here.

Why should I visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Okay if you’re still not sold on visiting one of the best national parks in the US, here are some more reasons to entice you. Estes park, a great place on its own, is home to the Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King to write The Shining. It’s a gorgeous, historic – allegedly haunted – building that you can tour. The mountain air is crisp and the weather is great in the summer months to escape the heat. You will get to experience incredible wildlife encounters, including mule deer, bighorn sheep, elk, moose and more!

Adjusting to the higher elevation

Estes Park is at an elevation of 7,500 ft which isn’t too concerning when it comes to altitude sickness, but it’s still a high enough elevation to be prepared for if you’re not acclimated. Be sure to take it easy on the first day to get used to the thinner air before exerting yourself too hard, oh and drink more water than you think you need!

When is the best time to visit RMNP?

The late spring and summer seasons are arguably the best time to visit so you can get the best hikes and have easy access to all the scenic drives. Check the trail ridge road status before heading over so you don’t miss one of the most incredible drives through the park. Winter months have their own charm in the park for fun in the snow like sledding or cross country skiing (oops, I said I wouldn’t talk about this). With families, however, I recommend visiting from May to October so you can access the miles of trails and enjoy the verdant tree line.

Overnight Accommodation Options

You made it! Let’s talk about where to stay whether you’re looking for a luxury resort experience or mountain lodge rooms with a rustic vibe.

In the park

If you’re adventurous and your family loves camping, staying in the park would be fun for you. I personally am not a fan of camping but my husband and son LOVE it. Hassaan has camped before at glacier basin campground in the park with his friend and had a great time. Some other major campgrounds are moraine park, Timber Creek and Aspenglen campground. You have to get reservations well in advance to stay at any of the campgrounds for a camping trip.

In Estes Park

Out of the four times that we’ve been to RMNP, I’ve never stayed in Estes Park because I just couldn’t find the right hotel room. I am super picky when it comes to hotels, and for me, that can make or break a vacation. There are a lot of Airbnb options in Estes Park to choose from, but I like my room service! Here are some of the hotel options I looked into before finally discovering the hotel we stayed at:

The Stanley Hotel is a classic but the rooms are on the older side. I’ve seen the property and it’s a beautiful hotel. I just personally wasn’t a fan of the rooms. They have a more modern hotel wing called the Aspire Hotel and Spa just down the road. A spa and hot tub is always a plus but this is on the pricier side.

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park
Photo Credit: The Stanley Hotel

YMCA of the Rockies is a popular option for families. They have affordable Estes Park hotels and cozy mountain cabins to choose from. The best hotels are all located in Estes Park which is super close to everything from your main grocery store (Safeway) to local restaurants and shopping.

Another top pick is the Estes Park Resort, with sprawling views of the mountains and the continental divide. The rooms in the main hotel are a little bit dated and not amazing design wise but the views definitely make up for it. Most hotels here offer double rooms and king rooms, some offering suites as well.

Luxury Hotels in the Rocky Mountains
Photo Credit: Mountain Village at Lake Estes

The good news is, Estes Park Resort also offers luxury cabins, more like large rental homes also situated around Lake Estes. The only drawback is that during peak season until early October, the prices for these are quite high (about $1000/night). This would be a great place for a family reunion or to split with friends to bring the cost down.

If you prefer a more generic hotel, there’s a Holiday Inn as well which will give you the standard 3-star hotel experience.

This summer, June 2024 will also see a new hotel opening in Estes Park called the Trailborn Outpost. This is a 2 star hotel, fully renovated with really quick access to the park. They offer free breakfast, some rooms even have a private balcony. I actually stayed at their sister property and absolutely loved it.

About Trailborn Rocky Mountains

And finally, this is where my family and I stayed during our stay: Trailborn Rocky Mountains. Trailborn is a group of boutique hotels centered around the great outdoors and they recently opened up two properties in Estes Park. On my last trip to the Rockies, I was looking up boutique hotels in the area and saw that this hotel was opening soon. The design aesthetic and entire branding made me want to stay there. That’s how big an impact your branding has! Although it’s not a luxury resort by any means, it’s a no-frills hotel a short drive from the national park.

What really stood out was their modern mountain lodge aesthetic with thoughtful amenities and a really great on-site restaurant. I reached out to them a few months ago when we were planning our trip to see if they would partner with me. I was offered a free stay in exchange for an honest review of my experience. We chose the deluxe family suite which has a king bed and two day beds for our boys. All rooms have premium bedding and a pillow menu. The bedding and mattress are so important to me and I had no complaints here.

Another thing I really look for in hotels is the toiletries they provide. Usually it’s something generic but at Trailborn, they had Grown Alchemist products which were a treat to use. I know most people bring their own stuff but it’s details like these that really elevate a hotel stay. While there wasn’t a coffee maker in the room, they had a gooseneck electric kettle and teabags and instant coffee. I brought my own teabags because I’m weird like that and used the kettle every day for my chai!

Trailborn Rocky Mountains Hotel Room

They also had standard amenities like an in room fridge, free wi-fi, and accessible rooms. Trailborn Rocky Mountains hotel offers a bunch of experiences for kids and families alike. From in-room camping (my kids got that and LOVED it) to guided hikes, there’s something for everyone. I really wanted to try the wilderness class for kids but we didn’t get time to schedule it in. These are available at an extra cost. The hotel is also pet friendly and has a small market for snacks, drinks and some merch.

They have nightly s’mores outside, complimentary bikes, and a seasonal outdoor pool. Their restaurant, Casa Colina, was a culinary delight. Featuring a Mexican menu, they focus on fresh locally sourced ingredients. We absolutely loved the barbacoa, chicken tinga, and crispy fish tacos. They also have a vegetarian taco option along with salads. The chopped salad was really great too! For breakfast I highly recommend getting the egg potato and cheese burrito, trust me, it’s not your basic boring burrito. It’s got crispy hash browns with a tangy tomatillo salsa inside. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I wish they had some pancakes or waffles on the menu for kids but maybe they’ll expand it later.

Overall, I highly recommend this as the best accommodation option in the area if you’re looking for an affordable but design forward hotel. The average price is about $200/night but varies by month.

20% Off Discount for Trailborn Rocky Mountains

They were kind enough to offer my readers a generous 20% off discount with my code FARIHA20.

My brother and his family just booked a trip there and I’m so excited to hear what they have to say about the hotel. Condé nast traveler even featured it in their most exciting hotel opening guide earlier this year.

What to do in RMNP

Kid-Friendly Activities in Rocky Mountains National Park

Now that you’ve got your overnight accommodation sorted, head over to the next post in the series about what to do in Rocky Mountain National Park. Whether you want to get some great hikes in or have a picnic by dream lakes, I’ve got you covered. If you want to plan a longer trip and include other tourist attractions in Colorado, check out my post below:


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