Estes Park Motor Lodge hotel circa 1950

Estes Park Lodging – A Tradition Since the 1870’s

When guests check into the upscale Rams Horn Village Resort, they find upscale cabins that offer mountain-style furnishings, blazingly fast WiFi and flat-screen TVs.

After a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, guests can relax by the pool or grill in front of their cabin before heading to downtown Estes Park for shopping and an ice cream dessert.

Rams Horn is continuing Estes Park’s tradition of welcoming visitors that began in the 1860s, when Rocky Mountain News editor William Byers stayed with Joel and Patsey Estes during his attempt to climb Longs Peak. With no mining or farming to sustain residents, Estes Park’s early settlers turned to hosting tourists to put food on the table.

After providing provisions to hunters at his home in Moraine Park in the 1870s, Abner Sprague realized that “there was more money in milking tourists than milking cows.” He built a lodge in Moraine Park and later in Glacier Basin, where he dug a lake where his visitors could go fishing. Today, handicap-accessible Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park is a visitor favorite.

Preacher Elkanah Lamb built a lodge at the base of Longs Peak in 1875 and with his son Carlyle guided people to the top for $5 a trip. Later, Enos Mills bought the Longs Peak Inn to host visitors, but didn’t allow music or dancing in an attempt to reflect the quiet tranquility of nature. Mills led the fight to establish Rocky Mountain National Park, which Congress made a national park in 1915.

Drive into Estes Park and the Stanley Hotel appears in the distance, white and regal on a small rise. Suffering from tuberculosis and given a year to live, F.O. Stanley moved to Colorado for his health in 1903. He built the Stanley Hotel in 1909 and ferried guests to his rooms in 13 Stanley Steamer buses. Among his guests were J.C. Penney, John Phillip Sousa, Harvey Firestone, and Dr. William Mayo. In 1977, the Stanley Hotel inspired Stephen King to write The Shining. Today the hotel hosts ghost tours and a film festival focusing on horror movies.

An accomplished athlete, football coach and author, Joe Mills built the 21-room Crags Hotel in 1914 on the shoulder of Prospect Mountain. He managed the Crags in the summer and in the winter coached football at the University of Colorado and wrote short stories for national magazines. Today, diners at Crags Lodge’s View Restaurant can gaze at downtown Estes Park through large picture windows.

Nearly a century ago, Gordon and Ethel Mace constructed the Baldpate Inn from hand-hewn timber. Over the years guests brought keys to add to the inn’s world famous key room.  The collection grew to more than 20,000 keys, the largest in the world. The room contains keys from the Pentagon, Westminster Abbey and Mozart’s wine cellar. Today, this popular bed and breakfast welcomes visitors to experience history while enjoying its soup and salad buffet for lunch and dinner.

Nicknamed the “Golden Greek” during his basketball playing days at the University Colorado, Jim Ranglos played in the Final Four in 1955 and was named to the All-NCAA Tournament Team. But rather than play pro ball, Jim and his wife Penne bought Glacier Lodge in 1974. Today, their son David and his wife Karen continue the family tradition, offering poolside cabins and a livery stables.

“Roughin’ it with ease” was the motto at Frank and Ruth McGraw’s dude ranch on Cow Creek. From 1955 until 1979, Frank and Ruth took visitors on horse rides with the help of their five daughters (Sally, Frances, Anne, Ruthie and Cathy). Today, McGraw Ranch is a Rocky Mountain National Park research facility with overnight accommodations, a small lab, kitchen facilities, and work space for researchers. It is located at the trailhead for Bridal Veil Falls.

Rustic or fancy, Estes Park has been hosting guests in style for more than 150 years. Enjoy hometown hospitality with a unique Rocky Mountain flavor in Estes Park.

Written by Steve Mitchell
Freelance Writer

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