Making the Move to Estes Park – A Reality Check

A photographer who recently moved to Estes Park takes and publishes pictures from the deck of his new mountain home: grazing elk, stunning mountain sunsets, a flock of wild turkeys passing through, and hummingbirds buzzing his feeder. His subjects are endless and ever-changing.

Iconic shot of Estes Park.

Estes Park is the ideal place to live for nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and those seeking the mountain lifestyle. People who visit and are overcome with the area’s beauty often ask themselves the question: how can I live here?

With Longs Peak in the background, an early morning jogger makes her way around Lake Estes. The mountain scenery is one of Estes Park’s big draws.Many have made that dream a reality. Estes Park is made up of nearly 6,000 shopkeepers, motel, hotel and lodge owners, teachers, nature lovers, town workers, nurses, artists, retirees, and volunteers. Some, who have had a family summer cabin for years, decide to chuck the rat race, winterize and update their cabin, and move to Estes Park full time. Other long-time visitors make good on their vow to move to Estes Park after they retire. Then there are the young dreamers who work three jobs downtown so they can climb, hike, and fish in Rocky Mountain National Park. Though many leave after several years, some stick around and put down roots.

Talk to a local on the street and chances are they will tell you that they love Estes Park. They must love it because living in Estes Park presents a number of very real challenges.

Love the mountains? So does everyone else it seems. That is why home prices have skyrocketed in the past decade. According to Zillow, the median home value in Estes Park is $387,000 with home values rising more than 10 percent in the last year. Some homeowners in Estes Park choose to rent out their homes through VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner). Because of this lack of affordable housing, many teachers, nurses, and town employees live “down the hill” as locals say, and commute from Loveland, Longmont and beyond to work in Estes Park.

Jogger on Lake Estes Trail

If your dream is to move to Estes Park, find an apartment, and work a service level job (restaurant, hotel front desk, housekeeping, retail) while you hike and enjoy the mountains in your off-time, be aware of the one catch in this scenario. That is, finding an apartment. Finding the job will, likely, be the easy part. But affordable low-cost apartments are difficult to find. Yet, people do it and make it work. Be aware that it’s challenging and may require finding an apartment with a roommate or living down the hill.

Does anyone ever mention the wind? The winters in Estes Park feature a muscular wind with a will of its own. Estes Park winds of 60-70 miles per hour can knock down trees, interrupt power, fan grass fires, and make even a well-adjusted person question her sanity after five to six straight days of howling.

Shopping during the peak season can be a challenge. Need a gallon of milk in the middle of a summer day? That means circling the Safeway parking lot a couple of times hoping to get lucky, and then battling through the crowded aisles and checkout lines. Smart locals shop early morning or late at night, or batch all their shopping into a long list and save it for a weekend trip down the hill to the valley.

Estes Park does a very good job attracting visitors, extending its “summer season” well into October with festivals, the elk rut and the gorgeous fall colors. That means the downtown streets in Estes Park are bumper-to-bumper traffic several hours a day during peak season and weekends in the fall. The new parking garage that recently opened will help with congestion, but locals have discovered their own detours around downtown during the day.

Not surprisingly, Rocky Mountain National Park is also feeling the crunch of visitors. In 2016, more than 4.5 million people visited the Park, a new visitation record. More are expected in 2017. That is why during peak season, locals who wish to hike, climb, fish, and photograph the Park arrive at sunrise (before the crowds arrive) and at sunset (after the crowds leave).

Photographer taking pictures in Rocky Mountain National Park with Longs Peak in the background.
Living in the Estes-Rocky area full time allows residents to explore their passions – from photography to hiking, to trail running.

Despite these obstacles, hundreds of new people make Estes Park their home every year. Estes Park is perfect for those retired from their job and able to purchase a home. On days they are not enjoying the Rocky Mountains, there are hundreds of volunteer opportunities in the Estes Park community. They can answer questions at the Visitor Center, help tourists at Rocky Mountain National Park, or volunteer at the Estes Park Museum. There are opportunities at the Estes Park Senior Center, Quota Club, Estes Valley Library, and the League of Woman Voters.

Local service clubs like Rotary and the Lions hold fundraisers and give back to the community. Need a little extra cash? Flip through the classifieds of the local newspapers and you will find local businesses begging for workers. Estes Park is an ideal place to work a part-time job and get into the mix of things.

Estes Park has a lot to offer the new resident: a first-rate library, a state-of-the-art medical center, a historic hotel with a ghostly past, a new community center scheduled to open in January 2018 and snowplows that plow ALL the roads in town. The community’s vibrant art community welcomes new artists to town.

For years people have moved to Estes Park to make it their home. In most cases, these are tough people willing to overcome a few obstacles to realize their dream of living in the Colorado Rockies.

If you’re researching Estes Park as a potential new hometown, be sure to visit several times, including during the months of January and April. Our EstesPark.com Lodging Search Tool is a good way to find lodging for your stays.

Resident or visitor, we hope to see you in Estes Park soon!

Share this post...


  1. From an almost 20 year resident of Estes, this is a very kind review. Yes, this is a lovely area and so very attractive to many in the few climate months we have. But it takes a hardy few with deep pockets and a patient nature to live here, Over advertising and inability to accommodate resultant visitors is an ever increasing problem. No major retailers unless you desire T-shirts or jewelry (the latter has some truly stellar availability). Not to mention limited accessibility due to closure of two major roads into the town for approximately 9 months out of the year through 2018. The winds? In winter, they can and often do exceed 100 mph. I could go on…but this little burb needs a lot of readjustment before being a reality for anyone.

  2. I love Colorado in general. Lived in C.S. for a while and owned my home. Some serious responsibility forced me to sell my wonderful property but have not given up on continuing to visit for as long as my health will permit. I have friends there who offer accommodation as well….sooo.. the dream of enjoying my favorite place in the world even sporadically, is still very strong.

Leave a Reply