The man who gave Estes Park its name was a gold miner turned homesteader who settled in the valley in 1860. But the Estes Park we know and love today owes its reputation less to Joel Estes than to the settlers who came later, men and women who recognized the area’s potential as a tourist destination.

One of these individuals was F.O. Stanley. Diagnosed with tuberculosis and desperate for a cure, Stanley came to Estes Park in 1903. He hoped the mountain air would save his life. It seems to have done the trick, for Stanley would die an old man decades later, after leaving his mark on Estes Park forever. In 1909, he opened The Stanley Hotel to much fanfare. It was designed to attract tourists, and attract them it did. Estes Park’s resort business boomed. Stanley also contributed to the area’s history in another important way: he provided financial backing to his friend Enos Mills, a naturalist whose tireless campaigning led to the establishment and preservation of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Others came to leave an indelible mark on Estes Park, including Alexander and Clara MacGregor, whose ranch is their family’s legacy. The main house is a museum now, and the ranch itself is still in operation, giving visitors a glimpse into the way of life that Muriel, the last MacGregor to run the ranch, embraced so wholeheartedly.

Estes Park has been called the base camp for Rocky Mountain National Park, but this charming town is a destination in its own right. Its rich history, natural beauty, and the amenities that generations of settlers, entrepreneurs, and visionaries have built are what draw visitors today. The modern downtown Estes Park stands as a monument to the town’s mettle: in 1982, a dam burst, flooding the main street. In the face of destruction, the community rallied, and the result was a project of renewal that transformed downtown Estes Park. It was a fitting chapter to add to the town’s history.

Worth Checking Out

  • The Riverwalk
  • The Stanley Hotel
  • MacGregor Ranch

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