The History of Estes Park

Estes Park in the Larimer County on the front range of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, overlooking Lake Estes and the Olympus Dam and only 70 miles from Denver, credits its magnificent structure, landscape, and ecosystem to the millions of years when it was sculpted into an amazing mountain valley among majestic peaks by glacial erosion, geologic forces, and other natural occurrences. At an elevation of 7,522 feet, the total area is only 6.97 square miles, which is 6.89 square miles of land and only 0.08 square miles of water. The official population in the 2010 Census was 5,858, and the estimate in 2018 was 6,352.

The history of Estes Park goes way back because archaeologists have reported that human occupants about 10,000 years ago were the ancestors of today’s Native Americans. The Arapaho, who started to come in the 1790s, were joined at different times by the Utes, Shoshone, Comanche, and Apache. Artifacts of their activities, hillside ovens, and summer encampments have been found in many places, especially around the base of Oldman Mountain.

The naming of “Estes Park” was a combination of “park” meaning “upland valley” and the first Anglo residents, Joel Estes and his wife Patsy from Kentucky, as reported by William Byers, who was the founding editor of the Rocky Mountain News. Byers, who had briefly stayed with the Estes family in 1864. He wrote of the experience and predicted that eventually this would become a favorite pleasure resort. It is still a popular summer resort, especially for those with pulmonary diseases who are searching for better health. Some of the resorts cater to them and provide staff physicians.

The first pioneer families came to farm and ranch but discovered that they could make a higher profitable living by providing for the summer visitors in always-increasing numbers come to rest, recreate, and enjoy the scenery that was described as being as beautiful as Switzerland’s.

Founded in 1859, platting of the Town of Estes Park was in 1905. Within just a decade, the community was largely what we know it today. It was incorporated as a town on April 17, 1917. A great deal of the early infrastructure was due to the generosity of F. O. Stanley, a steam car pioneer, whose magnificent Stanley Hotel complex, which overlooks the town, was built between 1907 and 1909 to attract the summer visitors and also inspired Stephen King to write his novel “The Shining” after staying in the hotel in 1973 for one night.

Thanks to the inspiration of the residents led by a hotel owner and naturalist, Enos A Mills, there began a large cause to create the new Rocky Mountain National Park along the Big Thompson River, which was established in January of 1915.

Milestones included the Fall River Road in 1920 over the Continental Divide and Trail Ridge Road, its successor and the nation’s highest continuous highway, a decade later. In 1944, the 13-mile Alva Adams tunnel was completed to bring water via the Big Thompson Trans-mountain Irrigation Project that runs under Rocky Mountain National Park from Grand Lake for the irrigation of local farms, and other unique projects.

The friendly and knowledgeable staff at Estes Park Team Realty would be happy to give you more details on the history of Estes Park and show you around their favorite and delightful town. You will likely agree with the Estes Park Team Realty representative that Estes Park would be an outstanding town for you and your family to live, work, and play. The Centennial Year of 2017 found the residents and visitors reflecting on the first century’s achievements and the rich heritage that has inspired this remarkable town. Estes Park has been called Colorado’s original playground with a quaint and small-town ambiance.