The only place to fuel up inside park boundaries is the Trail Ridge Store Snack Bar. It’s a grab-and-go spot with staples like hot dogs, sandwiches, soups, salads, and energy bars. The cafe is located across from the Alpine Visitor Center and is open seasonally with Trail Ridge Road. For a more hearty option, head into Grand Lake or Estes Park before or after your day in the park.
Near the east entrance
The town of Estes Park is minutes from the park’s east entrance and has dining amenities including restaurants and bars, coffee shops, and to-go options.
Penelope’s Old-Time Burgers — Penelope’s is everything a high-altitude burger shack should be: simple, fast, affordable, and perfect after a day on the trail. Part retro diner, part family hangout, Penelope’s is a long-running Estes Park staple. Local tip: Opt for the elk burger, a tribute to the western roots of the Colorado Rockies.
Bird & Jim — The most elegant option on this list is Bird & Jim, a true Colorado alpine-style restaurant, serving locally sourced meats and produce in a cozy setting on the edge of Estes Park, just a few minutes from the east entrance. The dimly lit dining room has an extensive wine and cocktail menu and conjures vibes of a mountain town saloon but with fixings of luxury you’d expect in fine dining.
Coffee on the Rocks — Coffee on the Rocks is the place to stop for caffeine and a quick breakfast on the way toward a day of adventure. Staples like breakfast sandwiches and burritos are on offer, with baked goods and a particularly satisfying chai tea. Its location within five minutes of the park entrance makes it a great early-morning meeting point for parties arriving in separate vehicles.
Estes Park Brewery — Nothing screams “I’m in Colorado!” louder than capping a day of mountain exploration with a beer made less than twenty feet from where you drink it. Sit upstairs at Estes Park Brewery, looking out over the Big Thompson River, and order a plate of super nachos, pizza, and a pint, and recap your day’s adventures under the afternoon sun. As a bonus, the brewery even makes root beer for the kiddos.
Near the west entrance
Grand Lake, just outside the west gate of the park, is a small town that’ll make you feel as though you’re on set in an old Western film.
Sagebrush BBQ & Grill — Two cuisines are must-do’s following a day in the park — barbecue and Mexican. Get your fix on the former at Sagebrush, sitting in the bar area should your crew need some time to recoup and relax. Should you need to level up, the menu offers multiple steak options and a delicious grilled sockeye salmon.
Pancho & Lefty’s — Take care of the latter cuisine here over a massive plate of tacos and a margarita. After your meal at Pancho & Lefty’s, walk the couple quick blocks down to the lake and stroll the town beach and dock, a view almost as photogenic as the national park itself.
White Buffalo Pizza Company — The pizza at White Buffalo is darn good but the talk of the establishment are the bar stools — made of straight-off-the-ranch horse saddles. The namesake pizza is made with ground buffalo on top of buffalo mozzarella and blue cheese, definitely a pie worth sharing. It’s most well-known drink is called the Lake Island Iced Tea which, as any familiar with the drink’s East Coast counterpart may have guessed, packs quite a punch.
Sloopy’s Grill — Sloopy’s is the only spot in town guaranteed to serve something that will keep everyone in your party quiet for at least fifteen minutes. Soft serve ice cream and burgers are the staples, but there’s also cold beer, chicken tenders, deli sandwiches, and even breakfast burritos should you stop by on the way to the park in the morning.