Unlike many big-ticket national parks, Rocky Mountain has no in-park accommodations. The majority of visitors, around 75 percent, come via Estes Park and overnight there, making it the obvious place to start your search. But for something quieter, look to Grand Lake, on the park’s western side, or one of the county’s smaller towns.
Blackhawk Cabins — Located near the east entrance, halfway between the town of Estes Park and the national park itself, Blackhawk Cabins are actual log cabins and a fantastic deal for families or a group of friends. The 10 cabins come in different sizes and configurations, but all include a wood-burning fireplace and fully-equipped kitchen. Cabins 1 and 2 are even by the river. The only disappointment is pets aren’t allowed.
Gateway Inn — An option near the west entrance is Gateway Inn, located right off the main drag right on Grand Lake and a direct shot to the Kawuneeche Visitor Center. Rooms in the family-owned lodge come with woodsey wooden furniture and either lake or mountain views. The inn also has an exercise room and a hot tub, and the back porch is nearly 2,000 square feet. Breakfast is at the inn’s O’s Wild Bear Tavern and the dinner menu at the O-a Bistro changes with the seasons.
Woodlands on Fall River — Two miles from the Fall River entrance on the east side of the park, Woodlands has multiple-room suites. The larger units have large floor-to-ceiling windows looking right out onto the Fall River and the occasional passing elk. Woodlands also rents out some houses for larger groups.
YMCA of the Rockies — This is not your run-of-the-mill YMCA. At this YMCA, expect affordable cabins with two, three, or four bedrooms; lodge rooms; and a ranch house — all complete with the same amenities you’d find in any standard hotel. There are tons of outdoor opportunities on the grounds and special programming for kids, too. Room rates for YMCA members come with a roughly $15 discount.
Valhalla Resort — Right on the border of the national park in the town of Estes Park, Valhalla has 27 cabins strewn across 15 acres of wilderness. Many of the cabins offer jetted tubs or hot tubs, and technically you could hike to the park from your front door.
Grand Lake Lodge — Grand Lake Lodge’s 70 cabins have been overlooking the lake for 100 years, cementing them on the National Register of Historic Places. The lodge itself may be old, but the amenities and accommodations are anything but. Its Huntington House Tavern is a great place to grab a meal on the mountainside deck, too.
Stanley Hotel — You’ve seen The Shining. Now you can live it. The good parts, that is. The world-famous hotel sits high in Estes Park, tucked right up against the mountains. You’ll enter to find a grand staircase, handsome rugs, crystal chandeliers, and all the trappings of an elegant 1909 hotel. There are 142 rooms to choose from, but if you can handle it, book a stay in room 217.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch — Tabernash, CO, is a 30-minute jaunt from the park’s western-sided Grand Lake entrance. But at Devil’s Thumb Ranch, you’ll get a rustic, upscale, eco-friendly experience — not a combination many places can offer. This could be where you finally try cattle-driving and fly-fishing, all before a late afternoon at the spa.