Towns Near Rocky Mountain National Park: 10 Great Places to Stay and Play!

Colorado is home to one of America’s most beautiful and visited National Parks, Rocky Mountain National Park. Millions of people from all over the world come to experience the majesty of this natural wonder each year. Neighboring towns offer park visitors everything from rustic Western charm to modern city amenities. Here are ten towns close to Rocky Mountain National Park that you’ll want to check out for lodging, dining and entertainment ideas!

Google map showing the towns close to Rocky Mountain National Park with blue markers

 CitySide of ParkTravel Time
Estes ParkEast8 minutes
LyonsEast35 minutes
BoulderEast60 minutes
LovelandEast55 minutes
DenverEast90 minutes
Grand LakeWest6 minutes
GranbyWest10 minutes
Winter ParkWest48 minutes
Hot Sulphur SpringsWest45 minutes
KremmlingWest55 minutes

East Gateway Towns Close to Rocky Mountain National Park

East of the Rocky Mountains you’ll find some of the most populous cities in Colorado, including the capital of Denver. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t also discover unique communities filled with interesting things to do. The East Gateway communities are the perfect place to stay if you are only planning 1 day in Rocky Mountain National Park because you are close to the most popular spots in the park.

Estes Park

Distance to Park Entrance: 3.8 mi from the center of town (8 minutes)

Local Website: www.VisitEstesPark.com

Most vacationers choose to make their home base in Estes Park, located on the East side of RMNP. Estes Park is closest to the most activities, sites and designated hikes within the park, making it a very popular launching point for a great day of adventure.

Although you will still find many typical tourist shops with T-shirts and goofy moose sculptures, Estes Park shopping has matured over the past few decades. We love to wander through the more unique stores where you’ll find high-quality crafters and local artisans. A day of shopping in Estes Park can be an adventure all itself.

Almost every summer weekend brings out festivals featuring local artists and musicians. It’s not uncommon to encounter elk wandering down the street or see moose lounging by the river in town. Estes Park is also very dog friendly so feel free to bring your pup along if you are staying here.

Estes Park at night with lights against the snow showing the town is near Rocky Mountain National Park
Downtown Estes Park on a Winter’s Night

With thousands of beds and hundreds of campsites, there’s a wide variety of lodging choices. There are lovely hotels and cabins situated along Lake Estes or the Big Thompson River. Or, for a real treat, try a night in the famous Stanley Hotel. You’ll also find unique rentals in the nearby valley, perfect for getting away from the busier town activity.

Within Estes Park, you’ll find over 60 great dining choices, from fast food to fine dining. Most restaurants are fun and casual, where you’ll feel comfortable popping in hot from the trail or in your flip-flops. Our favorites have outside dining along the river. This mountain village is a vacationer’s paradise! From Estes Park, it is easy to build your itinerary for one day in Rocky Mountain National Park since you are right at the gates.

Lyons

Distance to Park Entrance: 24 miles (35 minutes)

Local Website: www.LyonsColorado.com

Lyons is one of the smallest Rocky Mountain towns on the east side. This town’s charming main street has a few unique shops and places to stay. You could spend several hours browsing through the village of Lyons, admiring their large selection of crafts, quilts and antiques.

With 1/2 dozen delicious eateries and local breweries, you might enjoy popping over to Lyons for dinner one evening. Make sure you stop at our favorite: The Colorado Cherry Company. The pie is fantastic, and we always stock up on their cherry salsa! You’ll find a wide variety of vacation rentals, most in interesting rustic settings.

Street in Boulder Colorado lined with restaurants
There are many unique restaurant experiences in Boulder

Boulder

Distance to Park Entrance: 42 miles (1 hour)

Local Website: www.BoulderColoradoUSA.com

One of the most famous towns in the Rocky Mountains, Boulder is the home to the University of Colorado with over 30,000 students. This bustling community embraces the outdoors in a big way. It is steeped in adventure, from tubing down Boulder Creek on a hot summer day to exploring 300 miles of hiking and biking trails.

The university attracts top musical talent and is home to the classical Colorado Music Festival, an incredible summer concert series under the stars. Or check out one of the dozen of live venues with nightly music.

The eclectic downtown offers many dining options to visitors with over 100 restaurants, coffee shops and pubs, along with a dozen breweries and many art galleries. You’ll find plenty of lodging options, from boutique hotels and campgrounds to private rentals and cozy inns.

Loveland

Distance to Park Entrance: 35 miles (55 minutes)

Local Website: www.VisitLovelandCo.org

Loveland will feel like home to art lovers. The city boasts 4 outdoor art parks featuring over 500 public pieces in addition to the accredited Loveland Museum. You’ll discover art by local and national artists everywhere you turn, including a shopping trip to downtown Loveland where every store is locally owned. Loveland offers a variety of unique restaurants and cafes.

Loveland is also a gateway to adventure close to world-class fishing and some challenging hiking. There are several rugged trails for your mountain bike, including Devil’s Backbone and Bobcat Ridge. This city is host to all your traditional hotels and various untraditional offerings on ranches and private rentals.

Downtown Denver

Denver

Distance to Park Entrance: 75 miles (1 hour 30 minutes)

Local Website: www.Denver.org

The big city offers a very different experience than the smaller mountain towns, and many find they prefer staying here a night or two to enjoy the urban amenities. Denver is home to the region’s largest airport and many corporations making it a vibrant business center.

Of course, you won’t run out of things to do here! Few places provide as much variety as Denver. It offers world-class restaurants, sports, art galleries, museums and theater. The city is also home to a fantastic music scene with over 200 live music venues. You might even enjoy an urban hike or taking in a Rockies game at Coors Field. Hotels are plentiful, and you’ll find many vacation rentals.

West Gateway Towns to Rocky Mountain National Park

The west entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, at the Grand Lake Station in the Kawuneeche Valley, brings you into a world very different than you find on the Eastside. You’ll find quaint small rocky mountain towns and an abundance of friendly people far removed from the busy life of the bigger cities.

Grand Lake

Distance to Park Entrance: 2 miles (6 minutes)

Local Website: www.VisitGrandCounty.com

Grand Lake is the Western Gateway into Rocky Mountain National Park. If the hectic activity of Estes Park overwhelms you, then Grand Lake is the place to be if you want to be close to Rocky Mountain National Park. Although recent years have brought more tourists to Grand Lake, it has managed to maintain the feel of a small town.

Grand Lake is the deepest and largest natural lake in Colorado, attracting water enthusiasts all year long. Surrounded on 3 sides by RMNP, it’s a great spot to boat or kayak. The Grand Lake Regatta Week is a sight to see as sailboats take over the lake with color. If fishing is your thing, ice fishing is just as popular here as summer fishing. Down the road, you’ll find Lake Granby, well stocked with trout and kokanee salmon.

Although there are several dozen friendly hotels and motels in the area, you’ll find a greater ratio of cabins, lodges and cottages on this side of the park. More room to spread out!

The folks in Grand Lake do like their food. Restaurants line the historic boardwalk or enjoy amazing lake views. Everything is slower on this side of the park, so be prepared to relax and enjoy your meal. The boardwalk has its share of quaint shops tucked in between ice cream & candy stores.

Lake Granby – Located between Grand Lake and Granby

Granby

Distance to Park Entrance: 6 miles (10 minutes)

Local Website: www.VisitGrandCounty.com

Granby is a Rocky Mountain town for adventure seekers looking for more than just a few days in the park. Granby offers all the traditional outdoor activities with excellent fishing, hiking and biking opportunities. In winter, Granby shines with snowmobiling, ice fishing, snowshoeing, and cross country ski trails.

You won’t find any chain hotels in Granby because all the service here is quite personal. You will discover unique ranches, cabins and rentals lining the highway at the east edge of town. Artsy shops and restaurants occupy old buildings along Main Street.

Winter Park

Distance to Park Entrance: 37 miles (48 minutes)

Local Website: www.PlayWinterPark.com

Winter Park is world-famous for its skiing in the Rocky Mountains. Once you’ve experienced it, you’ll understand why. The town has a historic, small-town charm mixed with modern amenities that bring visitors back year after year.

For summer visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park, what that means is a summer playland with the type of lodging and amenities you’d expect from a resort community. Enjoy the annual Winter Park Jazz Festival or the summer evenings in the park music series.

Hot Sulpher Springs

Distance to Park Entrance: 31 miles (45 minutes)

Local Website: www.VisitGrandCounty.com

Hot Sulpher Springs is a mountain town offering what few towns can, mineral springs spas! This destination offers an authentic feel and local color, a short drive from Rocky Mountain National Park, giving it a unique charm. There’s not much in this small town (population under 1,000), but the spa is pretty amazing.

Kremmling

Distance to Park Entrance: 45 miles (55 minutes)

Local Website: www.VisitGrandCounty.com

Kremmling is a “Sportsman’s Paradise”.  The Colorado River and the Blue River offer Gold Medal water for fly fishing and rapids for whitewater rafting and kayaking. You’ll also find miles of ATV trails around Kremmling, as well as horseback riding and bike trails.

The town has all the amenities you’d expect from larger communities, including a decent-sized grocery store, movie theater, and unique shops.

The towns near Rocky Mountain National Park are diverse in what they have to offer, but all of them provide the perfect location for visitors who want to experience more than just a day or two at RMNP. Whether you’re looking for an authentic mountain town with mineral springs spas, unique shops and restaurants lining Main Street, or access to some of Colorado’s best fishing and whitewater rafting spots- these towns will deliver on their promises.

While you are visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, here are a couple of articles to help you get started with your itinerary: