Hike through Rocky Mountain park then head into the historic town for a ghostly tour and good eats
Rocky Mountain Day Trip: Estes Park, CO
Carmel Zucker
There are more than 350 miles of hiking trails in Rocky Mountain park, but one of the prettiest is to Mills Lake, framed by pine trees and snowcapped peaks. $20 entry fee per vehicle; Mills Lake is 2.8 miles from the trailhead at Glacier Gorge parking lot

Why go in fall: Rocky Mountain National Park crowds have cleared out, and you can get your fix of fall color and wildlife.

Carmel Zucker

In September and October, Rocky Mountain bucks practice their pick-up lines—a series of growls, grunts and squeals—at dusk and dawn in Moraine Park, Upper Beaver Meadows, and Horseshoe Park (where park volunteers are stationed every evening to answer visitors’ questions about the mating ritual). nps.gov/romo or 970/586-1206.

Claim to fame: The town is the park’s eastern gateway.

In the news: President Obama signed legislation designating most of the Rocky Mountain park as wilderness.

Elevation: From the Estes Park gateway at 7,522 feet to the tip of Longs Peak at 14,259 feet, Rocky Mountain is well elevated.

Number of lakes in Rocky Mountain park: 147 Bring your binocs: Look for foraging wildlife like elk herds and bighorn sheep.

Carmel Zucker

The 100-year-old Stanley Hotel, where Stephen King wrote his horror novel The Shining, is known as one of the country’s most haunted hotels. Take the Ghosts & History Tour ($13; call 970/577-4110 for schedule), or stay in room 217, where The Shining was written. The Shining Ball on Halloween (from $35) features a costume contest, dancing, and film screening. From $199; 333 Wonderview Ave.; stanleyhotel.com

History lesson: Farmer Joel Estes is believed to have hosted the first tourists in 1859; as the spectacular scenery attracted more visitors, Rocky Mountain National Park was established in 1915.

Dress code: Hiking boots and a parka, and carry extra layers; the weather can change in a moment at high elevation. 

More fall trips in the Rockies

Keep Reading: