Estes Park River Walk Guide: Don’t Miss Out on The Best Parts

Estes Park is one of the most beautiful mountain towns you’ll find. It’s known for being a gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, but the town itself is also incredibly scenic. One way to get a great dose of nature is to embark on a journey on the Estes Park River Walk.

However, many visitors to Estes Park often only get to see a part of the River Walk. So, below, I’ll guide you on how you can fully experience the River Walk, ensuring you don’t miss out on any of its scenic views, artwork, hidden quirks, and some of the best restaurants.

What is the Estes Park River Walk?

The Estes Park Riverwalk is a picturesque walking path that runs alongside the Big Thompson River and Fall River in Downtown Estes Park, Colorado.

The main section of the Riverwalk stretches from near the Estes Park Visitor Center to Performance Park, covering approximately 1.1 miles one-way. It provides a leisurely and accessible pathway for taking a peaceful stroll, exercising, or making your way to some of the many tempting restaurants and shops.

Related: Discovering the Beauty of Lake Estes: A Guide to Scenic Trails and Wildlife Encounters

How to get to the Estes Park River Walk

There are numerous parking lots located along or very close to the Estes Park River Walk.

Some are free while others require you to pay. You can pick up the free Discover Estes book at the visitor center to find a breakdown of all the parking options but I would recommend using the free parking located near the Estes Park Visitor’s Center.

There, you’ll find a parking garage as well as a small parking lot which includes a few EV charging spaces, which are free to use.

Not only is this parking nice because it’s free, but it also marks the beginning of the River Walk so it’s a logical place to begin your exploration.

Estes Park River Walk parking

From the parking garage, you’ll follow along the sidewalk and then cross the Big Thompson River via one of the two bridges.

I suggest crossing the first one which is the one that goes above the dam because that’s truly the beginning and it takes you right to the visitor center if you want to go there.

Estes Park River Walk

Then you’ll follow the sidewalk through an underpass (under Hwy 36) which is full of artistic pieces of tile hand painted by community members of Estes Park.

Estes Park River Walk

Once you make it out of there then it’s just a matter of following the sidewalk as it takes you over the confluence of Black Canyon Creek and the Big Thompson River.

Estes Park River Walk

After about .3 miles, you’ll eventually arrive at George Hix Riverside Plaza which is the location of yet another confluence. This one being where the Fall River and Big Thompson River join.

In the park you’ll find a series of different bridges which can be a little bit confusing but simply stay along the path along the back of the Elkhorn Ave businesses, then cross Moraine Ave (seen below), and then you’ll be walking along the Fall River on a pretty clear path.

Estes Park River Walk

At just under 1 mile you will need to cross Elkhorn Avenue so that you’ll be on the other side of the river and you will eventually encounter the The Water Wheel and end up in Performance Park where the riverwalk officially ends.

If you’d like, you can continue on the “unofficial” Riverwalk which still runs along the Fall River in front of the Fall River Village Resort. This area can be very quiet and peaceful since it is more removed from the crowds and if you continue on this path your round-trip will be about 2.6 miles and probably take you 1 to 1.5 hours.

As mentioned, lots of people aren’t aware of the full extent of the Estes Park Riverwalk so by following this route you’ll be able to experience all of it!

Estes Park River Walk map

If you head to the visitor center, you’ll be able to get a hold of a lot of different maps of the Estes Park area. Surprisingly though it’s difficult to find a map that clearly shows you the path of the River Walk as it makes its way through downtown.

But you can check out the GPS map that followed our journey along the River Walk below. (We took a couple of small detours but for the most part we stayed along the established River Walk path.)

What is there to see on the Estes Park River Walk?

There’s a lot to see on the Estes Park River Walk even though it’s only about one mile long.

First, the sights and sounds of the flowing water running through the emerald landscape full of towering pine trees, quaking aspens, and other conifers is stunning. It really doesn’t get any better than that.

Estes Park River Walk

You’ll find many benches along the river where you can relax and breathe in the crisp mountain air, letting your worries float away like leaves on a river. It’s one of my favorite parts of the River Walk and a great way to slow down and be present.

Estes Park River Walk
Estes Park River Walk

Along the way, you’ll also encounter a lot of art installations.

One of the funnest things to do is to try to find all of the hidden pika statues.

Pikas are fluffy little mountain-dwelling critters that look like a cross between a bunny and a plump mouse and come with the attitude of a pint-sized mountaineer ready to conquer the world.

There are 12 somewhat hidden pika bronze sculptures that you can find which were installed in 2017. If you choose to do the scavenger hunt, stop by the visitor center and you can get some guidance on where roughly these are located along with some clues to help you find them. You can find the map/hints in the online guide.

Also, if you get stuck on the scavenger hunt check out the guide we made that has some helpful photos to help you complete the scavenger hunt.

Estes Park River Walk pika

If you begin your journey from the very beginning of the River Walk, you first come across the beautiful Estes Park Veterans Monument dedicated to all of the men and women who have served in the US military.

An eagle’s outstretched feathers atop the monument commands your attention and there are large stones honoring each branch of the military in well executed tribute.

Estes Park River Walk veterans monument

Additionally, along the Estes Park Riverwalk, you’ll discover a variety of interactive exhibits that cater to the musically inclined.

Take a moment to indulge your inner musician with the outdoor xylophone and the “Contra Chimes.” Installed in 2015, the chimes stand up to a whopping 93 inches and are had to pass up without giving them a try.

Estes Park River Walk instruments
Estes Park River Walk instruments

Along the way, you will encounter the Women’s Monument which is a collection of 12 bronze sculptures created by famed artist Jane DeDecker. Each statue tells the story of a woman who contributed to Estes Park over the decades, dating back to the pioneer times. It’s very well done.

Also nearby is the Estes Park Playground.

Estes Park River Walk Women’s monument
Estes Park River Walk Women’s monument

By the way, if you ever want to cross over to the main road (Elkhorn Ave) from the Riverwalk, there are plenty of alleyways and intersections allowing you to do that, so you’re never “trapped” on the riverside.

With the water temperature so low in the rivers, you may find walking along the River Walk to be a lot cooler than on the street.

Once you cross Riverside Drive you’ll hit George Hix Riverside Plaza. This area is brimming with delightful features, including bridges, statues, and captivating water elements.

Feel free to hop on the bronze saddle, a tribute to George Hix’s love for the West, but watch out because this thing can become quite hot to the touch in the summer!

George Hix Riverside Plaza

Take a moment to wander around and relax in this spot, checking out the Sensory Garden home to an array of flowers, butterflies, and humming birds. But don’t leave before finding one of the hidden pikas nearby!

After crossing Moraine Avenue, you’ll see the gazebo plaza area along the Estes Park Riverwalk. Here, you’ll discover a charming space with steps that lead you closer to the river’s edge. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to get a firsthand experience of the river’s presence.

Put your hand in the water just to see how cold it is but don’t fall in!

Estes Park River Walk gazebo
Estes Park River Walk

Then continue along and cross Elkhorn Ave and you will find the famous water wheel, which will hopefully be in action whenever you visit.

Estes Park River Walk water wheel

Continue on and just a few steps away you’ll encounter Tregent Park, with an interesting art installation placed in the middle of the river. It also has a great view of the water wheel.

Estes Park River Walk sculpture

If the water wheel isn’t spinning, don’t rush off just yet! Stick around and keep an eye out for those enchanting hummingbirds, zipping around like like nature’s own mini-helicopters.

By the way, if you ever need to use the bathroom you can find some public bathrooms located in multiple spots along the way.

Estes Park River Walk bathroom

Continue on right along the river for about .2 miles and you will arrive at Performance Park, which has a wall used for rock climbing. Unless you know what you’re doing, it’s best to just admire the rock face from the ground but this is the official ending point of the Riverwalk.

Estes Park River Walk performance park
Estes Park River Walk performance park

As mentioned earlier, you can continue on for a little while and walk along the nearby resort which tends to be a pretty quiet spot.

There is even more sidewalk that continues along Elkhorn Ave, so if you wanted an extended stroll or work out you could definitely continue on. Some of that sidewalk does run in proximity to the river at times but you’ll mostly just be going along the roadside at that point.

Estes Park River Walk

Restaurants on the Estes Park River Walk

The Estes Park River Walk runs largely behind many restaurants and shops along Elkhorn Ave.

You can access some of these from their rear entrance but one reason I like walking along the Riverwalk is that it’s less tempting to simply hit up every ice cream and fudge shop along the way!

If you’re looking for a place to eat near the Riverwalk, there are a ton of different options. To help narrow down your choices, we put together a list of some of the top rated restaurants that are found along the vicinity of the Riverwalk.

Estes Thai RestaurantThai Food
The Egg of EstesAmerican
SEASONED – An American BistroAmerican
Mile High Coffee HouseCoffee House
Kind CoffeeCoffee House
Mangia Mangia PizzeriaPizza
Inkwell & BrewCoffee House
Hayley’s Ice CreamSweets
The Sundae SaloonSweets
River Walk CaféCoffee House
Rosas Tacos Food TruckMexican
Chester`s PhillySandwich
Raven’s Roast Coffee LoungeCoffee House

In addition to these, some other dining establishment you may want to check out include:

Estes Park Pie Shop & Diner (You Need Pie!)American/Pie Shop
Ed’s Cantina & GrillMexican
Poppy’s Pizza & GrillPizza
Mama Rose’s RestaurantItalian
Claire’s Restaurant and BarAmerican
Nepal’s CafeNepalese
Elevations Eatery and BarMix of everything
Munchin’ HouseSweets
Sweet River + SageMexican
Himalayan Curry & KebobNepalese
The Sandwich MafiaSandwich
The Grubsteak RestaurantSteak House
Danish Cone FactorySweets
Penelope’s Old Time BurgersAmerican
Big Horn RestaurantAmerican
The Wild Rose RestaurantAmerican
Flavors of The RockiesSweets
THE BARREL – Estes ParkBeer Garden

Final word

I’m a huge fan of the Estes Park River Walk.

It’s incredibly scenic, full of some interesting art pieces and installations, and you’ll find no shortage of restaurants and shops in the area.

It’s also just long enough to give you a little dose of exercise. I think visitors should try to walk the entire length at least one time during their stay so that they can fully appreciate everything it has to offer.

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