Estes Park, Colorado, is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, but it also holds a significant place in cinematic history.
The iconic Stanley Hotel, located in Estes Park, has a profound connection to one of the most legendary horror films of all time, “The Shining.” For visitors seeking a unique experience, the hotel provides an opportunity to delve into the origins of “The Shining” (both the book and the movie).
Below, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about this tour, which is part Shining history and part ghost tour. I’ll tell you what to expect and ultimately help you decide whether or not it’s worth it, so be sure to keep on reading!
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What is the Stanley Hotel Shining tour?
The Stanley Hotel Shining tour takes you back to the origins of the Shining story by Stephen King, providing fascinating and some might even say chilling insights into its creation.
You’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the Shining, whether that be getting extra familiar with the infamous room 217 or catching a glimpse of one of the most iconic horror movie props.
The tour also incorporates the eerie ghost stories associated with the Stanley Hotel, adding a touch of spookiness as it delves into the property’s historical background.
Booking the Stanley Hotel Shining tour
You can book tours online here and the prices are $30 per person. There is a limit of 10 people per tour and children under the age of eight are not allowed.
How to get to the Stanley Hotel Shining tour
As mentioned, the tour takes place on the Stanley hotel property.
In order to park anywhere on the property you need to pay $10 at the entrance gate so if you want to avoid that you may be able to find nearby parking and simply walk over to the premises.
After you park, you want to head over to the main building which is the building with the clock tower on top.
There will be a side entrance for tours which you can follow and as you make your way down the hall you’ll come across a desk where you can check in for your experience and get issued your special tour sticker.
I recommend arriving around 20 to 30 minutes early.
This will give you some time to explore the grounds of the hotel on your own time, including some of the art installations out front and of course the hedge maze (this was not used in the movie).
If you pay for parking you will also receive a special token that could be used to get a discount at the gift shop or one of the restaurants. Even if you don’t use the token, it’s still a really cool coin to hold onto.
The Stanley Hotel Shining tour
The experience begins in a little lounge area where you will wait for your animated tour guide.
Here, you may have scenes from the TV series of the Shining playing and you can also check out a number of different artifacts.
When your guide arrives, you’ll be briefed on the experience that awaits you.
One of the biggest things you find out from the beginning is the lack of cinematic footprints here: none of the scenes from the Shining movie were filmed at the hotel.
Don’t let that fact steal any of your enthusiasm though because the Stanley Hotel maintains a profound connection to the Shining
First, it was at this very place where the seeds of Stephen King’s iconic story were sown (which you will hear all the details about).
While I love seeing actual movie sets and sites used in movies, at the end of the day, it is the storytelling that truly imbues them with meaning. And you get to visit the grounds where this haunting tale first unfolded. With the help of your tour guide you’ll be taken back to what it must’ve been like when those first stories started to emerge in Stephen King’s mind as he stayed at this hotel, just as it was shutting down for the winter.
In addition to Stephen King’s personal experience, the hotel’s own ghost stories played a significant role in inspiring the chilling narrative of the Shining. These haunting tales — accumulated over the hotel’s long and storied existence — have left a lasting impact on numerous individuals throughout the decades. From premature room check outs to employees abandoning their posts, ghosts have caused quite a supernatural stir here.
During the tour, you will have the unique opportunity to step foot into the actual locations where these supernatural occurrences have been reported. Whether you choose to embrace the thrill or prefer to observe from a distance, you’ll be able to visit the very spots where these events unfolded.
The tour began by taking us to the MacGregor Room.
Here, you will gain profound insights into the hotel’s story and its enduring struggle for survival throughout the 1900s. Through engaging narratives, you will learn about the challenges faced by the Stanley Hotel during harsh winters when heating was not yet available and reliable roads were absent, isolating this remote establishment in this mountainous valley.
As you immerse yourself in this room, you will uncover the evolution it has undergone, which included the influence of Stephen King himself.
Did you know? Some of the Shining TV series was filmed here and you can find some props from the series. Ask your tour guide about a QR code to find the TV series.
After the MacGregor Room, we moved to the outside.
It was from here that we had a view of the very room that Stephen King stayed in when he found inspiration for the Shining. This particular room holds immense significance and is known as Room 217. Interestingly, you may find the room number sounds roughly familiar, as it differs slightly from the room depicted in the movie adaptation, which is Room 237.
The difference in room numbers between the book and the movie adaptation stems from a creative decision made by Stanley Kubrick, the director of the Shining film. It is speculated that Kubrick intentionally altered the room number to 237 to avoid creating any potential controversy at the location where filming took place — the Timberline Lodge in Oregon.
Did you know? The opening scenes were actually shot near Glacier National Park in Montana.
As you stand on the lawn in front of the property, a fascinating tale awaits you — one that revolves around one of the most renowned ghosts of the hotel: Elizabeth Wilson, the former head chambermaid. Prepare to be captivated as you delve into the stories surrounding her spectral presence and the interactions she has had with hotel guests over the years.
Through captivating narratives, you will learn about the type of guests she prefers and those who may not meet with her favor. You might be surprised to discover that even high-profile guests have encountered the mischievous antics of Elizabeth Wilson.
While you find yourself outside, be sure to indulge in the breathtaking vistas that grace the property. The views from the Stanley Hotel are nothing short of phenomenal, offering a captivating panorama of the majestic Rocky Mountains. Among the awe-inspiring peaks that adorn the horizon, Long’s Peak stands tall, showcasing its snow-peaked grandeur.
If you opt for the nighttime tour, your mountain views might be limited, but the ambiance will be enhanced, creating a spookier atmosphere that adds to the experience.
However, choosing a later tour time may result in larger groups, potentially diminishing the intimate connection you would otherwise have with your tour guide. It also might make it easier for you to get lost or left behind in some of these haunted chambers…. Just kidding (hopefully).
After getting acquainted with one of the ghosts of the Stanley hotel, it was time for some more paranormal activity.
Our guide took us to one of the structures used for housing when the property was built. This smaller, two story structure is not in great condition but it safe to go into, at least safe for your physical safety.
Within the walls of this historic building, you will delve into the realm of recent paranormal events. The guide will share intriguing stories, shedding light on encounters with otherworldly entities. Brace yourself for a spine-tingling experience as you are even shown photographic evidence of the residence ghost.
If you possess the courage, you will have the opportunity to wander through the shadowy corridors where this ghostly presence has been sighted. The dimly lit passageways hold an eerie atmosphere, inviting you to explore the realm where the line between the living and the supernatural blurs.
Despite my reluctance to buy into ghost stories, this was the one spot where I couldn’t deny the goosebumps I felt. I was officially a little bit spooked, as much as I hate to admit it.
Before you leave this haunted dormitory, make sure you get a photo op with the re-created door from the infamous “Here’s Johnnyyy!!!” scene, which Jack Nicholson actually improvised.
After turning up the spookiness, it was time for us to enter my favorite part of the tour: The Ground Keeper’s cottage.
This is a wonderfully restored building that will take you back in time with antique furniture that has revived its historical charm and elegance.
You’ll be able to walk through the old living quarters of the hotel’s grounds keeper. Learn about the family and their famous little dog as you take in the artifacts from a bygone era.
Once that’s over, it’s time to head upstairs.
As you ascend to the upper floors, get ready for two of the most captivating highlights of the tour, intimately connected to the Shining.
If you prefer to keep the surprises intact, I invite you to stop scrolling now. However, if you’re eager to build up even more excitement for your tour, allow me to give you a glimpse of what awaits you.
First, you’ll head upstairs where they will be three different rooms including the Shining Suite, the Twin’s Room, and the Caretaker’s Suite.
The Shining Suite is a cool bedroom where you can find some interesting artifacts like the infamous party that never ends photograph featuring Jack Nicholson and a rug that harkens back to the movie.
But what really is going to blow your mind is one of the axes from the filming of The Shining — a prop that has been valued in the six figures. This remarkable piece of cinematic history was generously donated by an anonymous benefactor and was recently obtained by the hotel.
Learn about the struggles Jack Nicholson faced with this axe and how he incorporated it into his performance as you look upon one of the most iconic pieces of horror film history.
But that’s not all you’re going to see you. You’ll also be able to step into a re-creation of the infamous bathroom from room 237. Find out how the set was specifically designed to bring a chilling effect to viewers and then get your own re-creation of one of the most disturbing scenes from the movie.
You’ll find a couple of other little treasures up there that will pique your interest so make sure you snoop around and check out this unique and historic hotel room which apparently goes for something like $60,000 per night.
I was a little bit reluctant about doing this tour only because I knew the Shining was not actually filmed at this location and I actually considered doing a ghost tour over this one to take advantage of this paranormal location.
But the creators of this tour do an excellent job of filling you in with interesting insight about the movie and its creation that started at this property.
It also is essentially a ghost tour as well as you learn about the different ghosts that haunt the property and you even have an opportunity to have an encounter of your own.
So for anyone who is a fan of the Shining and/or ghost tours, I would definitely say that the tour is worth it.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.