Estes Park Eats

Estes Park is the charming-if-touristy town that is the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.  We like to head up to RMNP whenever possible, but as a general rule we avoid the whole area during the months of July and August, when it is overwhelmed by throngs of folks looking to buy some fudge and snap some pics of elk.  How do you know when you are in Estes Park?  When a single, roadside elk is flanked by at least 20 people with cameras.  Most of the elk now have agents.

Harrison, fruitlessly searching for an un-photographed elk
Estes is a lovely little town and you cannot, as they say, swing a cat without hitting a shop that sells sweets.  The top sellers seem to be fudge (and since I have now lived in two tourist-driven areas, I wonder, why are they the only places that seem to sell fudge?), ice cream in mountain-themed flavors, candy apples, and chocolate-dipped anything.
For the tourist with a sense of humor
Chocolate-dipped pretzels, brownies, and yes–Twinkies

We broke our own visiting rule because Harrison needed to pick up his permit from the Backcountry office for his annual, solo, hike-up-a-mountain “vision quest.”  I will add here that these became solo excursions for him following the year in which I voluntarily hiked up a mountain with him and 1. ended up pitching the tent in snow, 2. almost died of hypothermia,  3. was presented with a scenically open-air toilet perched on a wooden platform, so as to give the bears a better view, and 4. subsequently almost died on a narrow, ice-slicked, ledge-overlooking-a-steep plunge on the way back down said mountain.  Since then I have kept my camping adventures to lower elevations.   But I digress.

Harrison, fondly reminiscing about that time he almost killed me on that mountain

Back to the food.  We were sadly disappointed to see that Pura Vida, a little Costa Rican restaurant with great ceviche and fried yucca, had closed since our last visit.  Instead we headed over to Nepal’s Cafe, a tiny, decidedly non-service-oriented place that nonetheless has wonderful food.  We grabbed an outdoor table for some people watching, and ordered some of our favorites.

Mango lemonade
Chat samosa, drizzled with yogurt and tamarind and topped with fresh cilantro and puffed rice

We then did the obligatory downtown loop, checking out the various sweets and sights:

A display of Denver-made Hammond’s candies at one of the sweet shops
Dipped waffle cones, waiting for Moose tracks ice cream
Chocolate-dipped strawberries–I resisted, but barely

Finally we headed to my personal favorite, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, to pick up something sweet to go with a bottle of wine and some cherries.

The vast array of dipped apples (as big as your head)
mini mountains

I finally settled on the “apple pie” caramel-apple-as-big-as-my-head, which we took back to the cabin to share with the bears.  This was a tart apple with a caramel base, white chocolate, crushed graham crackers, and cinnamon.  The bears really enjoyed this treat.

Most delicious…
This deer showed up after we had finished the bottle of wine, which for some reason made it blurry

If you get a chance to visit Estes Park you really should, if for no other reason than to enjoy some sugar and annoy some elk.  It really is a beautiful place, with lots of non-sugar dining options.  I will be sure to let you know more about those, right after I finish this pound of fudge.

Wildflowers–another sweet reason to visit

Thanks for reading,

-Angela

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7 Responses to Estes Park Eats

  1. Anonymous August 7, 2011 at 1:38 am #

    Hi, Angela, really nice piece and spot on about Estes Park, though you left out one tourist spot food group: taffy, which Estes indeed has, too. (Though I'd have to be mighty needy to eat any.) Becky and I were up there last weekend; friends bought a cabin, and I was helping them put on a deck. Anyway, great spot, great posting, and any folks reading this can be assured that her representation is impeccable. –Doug Hesse

  2. Angela FRS August 7, 2011 at 1:45 am #

    Doug, you are so right–I forgot about the "salt water" taffy (no salt water in the mountains, but nonetheless…). That also seems to be a touristy-area-only kind of food. Thanks for the thumbs up 🙂

  3. Karen Harris August 7, 2011 at 3:13 am #

    You are so funny! Mr. H tried to bond with our son by hiking a 14er together a couple of years ago and almost killed him too. To make a long story short, my "baby" came home with altitude sickness, a scraped back and too many blisters to count. Hiking career over. My husband now hikes with seasoned veterans or foolish rookies who don't know better. Works for me!

  4. Angela FRS August 7, 2011 at 3:38 am #

    I am of the opinion that is takes a *very special* kind of person to enjoy climbing mountains, and, well, I am not that special. Works for me as well, Karen!

  5. Lanie August 8, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    Angela, this is just a wonderful story. I really enjoyed reading and your fantastic photos! Thanks for taking me to Estes Park this morning. I want to climb mountains but not in the snow. Cabins, camping, hiking…OH yeah baby. Good Stuff.

    "Most of the elk now have agents." LOL

  6. Emily August 13, 2011 at 5:50 am #

    Hahaha the blurry deer picture comment made me lol.

  7. Angela FRS August 14, 2011 at 1:58 am #

    Yeah, I don't know how that worked, but clearly the deer was drunk.

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