No visit to Estes Park is complete without a tour or an overnight stay at The Stanley Hotel. This monument to the Colonial Revival architecture that is more ubiquitous on the East Coast has been a temporary home to visitors exploring Colorado's Front Range for more than a century, and it continues to accommodate guests with its own brand of historic culture and upscale options for a more contemporary stay. The Stanley Hotel is also hugely popular among fans of the paranormal; several rooms have reputations for spectral events ranging from phantom voices to fleeting reflections in bathroom mirrors to inexplicably relocated items. Stephen King spent an infamously restless night in room 217 back in 1974, and he was gifted with a nightmare that terrified him into writing his third novel, The Shining.
The hotel was the unlikely vision of Freelan Stanley, who had made his fortune in Massachusetts at the turn of 20th century (think Stanley Steamer). Poor health led him to look for cleaner living in the West, and he and his wife found Estes Park to be a salubrious haven from an East Coast lifestyle that fed their fortunes but exacted a heavy corporeal toll. Stanley had the hotel constructed in the architectural style of his own home in Massachusetts, and it became a 140-room masterpiece that opened on Independence Day, 1909. The original building retains the feel of this era with its broad wood floors, wainscoting, wallpaper, rich trim, and period decor.
For the most part, however, the hotel has been significantly expanded, updated, and renovated since 1909. Guests have a variety of condos, suites, and bedrooms to choose from as they book their stay. Classic rooms are still available in the main building, though there are plenty of updates such as Wi-Fi and television to bring the experience into the 21st century; haunted rooms remain the most requested booking; animals are welcome in The Lodge at The Stanley, an auxiliary hotel on the grounds; and larger groups will find plenty of options in the condos or cottages.
It has been said that, without Stanley's efforts to bring the social elite to Estes Park, there may never have been a Rocky Mountain National Park. The hotel attracted wealthy and influential people to Estes Park, and they liked what they saw. Whether or not this is true, the story of this hotel is certainly intertwined with the region and the scenery. Even if staying at The Stanley isn't in the cards for you, it is well worth carving out a little time to explore this fixture on the Front Range. Stop in at The Stanley Hotel for a quick tour, test your skepticism in a haunted room, enjoy a luxurious dinner (reservations are recommended), or work on expanding your palate at the very well fortified Cascade Whiskey Bar. You won't regret it.