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This Family-friendly Refurbished 1950s Motor Lodge Is at the Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park

Sitting at the doorstep of one of the country’s most extraordinary outdoor destinations, Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, The Trailborn is emblematic of a new generation of hotels revitalizing hospitality in America’s most sought-after wild places.

Gone are the tired lodges of yore; in their place are fun, innovative properties that mindfully connect guests to the Great Outdoors and, in doing so, elevate a perfunctory overnight stay into an unforgettable experience. Enter the Trailborn Rocky Mountains, a refurbished 1950s motor lodge in Estes Park, which opened in December 2023 and serves up 40 simple rooms, an inviting communal space, and a menu of adventures — all adorned in a retro, hipster vibe. “It’s an experiential, family-oriented property designed for today’s adventurer,” says Matt Weiss, co-CEO of Trailborn. Five minutes by car, the Trailborn’s sister hotel, the Outpost, is closer to the park, more streamlined, and modestly priced.

Christian Harder

With sweeping views of Lake Estes, the Trailborn’s lobby, a vaulted great room lined with bookshelves and floor-to-ceiling windows, anchors the property and serves as basecamp. It’s here that guests come to linger over board games, sip coffee from Huck, a Denver roaster, and peruse the Trailborn’s online Field Guide while planning forays into Rocky Mountain National Park’s 265,807 acres of jagged peaks, alpine lakes, and hiking trails.

Casa Colina, the lobby cafe, serves a Mexican-inspired menu of ingredients designed “to show off the local terroir,” says Andrew Sherman, a veteran of Danny Meyer’s New York City restaurants who oversees the brand’s food and beverage program. The bar comes alive in the evening with locals and guests, who gather for the Colorado microbrews on tap, live music, and pop-up cocktail tastings with local distilleries. Ultimately, Sherman wants the Trailborn to become a sought-after destination property and a beloved community hub — and it seems he’s well on his way.

But what sets the Trailborn apart is its focus on outdoor adventure and making it accessible to guests of all ages. From its resident guide and curated “Experiences” to its self-serve lobby commissary stocked with mission-critical staples like breakfast burritos and Goop sunscreen, adventure is embedded in every helix of the Trailborn’s DNA. The hotel’s Golden Hour hike takes guests on a late afternoon saunter through Rocky Mountain National Park, while the Kids Wilderness class pairs kids 5 to 10 years old with an experienced guide (and father himself) who teaches them how to use a compass, spot various animal tracks, prevent fires, and more. For the casual nature lover, getting outside doesn’t get much better than this.

With its roster of high-wattage activities, simple yet delicious menu, and design-forward aesthetic, the Trailborn is set to upend the hospitality scene in Estes Park, a tired resort town of old motels, candy stores, and T-shirt shops. And it’s just the first move of a more extensive hotel play, which will see Trailborn open five additional properties over the next year. Next up? Trailborn Highlands in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains is set to open in July. In the meantime, the Trailborn just wants “you to have more adventures.” Here’s to that.

Read on for our complete review of the Trailborn Rocky Mountains below.

Trailborn Rocky Mountains

  • With its earthy palette, mid-century roofline, and 1970s design details (retro Tivoli radios and vintage climbing books), the building exudes a hipster, Americana vibe.
  • A zellige tile-lined fireplace anchors the lobby, which serves as a lively community hub and adventure base camp.
  • The Trailborn’s 86 cork-floored rooms are spread across two properties and are stocked with thoughtful amenities such as Grown Alchemist bath products, casting-compatible flat-screen TVs, and portable coolers (great for a picnic in the park), which elevate the simple rooms into something more luxurious.
  • From sunrise hikes to wildlife photography and fly-fishing classes, Trailborn’s programming makes getting outside easy and enhances the wilderness experience.
  • Sitting on the eastern flank of Estes Park, the Trailborn is a five-minute walk from the town’s main drag and a 10-minute drive to the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, where hundreds of miles of world-class hiking, biking, climbing, and backcountry skiing await.

The Rooms

Complete with comfy beds and thoughtful amenities, the Trailborn’s rooms make for the perfect respite between high-country jaunts. The Outpost’s Family Suite features a king and a queen with a bunk in an adjoining room, comfortably sleeping six, while the flagship’s basic king provides ample space for two. Neutral in color, rooms are adorned with commissioned artwork inspired by Estes Park’s surroundings and come with portable lanterns and artisan coffee, adding to the rustic-meets-hipster vibe.

Activities and Amenities

Christian Harder

From guided hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park to candle-making classes, complimentary yoga in the hotel’s backyard, and craft cocktail tastings, the Trailborn serves up something for everyone. Its menu of Experiences provide curated adventures, while its on-property offerings offer relaxation, fun, and community. Come summer, kick back poolside and enjoy a boozy popsicle found in a self-serve mobile paleta, or check out the Vert, a cool community space across the street, where Trailborn guests receive discounted access to a gym, climbing wall, and infrared sauna.

Family-friendly Amenities

Christian Harder

The property’s simple, yet creative children’s programming is where the Trailborn shines. A resident “s’morelier” curates a daily s’mores special that’s served at 5pm around a roaring fire in the hotel’s backyard. Complete with a tent, bedroll, and treats, the Little Explorer’s In-room Camping experience facilitates a slumber party in your room. And, children leave the Kids Wilderness class not only jazzed on nature, but with a compass, piece of cordelette and whistle. For these reasons, my kids dubbed the Trailborn their “favorite hotel ever.”

Sustainability and Accessibility

Trailborn’s Keep Extraordinary Initiative donates a portion of each guest stay to local conservation and sustainability efforts, including the Rocky Mountain Conservancy, which protects vital public lands in and around the park. Trailborn also sources most of its energy from renewable sources. To facilitate accessibility, the Trailborn offers two ADA-compliant rooms.

Food and Drink

Christian Harder

In a land of ho-hum restaurants, Casa Colina stands out. By day, Colina serves tasty breakfast burritos, overnight oats, and coffee; by night, it offers a small but delicious menu of Mexican favorites — barbacoa tacos with homemade corn tortillas and churros, a killer cocktail menu, and a lively bar scene.

Christian Harder


The real reason you come to the Trailborn is to explore Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the most stunning landscapes in the country. To do so, it’s best to have a car. Drive 48-mile Trail Ridge Road, the park’s marquee roadway, which winds through 14,000-foot peaks and windswept tundra, offering sweeping views of the Continental Divide. Or, hit the quiet trails in Wild Basin, a remote stash of waterfalls, alpine lakes, and, come July, hip-high wildflowers.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Stay

Sample Trailborn’s Experiences. These reasonably-priced, experiential add-ons bring the destination to life by connecting guests with the best of what Estes Park has to offer and make adventuring easy.

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