Best known as the haunted hotel in Colorado that inspired The Shining, The Stanley Hotel is a magnificent testament to history and grandeur. Nestled in the picturesque town of Estes Park, Colorado, just outside Rocky Mountain National Park, this iconic hotel attracts visitors who travel from all over the world.
Many come for the ghost tours and curious allure of the paranormal, while others are simply seeking a luxurious experience and spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains. We personally wanted to stay there for both reasons.
This guide to The Stanley Hotel delves into the fascinating history and allure of the most haunted hotel in Colorado that inspired The Shining novel and feature film.
The Stanley Hotel History
Built in 1909, this famous haunted hotel in Colorado is known for inspiring the legendary horror novelist Stephen King to write his best-selling book, “The Shining.” But its history is far richer than its ghostly claim to fame.
Wealthy entrepreneur and inventor Freelan Oscar Stanley originally built the Colonial Revival hotel as a luxury, mountain retreat for affluent travelers seeking to escape the summer heat of the plains.
After he and his wife Flora moved to Estes Park while he battled Tuberculosis. Clean air and mountain life served him well and his health improved dramatically, which led him to build the mountain resort.
Over the years, the hotel hosted numerous celebrities, politicians, and even served as a hospital during World War II.
It wasn’t until 1974 that Stephen King stayed the night at the hotel and ultimately was inspired by the eerie atmosphere and old-fashioned décor. A few years after his stay, he published his best-selling novel, The Shining.
Today, The Stanley Hotel remains a beloved landmark in Estes Park, attracting 400,000 visitors and guests from all over the world each year with its unique blend of history, luxury, and mystique.
The Most Haunted Hotel in Colorado & The Shining Inspiration
The Stanley Hotel is not only considered the most haunted hotel in Colorado, it’s undoubtedly ranked among the most haunted hotels in America.
If you have never heard of The Stanley Hotel, you have probably at least heard stories about it. As noted, the hotel was the inspiration behind Stephen King’s horror novel-turned-movie, “The Shining”.
Sheer mention of the novel and the movie are sure to send a shiver up the spine of anyone who has ever read the book or watched the movie. Seriously, it is creepy and dark!
For those who have never read the novel or seen the 1980 film starring Jack Nicholson, it’s about a man who becomes a winter caretaker at an old hotel called the Overlook Hotel and moves his family there. The father goes crazy and his psychic son starts seeing disturbing visions as a demonic presence starts interfering with their lives.
It was Halloween night and I was in the 6th grade the first time I tried to watch the movie directed by Stanley Kubrick. I was having a sleepover with my best friend who had a TV in her room. Her mom let us rent a VHS tape from the video store (yep, I’m that old). Why that mother let two 12-year-old girls rent The Shining is beyond me. But I digress.
We made it about a third of the way through the movie before we were screaming, with our heads under the covers until one of us got brave enough to run over to the TV and hit the stop button. (I guess this was before VHS players had remote controls, too.)
The Shining plays on a continuous loop on Channel 42 at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park.
While the movie was not actually filmed on-site at The Stanley, the haunted hotel in Colorado that inspired The Shining has leaned into its notoriety and makes the most of it.
Is the Stanley Hotel in Colorado really haunted?
Despite its reputation as Colorado’s most haunted hotel, the Stanley Hotel doesn’t have a particularly dark past. However, after the Stephen King book was published, countless stories of hauntings and paranormal experiences at the Estes Park haunted hotel have surfaced.
People have reported hearing someone playing the piano in the middle of the night or seeing apparitions in their rooms. But, none of the ghost stories associated with the hotel are threatening in nature.
The Stanley Hotel, in a great marketing move, has capitalized on the ghost stories and its haunted reputation and now offers ghost tours in the hotel.
While people do claim to have had encounters with ghosts at The Stanley Hotel, I guess you could say, if there are actual ghosts at the Colorado hotel, they are nice ghosts.
Our experience staying at The Stanley Haunted Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado
When I was a child, I loved ghost stories. I would head to the local library at least once a week and check out a new book or two… and regardless of how hard my mom tried to steer me to a new section of the library, I always left with at least one ghost story in hand.
My husband probably likes ghost stories even more than I do. In fact, whichever one of us dies first, we will likely haunt the other one for the remainder of their days just for ghostly giggles. So, when my husband booked us for a weekend getaway in Estes Park, we both wanted to stay at The Historic Stanley Hotel.
There are a lot of great things to do in Estes Park, but staying at or at least taking a ghost tour at the haunted hotel that inspired The Shining is one of the most unique and unforgettable experiences.
While The Stanley does have an old, somewhat spooky atmosphere, nothing about the hotel feels scary or ominous. We never felt fearful, nervous or unsettled while staying at the haunted hotel in Colorado.
In fact, staying at this famous hotel should be on everyone’s Colorado bucket list.
There were no scary little girls walking the halls saying “RED-RUM”. (A reference to The Shining). Also, we didn’t see any dark figures lurking in the corner of our room. And we heard no unexplained footsteps, music, or giggles filling the late night silence.
“Spirited Rooms” at The Stanley Hotel
We stayed on the fourth floor in the original portion of The Stanley Hotel, which supposedly has the most paranormal activity.
There are a few rooms that have heightened paranormal activity reported among guests, and you can specifically book one of these “spirited rooms”.
Stephen King stayed in room 217 when he reportedly had a nightmare that inspired his novel. Other rooms where ghost activity has been reported or detected include 401, 407, and 428.
The picture below is a print out of some of the ghost reports people have experienced on the 4th floor.
However, no ghosts decided to visit that weekend. Well, at least that is my story. My husband will tell you he woke up feeling like someone was sitting on his chest. I personally think he just had heartburn from the fast food we ate earlier that night. 🙂
Accommodations at The Stanley Hotel
Our room was a bit outdated, but the historic hotel has recently undergone massive renovations, so the rooms and bathrooms have received a face lift since our stay.
The rooms in the original portion of the hotel do not have air-conditioning, which can make for an uncomfortable night during warm summer months.
Staying in the original Historic Stanley Hotel can be pricey. After all, you are paying for something different and unique. You are paying for the hopes of a paranormal experience.
You can also book a room in one of The Stanley’s adjacent properties the Aspire Hotel, The Lodge at the Stanley, and The Residences at The Stanley.
READY TO BOOK THE STANLEY HOTEL ESTES PARK? READ REVIEWS, FIND RATES, AND BOOK YOUR STAY HERE.
Ghost tours at The Stanley Hotel
Even if you don’t stay at the Colorado haunted hotel that inspired The Shining, you can take a 60-minute night tour of the hotel for $30 per person.
During the walking tour, a knowledgeable and engaging storyteller recounts the paranormal tales and experiences people have reported at the hotel over the years.
Keep in mind, children under 8 years old are not allowed on the tours.
Other things to do and amenities at The Stanley Hotel
Aside from the hotel itself, The Stanley has four restaurants on site, a Whiskey Bar and Lounge and a gourmet coffee shop and bakery.
If staying at The Stanley Hotel, the town of Estes Park and nearby Rocky Mountain National Park boast lots of great hikes, activities, and tours that are sure to keep you entertained during your stay. The national park is one of the most visited and popular parks in the United States.
Located less than 90 minutes from Denver, Estes Park and its famous haunted hotel make for a great weekend getaway or vacation for families, couples, and all types of outdoor lovers.
You’ll even find occasional carnivals and other events taking place at the historic hotel making it a family-friendly place to stay.
Final thoughts on the Colorado Haunted Hotel that inspired The Shining
Haunted or not, The Stanley Hotel is a cool place to visit. It has an old-fashioned charm to it, and is located in one of the most beautiful parts of the United States.
Whether you love a good ghost hunt and are brave enough to spend the night in a haunted hotel that inspired The Shining, or you join one of their paranormal tours, The Stanley Hotel is a must-visit in Colorado.
Its fascinating history, ghostly allure, and its pop culture claim to fame makes the historic hotel an unforgettable travel experience.
Have a question or comment about the most haunted hotel in Colorado that inspired “The Shining”? We’d love to hear from you. Leave your thoughts about The Stanley or any other haunted hotel where you’ve stayed in the comments below.
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This post on The Stanley Hotel (aka The Shining Hotel in Colorado) was first written in October 2016 but was most recently updated in April 2023 for accuracy and current information.