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. Bu, 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 facelift 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.
15 comments on “The Stanley Hotel | The Haunted Hotel in Colorado that Inspired “The Shining””
I couldn’t finish the book much less see the movie. So I will not be staying at the hotel. There is also a haunted hotel in San Antonio.
The funny thing about the hotel is that it was never thought to be haunted until the book came out. Stephen King stayed there the day before the place was going to shut down for the season. He and his wife were the only guests in the entire hotel. That night he had a nightmare and came up with the idea for the book. So, I really don’t think it is haunted… maybe I should have called this post the most “unhaunted” hotel in America. 🙂
After reading your comment, I have to respond. I stayed a night in room 217 by myself. It’s haunted. I captured a few things on my cell phone recorder. It’s not a fake.. It’s a feeling you just can’t fake, and it started happening as soon as I was alone in the room..
1. I got touched, at the writing desk, a full bottle of water shot off of it landing on the floor. The paper describing the room slid across the table by it’s self.
2. Cleaning noises at night, you can hear brooms being swept across the floor, zippers being zipped up. My bed even got fluffed. I have it on cam.
3. sounds of trash bags opeining up, whishpering caught on cell recorder.
4, Foot steps walking around the bed.
5. a voice saying, done.. and then seconds later die, die
6. a little girl laughing and a man saying gonna lay down.
Those are all the things I experienced in the hotel. So I have to laugh when you say it’ s not haunted. Belive me.. it is.
This is fascinating! I may have run screaming if that happened to me. And I didn’t say it isn’t haunted. I’m just saying I didn’t personally experience the paranormal. My husband still swears he did though.
Fun! Who could ever forget RED-RUM. Love that you are both ghost buffs – I am a bit too..
The Shining was the only movie that ever spooked me out (more specifically those evil twin girls)!
I’m definitely not a massive ghost buff, but I would say I’m curious. What I would do if I ever saw anything is beyond me… but from your review I think I’d be pretty safe there.
Are you on a mission now to actually find/stay somewhere that is haunted?
No way! I’m like you, I don’t know what I would do if I actually had a real ghost experience. LOL. I love a good ghost story, but I don’t know how much I really believe in them. I guess that’s why I wasn’t scared to stay at this hotel.
You are so brave and you are right. Why would anyone let 12 year old girls rent “The Shining.” When I read the paper in the photo about Room 408 I would have screamed. I hate scary things and you are so brave for doing this!
I always tell my husband I’m going to haunt him if I go first and keep tabs on how he is spending my life insurance lol I had no idea The Shining was inspired by a real hotel. I used to read a lot of Stephen King in days gone by.
I’m such a scaredy cat that my husband didn’t tell me about the paranormal activity at this hotel until we were getting into bed!!! Yikes! We had a very young baby at the time, who was up in the night still, and I was so worried I’d hear something! Thankfully, the ghosts picked on someone else that night.
I am way too much of a scaredy cat to stay in a hotel that is deemed haunted. I believe in ghosts and if I were ever to encounter one, i could only wish it were a nice friendly one.
I don’t mind hearing stories of haunted hotels, castles, etc., but the minute it is associated with a Stephen King movie, count me out! Such a chicken and the visual of Jack Nicholson in that classic post just makes my neck hair stand on end. A very cool find though- the most haunted hotel of all!
Everything about this entices my travel bug! I have to say this is not on my Must SEE bucket list!
OMG! Never heard about it before, and although I appreciate your post, I don’t think I never will since that looks super scary 🙂
I’m the one that spends all night awake and imagining shadows everywhere after an horror film… can’t handle it very good…
In any case, looks like a nice experience for someone found of these kind of things!