The rocks and landforms of the Estes Park 30 x 60 minute quadrangle display an exceptionally complete record of geologic history in the northern Front Range of Colorado. The Proterozoic basement rocks exposed in the core of the range preserve evidence of Paleoproterozoic marine sedimentation, volcanism, and regional soft-sediment deformation, followed by regional folding and gradational metamorphism. The metasedimentary rocks of the Estes Park quadrangle are distinct within northern Colorado for preserving the complete metamorphic zonation from low-grade chlorite-muscovite phyllites, through middle greenschist-grade rocks with sequential aluminous porphyroblasts, to partially melted gneisses that contain high-grade cordierite and garnet in the non-melted residues. Regional and textural evidence shows that the widespread metamorphism was essentially concurrent with intrusion of the Boulder Creek Granodiorite and related magmas and with the peak of deformation in the partially melted high-grade rocks. The metamorphic thermal pulse arrived later following the peak of deformation in the physically higher, cooler, low-grade terrane.
Mesoproterozoic time was marked by intrusion of biotite granite in the Longs Peak-St Vrain batholith, a complex, irregular body that occupies nearly half of the core of the Front Range in this quadrangle. The magma was dry and viscous as it invaded the metamorphic rocks and caused wholesale plastic folding of the wall rock structure. Steep metamorphic foliation that resulted from the Paleoproterozoic deformations was bowed upward and re-oriented into flat-lying attitudes as the crystal-rich magma rose buoyantly and spread out in the middle crust. Magma invaded the schists and gneisses along weak foliation planes and produced a characteristic sill-upon-sill intrusive fabric, particularly in the higher parts of the batholith. Broad, open arches and swales that are defined by the flow-aligned feldspar foliation of the granite, as well as by compositional banding in the intruded and included metamorphic rocks, formed late during batholith emplacement due to rising, buoyant magma and sinking, dense wall rocks. The Longs Peak-St Vrain batholith was intruded into crust that was structurally neutral or moderately extending in an east-northeast direction. A broad zone of mylonite, the Moose Mountain shear zone, formed within the batholith during the final stages of consolidation as a result of differential buoyancy between the magma and dense wall rock, not as a result of regional tectonic deformation.