Come play in our nation’s big backyard, Rocky Mountain National Park. This outdoorsy favorite boasts 14,000+-foot mountains, alpine lakes and over 300 miles of trails. Varied terrain keeps things interesting and viewing wildlife is the cherry on top. Here are the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Check in with the visitor center for the most up-to-date conditions.
1. The Loch
If you have to choose just one day hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, The Loch is a great choice. This beautiful subalpine lake is framed by the Sharktooth and Mt. Taylor. If you have more energy, add on another 2.7 miles and visit the Lake of Glass and Sky Pond.
2. Long’s Peak
For the fittest of hikers, Long’s Peak is a must. Follow the Keyhole Route to the tallest point in the park – it’s a 5,525-vertical-foot elevation gain to the summit.
3. Wild Basin Trail to Ouzel Falls
A great half-day option near Estes Park, Ouzel Falls is a crowd favorite. This easy hike follows the Wild Basin Trail to the stunning falls – take a detour to Copeland Falls and Calypso Cascades if time permits.
4. Bear Lake Area Loop and Alberta Falls
Make the most of your hiking time with the Bear Lake Area Loop. Have a snack at Dream Lake, in full view of Hallet Peak and Flattop Mountain, then cross the Chaos Creek before cutting off to Haiyaha Lake. Snap a few photos of picturesque Alberta Falls, then end with a picnic lunch on the shores of Bear Lake.
5. Emerald Lake
One of the most accessible lakes in RMNP, Emerald Lake is accompanied by stops at Dream Lake and Nymph Lake. You’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of Hallet Peak.
6. Fern Lake
On the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park, catch the Fern Lake Trailhead to this glistening lake. You’ll pass through Arch Rocks, go over a bridge at The Pool and see the spray of three cascading waterfalls. As you reach the lake, you’ll start to have great views of The Gable, Knobtop Mountain, Notchtop Mountain and Little Matterhorn.
7. Grand Lake Area Hikes
From Grand Lake, a town on the west side of RMNP, you’ll find several popular hikes. Follow the East Inlet Trail to Lone Pine Lake, Spirit Lake and Lake Verna, as well as the pretty Adams Falls. The Green Mountain Trail offers some of the best opportunities to view elk and moose. Follow the tumbling waters of the Colorado River along the trail of the same name, as it winds its way through the Kawuneeche Valley. Or, trek on the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, which runs north to south from Canada to Mexico, passing through Rocky Mountain National Park.
8. Deer Mountain
One of the easier hikes within the park, Deer Mountain can get pretty busy during the summer – try to arrive early. Start at Deer River Junction, former site of the Deer Ridge Chalet, a thriving tourist area with a lodge, cabins, restaurant, observation tower and a ski run.
9. Bluebird Lake
This six-mile hike to an alpine lake brings you into the heart of the Wild Basin – it’s a mountain paradise of wildflowers, waterfalls and lakes. If you’d like to fish, take the half-mile spur trail to Ouzel Lake.
10. Ute Trail
You can reach the Ute Trail via the Alpine Visitor Center at Fall River Pass, or from the Ute Crossing Trailhead on Trail Ridge Road. Check out the kiosk at this latter trailhead, which explains the history of the area – the Arapaho and Ute Indians used it to traverse between winter and summer hunting grounds in the Great Plains. You’ll venture into alpine tundra landscape – look for the pikas, ptarmigans and marmots who live at this elevation year-round.
11. Bierstadt Lake
This hidden gem of a lake in the Bear Lake Corridor was named for the artist Albert Bierstadt. Follow the trail to a forested moraine, where you’ll find the lily pad-strewn lake. The snow-capped mountains of the Continental Divide are reflected in the glassy water on clear days.
12. Ypsilon Mountain
Hike along the edge of a steep ravine at the beginning of this strenuous hike to Ypsilon Lake, in the shadows of Ypsilon Mountain and Mount Chiquita. The ravine was created when the Lawn Lake Dam burst in 1982 – a reminder of the power of water! Ypsilon Lake is wonderfully scenic and secluded.
13. Sprague Lake
For quick, easy and wheelchair- and stroller-accessible, head to the Sprague Lake Loop. There are benches and lookouts all along the trail, so stop and reflect for a bit. The mountains along the Continental Divide can be seen clearly and there’s often a fair bit of wildlife to see.
14. Chasm Lake
Get a little (or a lot) elevation gain on the 8.6-mile roundtrip Chasm Lake hike. You’ll gain incredible views just below famous Long’s Peak, the highest peak in the park. Climb through subalpine forest to alpine tundra, keeping an eye out for marmots and pikas. Along the way, you can see into the deep gorge of Peacock Pool and Columbine Falls.