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20 Best Hiking Spots in the Rocky Mountains National Park

Hiking in the Rocky Mountains Posted On
Posted By Liam Smith

If you’re into hiking, the Rocky Mountains National Park might be just the place for you. You can hike through the park’s trails to see the various types of wildlife, including black bears, deer, and moose. You may even spot a Pronghorn antelope!

If you’re new to hiking, start early and catch the sunrise over the Continental Divide. You can also hike popular trails before the crowds arrive.

The best times to see wildlife are near dawn and dusk when the park is most pristine. If you’re interested in exploring the area’s rich history and wildlife, be sure to take your camera. This way, you’ll have less competition. 

There are 355 designated hiking trails in the park, so there’s something for everyone. Read on to learn about the best places to hike and see what you’re missing out on!

Rocky Mountain National Park

Before we move to read the hiking spot let’s first get to know a bit about Rocky Mountains National Park. This was the genesis of the National Park Service, its history tells the story of Colorado and the tensions between tourism and ecology in the American West. While a few things have changed over the years, the park still maintains a certain degree of natural majesty.

It was established in January 1915 and has more than 60 peaks over 12,000 feet. Trail Ridge Road, which tops out at 12,183 feet, is the highest continuous paved road in the U.S. There are many trails and viewpoints to explore. 

What Are the Top 20 Best Hiking Spots in the Rocky Mountains National Park?

Here are the top 20 Best Hiking Spots in the Rocky mountains that you should definitely visit this year: 

Bear Lake

The trailhead at Bear Lake is located at the end of the park’s Bear Lake Trailhead. The station is open for free tourist information, but the hike begins and ends at the trailhead. From the parking lot, it is a 0.5-mile walk to the lake. 

Along the way, you will see Hallett Peak, Longs Peak, and metamorphic boulders. The ecosystem around the lake is home to a variety of wildlife.

If you’re looking for a longer hike, you can start at the trailhead for the Deer Mountain trail. The three-mile hike offers spectacular views of the park’s mountain range.

Another popular hike is to the scenic Ypsilon Lake. It’s the best moderate hike in Rocky Mountain National Park and less crowded than Bear Lake Corridor, but still quite popular.

Alberta Falls

If you’re looking for a short, moderately-strength hike in the Rockies, consider hiking Alberta Falls. The Alberta Falls trail winds through aspen groves and pine forests before ending at the spectacular waterfall. 

Take time to stop and admire the sweeping gorge from the trail. The trail winds among boulders, offering beautiful views of the surrounding area. Aspen trees line the creek and trail, creating a golden canopy.

One of the most popular hikes in the Rockies is Alberta Falls, a 30-foot waterfall located in the Glacier Gorge. The trail follows Glacier Creek, a creek fed by year-round snowmelt. This water then feeds Bear Lake, the largest and most popular lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Hikers can start at the Glacier Gorge trailhead and follow the trail along Glacier Creek, paralleling the waterfall. The trail intersects two other trails along the way.

Alpine Ridge Trail

One of the lesser-known trails in the Rocky Mountain National Park is the Alpine Ridge Trail. It begins on the far side of the parking lot and begins as a short, steep climb. 

There are no trail markers along this route, but you’ll find plenty of information about it in the park’s newspaper. Otherwise, you’ll just have to use your own intuition. 

Once you’re up to the elevation, it’s a beautiful, scenic walk.

The Alpine Visitor Center has restrooms and an exhibit about the alpine tundra ecosystem. There’s also a gift shop run by the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. 

The Alpine Visitor Center is open from Memorial Day to mid-October and is accessible via the Old Fall River Road, which is nine miles long and open to one-way uphill vehicle traffic. 

A good way to reach the trailhead is before midday on a weekday.

Gem Lake

While hiking in the Rocky Mountains National Park, you should make a point of visiting Gem Lake. The gem-like lake is surrounded by layered cliffs and lacks an outlet stream. 

Instead, water from the snowmelt and rain falls clings to the rocky walls of the basin. When hiking this lake, make sure to plan your trip according to the seasons. You can check the trail conditions online before leaving.

The trail to Gem Lake starts from the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. It is part of the Twin Owls Loop, which climbs 2475 feet and includes Gem Lake. The hike is described as 3.6 miles round trip. This hike starts with an easy hike, but will quickly become a challenging climb. 

There are a few steep sections and a long staircase made of giant rock steps. You’ll want to be physically fit, so be prepared for a lot of walking.

Ute Trail to Tombstone Ridge

If you’ve ever hiked Tombstone Ridge, you know how imposing it can be. You can enjoy the sweeping views while hiking through the Rocky Mountains National Park’s alpine tundra. 

The Ute trail to Tombstone Ridge begins from a small parking area near the Alpine Visitor Center. The trail begins with a relatively flat ascent, followed by two short climbs.

If you love hiking, Rocky Mountain National Park has plenty of trails above the tree line. Several of the best ones are short and have minimal elevation gain. However, the Ute trail is both historic and accessible to hikers. 

It’s a moderate trail with a relatively low elevation gain and offers some of the park’s best scenery. The Ute trail is also ideal for those who don’t want to spend all day on a hiking trail. The trail ends at the Beaver Meadows Trailhead, near the eastern edge of the park.

Nymph Dream & Emerald Lakes

If you’re looking for easy hiking in the Rocky Mountains, Nymph Dream and Emerald Lakes are two great options. 

While these trails tend to be more crowded than others, they offer spectacular views and 3.6-mile round-trip hikes. 

For your convenience, we’ve included a map and driving directions for the trailhead so you can plan your trip and arrive ready to hike.

The trailhead for Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes is located at the end of the scenic Bear Lake Road. 

You can reach this area of the park by taking US-36 West into Rocky Mountain National Park. Continue for 0.2 miles to turn left onto Bear Lake Road, which is ten miles from the Bear Lake parking lot. You’ll find this well-maintained trail in the area.

Deer Mountain

The pristine natural beauty of Colorado’s Deer Mountain will inspire hikers and nature lovers alike. This park spans the Continental Divide, encompassing the alpine tundra, mountains, and protected forests. 

Popular hiking trails include Old Fall River Road and Trail Ridge Road. Other routes include the Keyhole Route, which crosses steep, vertical rock faces and leads to Longs Peak. From the summit, hikers can take in the sweeping views of the peaks and pristine lake.

The trail to the top of Deer Mountain is moderately difficult but provides panoramic views of the park and the surrounding area. It starts at the Deer Ridge Junction and ends at Deer Mountain summit, which is 6.2 miles round trip. 

The hike requires a reasonable level of fitness and is not overly strenuous. Taking a car up the mountain will not be a problem, as parking is limited in the parking area.

Twin Sisters

The Twin Sisters, also known as the Seven Sisters, are two peaks that rise to over 11,000 feet. From certain angles, the Twin Sisters might not be visible; they appear as a series of high points. 

It is only after you’ve curled around the mountain’s northern slope and taken a few switchbacks up to the saddle that you’ll be able to see them.

Hiking the Twin Sisters provides outstanding views of the park. You start at a trailhead at 9,000 ft elevation. After a short distance, you will begin to ascend the trail through the lodgepole pine forest. 

Eventually, you’ll leave the Rocky Mountain National Park and enter the Roosevelt National Forest. You’ll likely see elk lingering in the woods during the day. You will then see the peaks of Longs Peak.

Odessa Lake & Fern Lake

When hiking in the Rocky Mountains National Park, you should consider visiting Odessa Lake and Fern Lake. You’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and a trip down the rugged Fern Lake Trail. 

If you’re planning to camp, you’ll also want to check out the Fern Falls, a popular fishing spot that’s a short walk from the trailhead.

If you want to hike to the famous Odessa Lake, you can also make the round trip to Fern Falls. The scenery here is spectacular, and you can even catch the sunrise over the lake. 

A shuttle will drop you off at the trailhead, making your hike easy and pleasant. After you’ve reached the beautiful lake, you can walk back to the trailhead.

Mills Lake & Black Lake

If you’ve been to the Rocky Mountains and have longed to see some waterfalls, Mills Lake & Black Lake Hiking in the Rocky Mountains National Park may be the perfect hike for you. 

Located 2.4 miles from Mills Lake, this hike will take you through the woods before taking you to Black Lake. You can enjoy the stunning views while hiking through heavily forested slopes and rocky ridges, and you can even stop for a picnic!

From the Bear Lake trailhead, you can follow the Glacier Gorge Trail 2.8 miles up the mountain to Mills Lake. You should plan to begin hiking early as the parking lot is popular. 

After Mills Lake, you can continue along the trail past Jewel Lake to Black Lake, a glacial pond below granite cliffs. It is a great hike for families and those who are looking for a day of hiking.

Lily Lake Loop

If you’re in the mood for a gentle hike, the Lily Lake Loop hike is just the ticket. The 3/4-mile trail winds around the lake, offering stunning views of Estes Cone, Longs Peak, and Mt. Meeker. 

The hike is particularly popular during the fall season due to the large aspen groves that line the trail. Afterward, head to Lily Mountain for a spot of fishing.

You’ll start your hike near the Lily Lake Loop trailhead, which is located just past Highway 7. This loop trail leads to the beautiful lake. 

During springtime, wildflowers bloom in abundance along the trail, making this an excellent spot to see wildlife. The lake is also home to waterfowl, making it a great place to view wildlife. You’ll want to keep your eyes open for wildlife.

Sprague Lake Loop

Sprague Lake is a beautiful, relatively easy hiking trail that takes you past a calm lake. It’s a popular spot for families with young children, with the lake offering a peaceful and diverse setting. 

Despite its short length, the Sprague Lake Loop in Rocky Mountain is well worth a hike. The easy, level trail is a popular stop off Bear Lake Road. Ṁ

We photographed the area with a Nikon D850 camera, f/22 and 28mm lens. The trail also passes by the Sprague Lake Trailhead, so be sure to plan ahead for the weather before you head out.

Copeland Falls

If you’re interested in hiking in Colorado, you’ve probably heard about the scenic Copeland Falls. This waterfall is located in Rocky Mountain National Park, and it offers hikers a beautiful, easy experience. 

You can drive up to this location and enjoy a picnic, or simply relax on the park road before you begin your hike. This is an excellent way to make the most of the park before your hike.

You can start your hike from the Wild Basin Trailhead and continue on to Upper and Lower Copeland Falls. Both falls are located along a side trail that begins with a babbling creek. 

After completing the waterfall hike, you can return to the parking area. Afterward, you can take another trail to see even more waterfalls. The trail is easy to follow and has a sign pointing you in the right direction.

Coyote Valley Trail

If you’re looking for a scenic hike in the mountains, try the Coyote Valley Trail in Rocky Mountains National Park. 

This short trail leads past a small parking area and over the Colorado River, a rushing stream that originates on the western slopes of the Continental Divide. Once you reach the footbridge, you’ll continue on the Coyote Valley Trail.

The Coyote Valley Trail in Rocky Mountains National Park is a scenic, easy hike that traces the Colorado River. It offers expansive views of the Never Summer Mountain Range and Colorado River headwaters. 

It is wheelchair accessible, has several rest stops, and is clearly marked along Trail Ridge Road. Regardless of fitness level, this trail will provide a rewarding day of hiking, with minimal elevation gain and a moderate amount of scenery.

Lake Irene

If you’re looking for a quiet hike in the Park, consider Irene Lake Hike. The trail winds its way through towering lodgepole pines and leads to a small subalpine lake nestled between looming snow-capped summits. 

There are eight picnic tables here, and the lake is accessible by a vault toilet near the parking lot. Whether you’re hiking or simply taking in the scenery, this is a place that will not disappoint.

Hiking trails are available year-round at Lake Irene, but if you are planning a winter hike, you should check out the conditions of the lake as it can become partially frozen. Emergency supplies are also recommended. 

The waterfall is accessible and well-protected, but hikers are advised to be careful. It has recently undergone two major floods. 

To avoid being caught in the floodwaters, it is best to avoid the waterfall during the winter months.

Adams Falls

Hiking through Adams Fall in the Rocky Mountains National Park is a great way to get a taste of Colorado’s wilderness. The 0.9-mile round-trip trail starts at the East Inlet Trailhead. 

The East Inlet Trail is a good example of National Park Service naturalistic design. From here, you can explore the nearby valley, which has plenty of wildflowers and moose sightings.

You can find Adams Falls in the park’s Grand Lake area. A waterfall that drops 15 feet into a pool below is easy to spot. The surrounding lush vegetation and unique rock formations make it a popular photo location. 

Adams Falls is one of 31 named waterfalls in the park. If you’re planning on hiking through the area, you should bring your camera.

 If you’re visiting the area, make sure to bring along water and a change of clothes.

Holzwarth Historic Site

The history of the Holzwarth family begins when John Holzwarth, Sr., moved to Colorado from Germany as a young man. His family operated a saloon and boarding house, and the couple raised five children. 

The Holzwarths were the first to develop the Kawuneeche Valley as a tourism destination, and the family eventually built a dude ranch, offering fishing and hunting to visitors for two dollars a day.

The historic site features an authentic ranch, built in 1917 by German immigrants. The Holzwarths hosted visitors from Denver in the early days of the park, and soon their homestead became a dude ranch. 

In 1974, Holzwarth’s ranch was purchased by the Nature Conservancy, and it was transferred to the National Park Service. Today, visitors can explore the historic ranch’s buildings, try out old-time chores and learn about the Holzwarth family’s history.

Tundra Communities Trail

When hiking in the Rockies, it’s hard to find a place that’s more breathtaking than the Tundra Communities Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. 

This 1.6-mile trail passes through low-growing tundra, where pikas and marmots live. The trail ends at an alpine-like memorial plaque, and you can spot mountain lions on the side trail. The trail also includes a metal geological marker with elevation information.

This half-mile trail is the perfect place to take in some great views of the Never Summer Range and Rocky Mountain Front Range. It also passes volcanic mushroom rocks and small signs explaining early visitors to the park. 

The trail is popular for its scenic beauty, but it’s not particularly strenuous. To enjoy the park, hikers should bring comfortable hiking shoes, as the temperature can be quite chilly at times.

Sky Pond

If you are looking for an amazing hike, consider checking out Sky Pond while hiking in the Rocky Mountains National Park. It is a beautiful and challenging hike that offers world-class scenery. 

It is located near Alberta Falls, Loch Vale, and Glass Lake. In addition to being beautiful, this hike is a great way to get exercise while admiring the scenery. You can read up on the trail from the National Park Service to know what’s up.

The hike to Sky Pond begins at the Glacier Gorge trailhead. The trail then follows a rocky moraine to a pristine lake. 

Once you reach the pond, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of Taylor Peak and Glacier Gorge. 

However, this hike requires some time and attention to the trail. It is not an easy hike, so plan to take your time and follow the signs.

Chasm Lake

A day hiking around the beautiful Chasm Lake in the Rocky Mountains National Park is a wonderful way to take in the scenery. 

The Chasm Lake Trail starts at the Longs Peak Ranger Station and then diverges onto a short spur trail. After a short but challenging climb, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the lake, waterfalls, and marmots. You can even go swimming here!

The hike around Chasm Lake is a good option for beginners who are looking for a quick getaway from the more challenging Longs Peak trail. This intermediate-level trail gradually climbs to the lake. 

There’s no entrance gate and the trail doesn’t require a park pass, However, dogs are not permitted in Rocky Mountain National Park. Chasm Lake is not an easy hike to get to, so take caution when choosing this hike.

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