The Top 9 Best Hiking Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park

Best Hiking Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park

Located just an hour and a half north of Denver, CO, Rocky Mountain National Park offers visitors a wealth of natural beauty. Towering peaks give way to glorious valley floors that team with all sorts of wildlife. Every year, thousands of people flock to the area to see all that Rocky Mountain National Park has to offer.

The most challenging part of visiting Rocky Mountain National Park is just narrowing down where you’re going to visit while you’re there. There are over 350 miles of hiking trails throughout the park, which vary from being accessible by all to being extremely challenging. To help you narrow down your choices, we’ve carefully researched the best trails in the park so you can spend more time hiking and less time stressing about where you’ll go!

The Best Hiking Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park

Best Hiking Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park

Dream Lake Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: 2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 426’
  • Best Feature: Fantastic views of Dream Lake and the peaks that surround it

Dream Lake Trail is a great starter trail if you’re visiting Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time. It’s relatively easy going and very easy to follow.

You’ll start at the Bear Lake Trailhead and meander your way up the trail past Nymph Lake. The final climb to Dream Lake is where you’ll gain most of your elevation. But don’t worry! The lake isn’t too much further up the trail. You’ll be able to sit on a rock and rest once you get to the top as there are plenty of places to enjoy the serenity of the lake and enjoy a cool drink of water before heading back down!

Alberta Falls Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: 1.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 232’
  • Best Feature: Alberta Falls cascading down into Glacier Creek

Taking your kids to see a gorgeous waterfall is an easy task when you take a hike up Alberta Falls Trail. This easy 1.6 mile out and back trail follows Glacier Creek up to the falls from Glacier Gorge Trailhead.

Take your time to enjoy the forest and the wildflowers as you make your way up to the falls. Keep an eye out for deer and elk that like to hang out in the dark timber during the day to keep cool. And be sure to take lots of pictures of you and your crew standing triumphantly next to Alberta Falls!

See also  How To Get In Shape For Hiking

Bear Lake Nature Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: 0.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 49’
  • Best Feature: Wildflowers and easily done with wheelchairs and strollers

One of the easiest and most accessible hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park is Bear Lake Nature Trail. This trail is great for people with small children or a disability that prohibits them from being able to hike on the other trails within the park.

Bear Lake is well known for its gorgeous wildflowers and spectacular views of the snowcapped peaks that make Rocky Mountain National Park famous. You’ll want to arrive at the trailhead as early as you can, as the parking lot fills up quickly. When you get here and hike the trail, you’ll truly understand why!

Emerald Lake Trail

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Length: 3.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 698’
  • Best Feature: Gorgeous views of Emerald Lake and the mountains that surround it

If you’re looking to get to the next level of hiking and to push out of easy trails, the Emerald Lake Trail is a great place to start. You’ll be able to complete this one relatively easily as it has a gentle incline that allows hikers to easily ascend nearly 700’ in a bit over 3 miles.

The views here are spectacular. Photographers from around the world trek up to Emerald to capture amazing pictures of the peaks that surround the lakes. So please don’t forget your camera to snap some pictures for yourself!

Glacier Gorge Trail to Sky Pond

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Length: 8.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,761’
  • Best Feature: Wildlife, wildflowers, and a bit of scrambling up rocks

Taking the Glacier Gorge Trail to Sky Pond is a fairly challenging hike, but it is well worth it. Take your time and you’ll be rewarded with a hike through beautiful pine forests dotted with tons of wildflowers and plenty of opportunities to spot some wildlife.

Once you get through the forest, you’ll make your final ascent to the lake. There are some boulders that were left over by glacier movement that occurred over thousands of years which you’ll need to scramble over. After you’ve made it through the boulder field, you’ll be rewarded with a view of Sky Pond, which is nestled perfectly among the jagged peaks of the surrounding Rocky Mountains.

See also  How Long Does It Take To Hike 5 Miles

Gem Lake Trail

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Length: 3.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 994’
  • Best Feature: Giant boulders and rock formations

If Glacier Gorge Trail was a bit much, Gem Lake Trail might be a better fit. The hike to the top of Gem Lake is pretty short, but for what it lacks in length, it makes up for in steepness. You’ll climb just under 1000’ to get to the top of this one, but the views are well worth it.

Gem Lake awaits you at the top of the hike. Kick your feet up and enjoy your break before heading back down. Views of Estes Park greet you as you make your way back down to the bottom of the trailhead, making this trail one that seems to keep on giving out awesomeness the entire way!

Deer Mountain Trail

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Length: 6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,400’
  • Best Feature: Wildflowers and summitting Deer mountain, which is 10,007’ tall

Get to the trailhead early for this one as Deer Mountain Trail is extremely popular! You’ll start at around 8,600’ and climb your way up meandering switchbacks for the first few miles. The summit will require a bit of scrambling for the last mile, but that’s no problem for the adventurous!

Amazing views await the bold at the top of Estes Park and the rest of Rocky Mountain National Park. Be sure to drink plenty of water, especially once you get towards the top. Take breaks as needed and try to get down off of the peak before the afternoon thunderstorms come rolling in!

Twin Sisters Peak Trail

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Length: 7.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,516’
  • Best Feature: Wildlife viewing opportunities and summitting Twin Sisters Peak, which is 11,333’ tall

Twin Sisters Peak Trail is one of the more difficult trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. Aside from the elevation gain, you need to be sure to bring along layers and start early in the morning. Weather can be pretty unpredictable here, making it necessary to be prepared for just about every kind of weather.

For the fit and prepared, this is an awesome hike. At the summit, your efforts will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains and Estes Park far below. If you look to the southwest at the summit of the hike, you’ll be able to snap a picture or two of Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park’s only 14er!

See also  Are Steel Toe Boots Good for Hiking?

Longs Peak Trail to The Keyhole and Longs Peak

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Length: 14.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 5,039’
  • Best Feature: Summitting Longs Peak, which is the only 14er in Rocky Mountain National Park

Many have tried, but few have succeeded in summitting this monster of a mountain. This one is for the experienced only. Every year, many people attempt to hike to the top of Longs Peak and end up having to turn back or get rescued due to the extreme challenge of this hike.

Start early in the morning so that you can summit the peak before noon. Thunderstorms roll in like clockwork every afternoon, making it extremely dangerous to be up at the top when lightning starts to fly! If you’re mentally and physically strong enough for this one, give it your best shot!

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are tons of trails to explore in Rocky Mountain National Park that are sure to meet the needs and abilities of everyone in your group. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful nature stroll or you’re looking to push your own limits, you’ll be able to find exactly what you need here.

Remember that Rocky Mountain National Park gets extremely busy. It’s best to arrive earlier than later to avoid crowded trails and to ensure that you get a good parking spot. If you have the ability to take one of the shuttles, do it. The shuttle service in the park is fantastic and will alleviate a lot of stress for you.

Be sure to bring plenty of water and hydrate often. Rocky Mountain National Park is very high up in elevation, making altitude sickness a real concern. Staying hydrated will help manage any symptoms you may feel. If you notice that you’re getting nauseous or dizzy, consider exiting the park to go down to lower elevations. Staying safe is very important here!

Regardless of where you go, we know that you’ll thoroughly enjoy your trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. Which trail will you hike first?

Related Posts