10 Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park is located northwest of Denver, Colorado. It’s known for its soaring mountains, lush forests, and alpine lakes. If you’re planning a trip to the park and interested in doing some hiking, you definitely don’t want to miss these best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
1. Twin Sisters Peak Trail
Most people visit Rocky Mountain National Park to take in the amazing mountain views. That’s why a hike on Twin Sisters Peak Trail is a must.
While the hike is definitely challenging (the trail is 7.4 miles round trip and you’ll gain 2,338 feet in elevation on your trek) the view from the top is truly breathtaking.
The trail starts with a hike through a forest before progressing into steep switchbacks. On the final push of the trail, you’ll tackle an exciting rock scramble to the top. Once you’re at the summit, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of Estes Park and Longs Peak.
2. Mills Lake Trail
Named after a founder of the park, Enos Mills, the Mills Lake Trail gives you a chance to see everything that’s quintessential about the Rockies. As you travel along this 5-mile round trip trail, you’ll hike past waterfalls, stream beds, and a glacially carved gorge.
You’ll then reach Mills Lake, which is considered one of the most picturesque lakes in the park. After you take in the views at Mills Lake, you have the option of continuing up the trail an additional 1.7 miles to Black Lake.
Insider Tip: You can access the Mills Lake trailhead at the Glacier Gorge parking lot. However, space is very limited and it often fills up quickly. To avoid this hassle, consider taking advantage of the park’s free shuttle.
3. Alberta Falls Trail
If you’re looking for one of the best waterfall hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, check out Alberta Falls Trail. This out and back trail is only 1.2 miles round trip and has an elevation gain of just 160 feet, which makes it an easy trail for pretty much every hiker to enjoy.
The trail starts at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. Along the way, you’ll pass through aspen groves and pine forests before reaching the spot where Glacier Creek thunders over a cliff to create the spectacular waterfall.
4. Bear Lake Nature Trail
Interested in one of the best hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park for kids? Then check out Bear Lake Nature Trail.
This easy loop trail is only 0.5 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 20 feet. Perfect for those little legs to handle!
As you hike around the lake, you’ll take in beautiful views everywhere you look. The trail also has interpretive signs along the way that provide learning opportunities about the plants, animals, and geography of the region.
If your kids still have some more energy to burn, you can extend your hike to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, or Emerald Lake from this trail.
Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in autumn? You’re in luck! This hike is also incredibly popular in the fall because the area is awash in stunningly colorful foliage.
5. Chasm Lake Trail
Chasm Lake Trail is a strenuous hike with an elevation gain of 2,456 feet over 8.6 miles round trip. However, the spectacular view of the lake sitting just below Longs Peak, the highest peak in the park, is absolutely worth the effort.
During the first part of the hike, you’ll follow the same trail as hikers traveling up to the summit of Longs Peak. On the final mile of your hike, you’ll enjoy amazing views of Longs Peak, Peacock Pool, and Columbine Falls.
Since the trail is completely exposed for half of the hike, it’s a good idea to go in the morning before the typical afternoon thunderstorms roll through.
6. Gem Lake Trail
Gem Lake lives up to its name as a hidden gem tucked away among granite domes in the Lumpy Ridge area. However, since it doesn’t have any inlet or outlet streams, Gem Lake is actually a shallow pond that’s filled only by snowmelt and rainfall.
You can access the Gem Lake Trail using the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. To reach the lake, you’ll climb upwards for 2 miles using several switchbacks for a total elevation gain of 1,090 feet.
Along the way make sure you take some time to appreciate the views of Longs Peak, the Continental Divide, and Estes Park. Once you’re done enjoying Gem Lake, it’s just another 2 miles back to where you started.
7. Ouzel Falls Trail
You can hike to Ouzel Falls Trail using the Wild Basin Trailhead. As you hike along the trail, you’ll get to listen to the gentle babble of the North Saint Vrain Creek.
At about 5.4 miles round trip and 950 feet of elevation gain, this is a moderately difficult hike. However, the best part of the hike is that you actually get to enjoy several waterfall views along the way, including Lower Copeland Falls, Upper Copeland Falls, Calypso Cascades, and Ouzel Falls.
8. Emerald Lake Trail
The Emerald Lake Trail is one of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park because you actually get to see four lakes — Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake — over a relatively short distance.
The trail is 4.1 miles round trip and has a moderate elevation gain of 744 feet. You’ll start your hike at Bear Lake. At about a half-mile in, you will reach the charming Nymph Lake.
Hike another half-mile in, and you’ll reach Dream Lake. From this point, you’ll hike deeper into Tyndall Gorge before reaching Emerald Lake.
Once you’re here, be sure to take in the incredible sight of the jagged spires of Flattop Mountain looming over the crisp alpine lake.
9. Deer Mountain Trail
Although Deer Mountain Trail is 6 miles round trip and has an elevation gain of 1,083 feet, the hike to the 10,013-foot summit is a little easier thanks to the numerous switchbacks.
Your trek to the peak is uphill almost the entire way. Fortunately, you get to do it through a forest of fresh-smelling ponderosa pines, which makes the effort more enjoyable.
Once you reach the top, you’ll enjoy incredible views of Moraine Valley and the surrounding peaks.
10. Flattop Mountain Trail
The Flattop Mountain Trail is difficult and strenuous. However, it’s still considered one of the best hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park because it’s truly unique. After all, how many times can you say you hiked to the top of the Continental Divide?
The trail is 8.8 miles round trip and has an elevation gain of 1,215 feet. It starts at Bear Lake and rapidly gains elevation.
Along the way, you’ll have unbeatable views of Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, and Hallett Peak. Once you reach the summit, you have the notable opportunity to stand on top of the country’s dividing line.
From the top of Flattop Mountain, you can choose to continue along a faint, rocky trail to Hallett Peak. At 12,718-feet, Hallett Peak offers phenomenal 360° views of the surrounding area.
Best Rocky Mountain National Park Hikes
With incredible views around every corner, it’s easy to see why Rocky Mountain National Park is a top destination for hikers. If you’re planning your own trip, you won’t be disappointed when you check out these best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
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