Rocky Mountain National Park
More than 370 miles of walking and hiking trails abound in Rocky Mountain National Park. Choices are tough for both novice and experienced hikers. You might want to take a look at GORP's favorite hikes for a lead. Other popular trails in the park include Bear Lake Nature Trail (0.5 miles), Never Summer Ranch (1 mile), Lulu City (7.2 miles), Morraine Park Nature Trail (0.25 miles), Sprague Lake Nature Trail (0.5 miles), and Tundra Nature Trail (0.5 miles).
Several trails have backcountry camping spots, facilitating overnight or multi-day backpacking trips. Some easy trips, especially suitable for families with young children, include Moore Park, which passes by the ruins of Eugenia Mine, the gentle Tonahutu Creek Trail, and Mummy Basin's Ypsilon Creek. Wild Basin has several backcountry camp sites within three miles from the trailhead in the wildest section of the park. For the slightly more ambitious, recommendations include Mirror Lake, Bouldersfield/Storm Pass Loop, Thunder Lake, and Never Summer Loop. For the in shape backpacker, both Nokoni and Nanita Lakes, and North Inlet/Tonahutu Loop excursions fit the bill. These trails originate at the North Inlet trailhead.
Don't confine your imagination to spring, summer and fallwinter hiking in Rocky Mountain is also sublime. Choosing the best from the park's dozens of trails is an impossible task. Take this selection as a taste of what you will find when you go exploring...
Length: 8.4 miles round trip
Elevation: 9400' to 11800'
The trail starts at the Long Peak's Ranger Station. It ascends moderately through conifer forest. At a third of a mile, the trail to Estes Cone branches right. You stay left and continue through the woods. At a little under two miles, the track hits timberline. At this point, you will be glad you started early. Late afternoon thunderstorms can make this open terrain treacherous. You continue onward through a slope covered with evergreens hugging the ground but no trees blocking the vista. At about three miles, bear left; the right fork heads for Granite Pass and the Keyhole. You have a little over a mile to go. The first stretch is along the marshy banks of the headwaters of Roaring Fork Creek. Once you pass Peacock Pool, a ridge rises sharply aheadstill no sign of the lake itself. You need to clamber up the steep rocky slope. A couple of false summits will have you questioning whether the pool really exists, but as you scramble over the top, a scene of unbelievable majesty unfolds before your eyes, dominated by the Diamondthe world class climb of Long's Peak east face!
Length: 8.4 miles round trip
Elevation: 9240' to 10620'
Black Lake is a final jewel along the mystic Glacier Gorge. The trail starts at Glacier Gorge Junction on the road to Bear Lake. It follows up Glacier Creek, through stands of Aspen and across boardwalks over marshy areas. The mountain walls frequently feel like they are closing in as you stroll up the narrow canyon. The sites are a lesson in the power of water. Alberta Falls plunges into the creek at a little over half a mile. At two miles, the trail to the Loch branches right, a fabulous destination in itself if you want a shorter round trip (5.5 miles). Bearing left, Mill's Lake follows next, named for Enos Mills, one of the early naturalists that ventured into the area. The path then winds through a landscape of dwarf fir until steep walls block the canyon. Here lies Black Lake, with the dark wall of McHenry's peak reflecting in its surface.
Old Ute Trail
Length: 6 mile point to point; or go out and back
Elevation: 11,250' to 8,250'
When you are crossing the barren windswept slope of Tombstone Ridge, try to picture the highway this trail used to be. The Utes traversed similar vast stretches all along the Continental Divide as they traveled from village to village. The trail begins off Trail Ridge Road below the Forest Canyon Overlook. You are on top of the world here—one of your few chances to hike downhill for the day. The low life of Alpine tundra surrounds you and Long's Peak stands guard to the south. You can hike as far as your legs will carry, enjoying the expansive scene. But remember, you go six miles to Upper Beaver Meadows or a steep climb back to Trail Ridge Road.
Flat Top Mountain
Length: 8.0 miles round trip
Elevation: 9,500' to 12,300'
Departing around the north side of Bear Lake, the Flattop Trail offers more of the alpine tundra hiking so outstanding in Rocky Mountain National Park. You rise steadily through the various ecological zones, starting with the conifer forest around Bear Lake. After a couple of miles, the terrain will have opened up and you can peer straight down to Emerald Lake, more than a thousand fee below the trail. You will continue climbing until the mountain really flattens out. You will feel like your are on an enormous plateau at an elevation where the Gods live. There is nothing particularly distinct about Flattop itself, but you can take in the park's beauty in almost every direction. At four miles, you will have reached your destination, but if your stamina still holds, you can take the left fork at the junction, to Hallet Peak, another mile and another few hundred feet up.
Storm Pass and Estes Cone
Length: 6.6 miles
Elevation: 9,400' to 11,000'
Storm Pass is a great place to head for a warm-up hike when you are acclimating to Rocky Mountain altitudes. The trail starts at the Long Peak's Ranger Station. Follow the Chasm Lake trail for a third mile, then branch right. At 2.5 miles, you will have climbed almost 1,000 feet, but your legs will scream more thanks to a lot of ups and downs. The trail splits here, the left branch heading miles farther to Glacier Basin, the right climbing 750 feet to the Estes Cone. If you are warming up, turn around here. If you still have energy to burn, scramble up the scree to enjoy the Cone's panorama of the Twin Sisters, Mount Meeker, and Long's Peak.
Trails & Trailheads Overview
* Indicates trails on the west side of the park.
|Around Lake||0.6||20||Easy||Scenic, self guiding nature trail|
|Nymph Lake||0.5||225||Easy||Views of Flattop Mt., Hallett Peak|
|Dream Lake||1.1||425||Moderate||Beautiful lake, great family hike|
|Emerald Lake||1.8||605||Moderate||Photographic stop flanked by the rugged spires of Hallet, Flattop|
|Lake Haiyaha||2.1||745||Moderate||Superb views of Nymph, Bear Lakes and Longs Peak. Spectacular lake frames by Hallet Peak.|
|Flattop Mountain||4.4||2,849||Strenuous||Panoramic Views|
|Odessa Lake||4.1||1,205||Moderate||Less crowded trail leads to another beautiful lake, passing from forest to open tundra|
|Fern Lake Trailhead||8.5||1,205||Moderate||Scenic waterfall, beautiful river with interesting pools. One of the more popular hikes in the park|
|Bierstadt Lake||1.4||566||Moderate||Trail passes through a beautiful stand of aspen and ends at a pleasant lake|
|Ypsilon Mountain||3.5||2,074||Strenuous||Three mountain peaks offering wonderful views. Most of the trail in above timberline.|
|Luly City Site||3.7||350||Moderate||Route to Lulu city offering great river scenery|
0.7 mile detour
||Moderate||Classic tarn flanked by imposing peaks|
|The Crater||1||730||Moderate||Steep hike to a great view|
|Cub Lake||2.3||540||Moderate||Hike by interesting rock formations, meadows and forests leading to a nice lake|
|Deer Ridge Junction
|Deer Mountain||3||1,083||Strenuous||Great views of Longs, Estes and Ypsilion Mountains|
|Adams Fall||0.3||79||Easy||Easy hike to a pretty falls|
|Finch Lake||4.5||1,442||Moderate||Nice hike to a pleasant lake|
|Gem Lake||2||1,090||Moderate||Lake is set amidst a beautiful natural amphitheater|
|Glacier Gorge Junction
|Alberta Falls||0.6||160||Easy||Great views along the trail to what some call the prettiest falls in the park|
|Mills Lake||2.5||700||Moderate||Great hike to a beautiful lake framed by spectacular peaks|
|Black Lake||4.7||1,390||Strenuous||A jewel in mystic Glacier Gorge|
|The Loch||2.7||940||Moderate||Scenic hike leading to a popular destination in the park|
|Timberline Falls||4||1,210||Strenuous||Great views and pretty falls|
|Sky Pond||4.6||1,660||Strenuous||Magnificent lake sitting below the Taylor and Powell Peaks|
|Ypsilon Lake||4.5||2,180||Strenuous||Interesting hike leading to a picturesque lake flank by an imposing mountain|
|Lily Mountain||1.5||1,006||Moderate||Good view of Twin Sisters, Longs Peak, Meadow St., Vrain Mts.|
|Longs Peak Ranger Station
|Estes Cone||6.6||1,606||Moderate||Panoramic views of Twin Sister, Mount Meeker, Long's Peak|
|Eugenia Mine||1.4||508||Moderate||Hike to the remains of a miner's cabin and mining machinery|
|Chasm Lake||4.2||2,390||Strenuous||Lake set amidst unbelievable scenery|
|Longs Peak||8||4,855||Strenuous||Difficult hike leading to the top of this 14,225 foot peak. Start VERY early!|
|Cascade Falls||3.5||300||Moderate||Popular hike to a pretty falls|
|Lake Nanita||11||2,240||Strenuous||Photogenic lake set amidst the spires of Ptarmigan Mountain|
|Around Lake||0.5||20||Easy||Pleasant family hike with great views.|
|Timber Lake||4.8||2,060||Strenuous||Hike through dense forest to a beautiful mountain LAKE|
|Gem Lake||1.8||910||Moderate||Lake is set amidst a beautiful natural amphitheater|
|Twin Sisters Peak||3.7||2,338||Strenuous||Great views of Longs Peak|
|Upper Beaver Meadows||6.1||-3,000||Moderate||On top of the world! Downhill hike with great views.|
|Wild Basin Ranger Station
|Lion Lake No.||7.0||2,565||Strenuous|
|Lion Lake No 2||7.5||2,900||Strenuous|
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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