Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park

Region in Colorado, United States

The Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most spectacular jewels in the United States, covering 415 square miles of truly epic mountain scenery. The granite peaks of this remarkable region rise high above alpine lakes and wildflower meadows, providing breathtaking views and some really satisfying hiking adventures. Whether you’re looking for high-altitude challenges or pleasant, easy day hikes, the Rocky Mountain National Park should be on your bucket list.

Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park will take you along well-worn trails into the backcountry, where you’ll have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of some of the wonderful wildlife of the Rockies. With moose, elk, bighorn sheep, and black bears, it’s an excellent place to introduce kids to the precious ecosystems of the mountains. Come in fall to observe the elk in the rutting season, and to hear their famous bugle call echo through the hills!

High in the mountains, you’ll find serene lakes that reflect the surrounding peaks like a glass mirror, as well as snow-capped summits and wildflower-studded ridges. This is Colorado scenery at its very best, and hiking here is a pure joy. To help you get started, and to give you a little inspiration for your next hiking adventure, we’ve put together a list of the very best routes in the Rocky Mountain National Park. All you need to do is sit back, relax, and start dreaming of your next mountain trek!

14 Amazing Hikes In Rocky Mountain National Park

There are many different types of hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, from easy family-friendly trails to strenuous ascents in breathtaking scenery. If you’re travelling with young kids, head for the Trail Ridge Road or one of the many lakes, and you’ll find easy, low-elevation trails with plenty of opportunities for wildlife watching.

If, on the other hand, you are looking for something more challenging, the Rocky Mountain National Park is the chance to get high above the tree line and onto towering, granite ridges. You’ll need to be fit for some of these ascents, but there are plenty of rewards, with jaw-dropping views, shimmering high-altitude lakes, and trails studded with wildflowers. There is something for everyone in this glorious natural wilderness.

  1. Trail Ridge Road Hike: The Trail Ridge Road climbs high into the Rocky Mountain National Park and is the destination for a variety of easy hikes. You’ll find plenty of stopping places with short, well-marked trails, including Beaver Ponds, the Hidden Valley, and the glorious viewpoint at Forest Canyon Overlook. Take your pick for a number of easy hikes in the Rocky Mountain National Park!
  2. Sprague Lake Hike: This short, easy hike is a great introduction to the Rocky Mountain National Park, perfect for families and visitors with accessibility issues. The path circles the lovely Sprague Lake, passing from hard gravel to wooden boardwalks, ideal if you’re travelling with a buggy. Bring a picnic and admire the wonderful mountain views from the lakeside.
  3. Beaver Meadows Loop Hike: Kids will love this short, easy trail, making it one of the best family hikes in the Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll pass through wide, expansive meadows, atmospheric woodland, and past gurgling streams, with plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting along the way. Come in autumn for the best chance of spotting elk and hearing the distinctive elk bugle!
  4. Ouzel Falls Hike: Looking for fun family hikes in the Rocky Mountain National Park? Don’t miss this fantastic trail to Ouzel Falls, where you’ll get to see not one, not two, but three plunging waterfalls! The route passes in and out of beautiful woodland, offering intermittent, breathtaking views as you hike. With plenty of variety and a series of lovely cascades, this is a great hike for older kids.
  5. Bluebird Lake Hike: This lovely day hike is located in the lesser-visited Wild Basin area of the Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s well worth making the effort to get here, as the trail passes through some spectacular scenery, traversing a dense pine forest and passing by the lovely Ouzel Falls, before finally reaching Bluebird Lake.
  6. Sky Pond and Lake of Glass Hike: This stunning route is one of our favorites, and is possibly one of the best hikes in the United States! Particular attractions along the way include beautiful lakes, which reflect the surrounding peaks perfectly in their glassy waters, and a cascading waterfall. This is a challenging route, with some scrambling required, but we’re confident that you’ll love it as much as we do.
  7. Flattop Summit and Hallett Peak Hike: This challenging hike requires a steep climb, but you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views down to Dream Lake, Sprague Lake, and Emerald Lake. It’s well worth making the extra effort to summit both Flattop and Hallett Peak, for a wonderful view over the surrounding mountains.
  8. Chasm Lake Hike: The challenging hike to Chasm Lake is filled with wonderful rewards, including stunning wildflower meadows and tumbling waterfalls. In spring and early summer the columbine flowers are in bloom all along the trails, creating a stunning carpet of color. The view of the Diamond Face of Longs Peak from Chasm Lake is wonderful, especially if you’re lucky enough to catch it at sunrise.
  9. Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lake Hike: This beautiful route is one of the best hikes in the Rocky Mountain National Park, taking you to five stunning and unique lakes. From Nymph Lake, filled with water lilies, to the incredible views at Lake Haiyaha, each of these lovely spots has its own character and unique beauty. The trail can be adapted to make it shorter for young kids, so this is also a good family-friendly option.
  10. The Loch Hike: The Loch is a large alpine lake found at the intersection of Andrews Glacier and Taylor Glacier. This lovely spot is made even more stunning on a clear day, when the surrounding peaks are reflected in the glittering waters of the lake. The trail has some steep sections, but it’s a perfectly manageable hike for most people, and one of the prettiest in the Rocky Mountain National Park.
  11. Twin Sisters Peak Trail Hike: This varied hike offers a glimpse of the wonderful range of landscapes and terrain on offer in the Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll pass through dense woodland, characteristic alpine territory, and along a rocky ridge, before summiting either one, or both, of the Twin Sisters Peaks. Happily, you won’t need a Rocky Mountain National Park permit for this hike!
  12. Gem Lake and Balanced Rock Hike: This unique trail will take you through an unusual and dramatic part of the Rocky Mountain National Park, known as the Lumpy Ridge Area. The route ascends a rock-strewn hill before emerging at the lovely Gem Lake, and then continues up to the remarkable granite formation of Balanced Rock.
  13. Cascade Falls Hike: This fairly easy trail can be found in the western side of the Rocky Mountain National Park, and is a good option if you want to avoid the crowds, as the trails here are usually a little quieter than other parts of the park. The Cascades Falls tumble over the rocks, creating a very picturesque image, and the rest of the trail passes through some characteristic Rocky Mountain scenery.
  14. Lake Haiyaha Hike: The steep hike to Lake Haiyaha is a breathtaking route with plenty of stunning rewards for your efforts! Lake Haiyaha is surrounded by enormous boulders and towering peaks that create a truly glorious vista, with Chaos Canyon at the center. This hike can be extended in a variety of ways, including by hiking up the Glacier Knobs and all the way to the Loch, a tranquil high mountain tarn.

When Is The Best Time To Hike In Rocky Mountain National Park?

The best time to hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park is between June and September. Although the hiking season officially starts in May, you’re likely to find snow clinging to many of the higher-elevation trails, thereby limiting your options for trekking and backpacking. Summer offers beautiful weather, lush vegetation, and plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting. If you want to avoid the crowds, come in late September, when the fall colors are in full swing and the trails are a little quieter. However, early snows can cut off some trails, so make sure to keep an eye on the weather and take advice from local park authorities. The park remains open throughout the year, but any attempts at winter hikes will require snowshoes!

Other Outdoor Activities In Rocky Mountain National Park

The Rocky Mountain National Park is a paradise for adventure lovers, and keen hikers will also find plenty of other outdoor activities to keep them busy in this beautiful place. Head off on a multi-day backpacking adventure, or seek out all the best routes for scrambling. You could try your hand at mountain biking, rock climbing, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, or even horseback riding! What’s more, in winter, the snows bring plenty of opportunities for snowshoeing, skiing and snowboarding, so you’ll always have something to keep you occupied, whenever you visit.

How To Plan A Trip To Rocky Mountain National Park

If the Rocky Mountain National Park is on your hiking bucket list (and let’s face it, it should be!), we’ve got everything you need to know. To help you design your trip down to the last detail, we’ve put together a guide to planning a trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park, packed with insider tips and our best advice for hiking in the park.

Frequently-Asked-Questions About Rocky Mountain National Park

How many hiking trails are in the Rocky Mountain National Park?

The Rocky Mountain National Park boasts 355 miles of hiking trails, meaning that there’s something for all ages, tastes, and fitness levels!

Are there bears in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Black bears can be found in the Rocky Mountain National Park, but they are shy and avoid busy trails, so encounters with humans are very rare.

What is the closest city to Rocky Mountain National Park?

Estes Park is the closest town to the park and is located on the east side of the Rocky Mountain National Park. It is around one hour from Boulder and two hours from Denver by car.

How many days should you spend at Rocky Mountain National Park?

There are so many amazing activities on offer in the Rocky Mountain National Park, we’re confident you won’t want to leave! However, most visitors stay around 3-4 days, giving enough time for one or two good hikes and a day of sightseeing or other outdoor activities and excursions.

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Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park

Open details for Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lakes

Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lakes

Easy
9.8 km
220 m
2.5-3.5h

What a great way to spend the day. Hike to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes and enjoy a special day in Rocky Mountain National Park. This hike takes you to five different lakes, all with unique views and special qualities that give each of them their own sense of beauty.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.8
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Open details for Sky Pond and Lake of Glass

Sky Pond and Lake of Glass

Hard
13.6 km
526 m
4-5.5h

The Sky Pond and Lake of Glass hike is a favorite hike for locals. Get a beautiful glimpse of Rocky Mountain National Park on this fun, yet challenging hike that takes you by stunning lakes and to a waterfall and two beautiful hidden lakes! We think it's one of the best hikes in the USA.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.9
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Open details for Chasm Lake Hike

Chasm Lake Hike

Hard
13.4 km
812 m
4.5-6.5h

This Chasm Lake hike might be short, but it’s deceptively challenging, ascending steeply towards the iconic ‘Diamond Face’ of Longs Peak. You’ll pass above the treeline into stunning alpine tundra, past gushing waterfalls and wildflower-studded trails, before emerging at Chasm Lake itself: a beautiful glacial tarn surrounded by an amphitheater of dark rock.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.9
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Open details for Lake Haiyaha

Lake Haiyaha

Moderate
6.0 km
243 m
1.5-2.5h

The hike to Lake Haiyaha is a classic trail which offers you breathtaking rewards in exchange for your hard effort. Lake Haiyaha is quite a steep trail but well worth the amazing alpine lake nestled into a panoramic mountain cirque!

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.7
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Open details for Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road

Very Easy
1.7 km
46 m
0.5h

The Trail Ridge Road hike climbs high into the alpine tundra to an elevation of 12,183 ft with incredible panoramic views of RMNP. Trail Ridge Road itself is the destination with many unique and exciting hikes along the way! Most are short so make a day out of travelling the road and stopping for several hikes.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.4
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Open details for The Loch

The Loch

Moderate
8.9 km
325 m
2.5-3.5h

Hiking to The Loch in RMNP takes you to a large alpine lake at the intersection between Andrews Glacier and Taylor Glacier. The Loch offers stunningly clear reflections of the surrounding peaks.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.7
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Open details for Twin Sisters Peak Trail

Twin Sisters Peak Trail

Moderate
11.3 km
627 m
3.5-5h

The Twin Sisters Trail is a fun summit hike that gives you a taste of many features of Rocky Mountain National Park. Getting to Twin Sisters Peak will have you hiking through wooded, rocky, and alpine terrain. It is a great hike to see so much of what RMNP has to offer.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.5
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Open details for Bluebird Lake

Bluebird Lake

Hard
19.6 km
987 m
6-8.5h

The Bluebird Lake hike is in the lesser known Wild Basin area of RMNP. Bluebird Lake offers amazing panoramic views of RMNP and Longs Peak. Be sure to tack on some extra time not only for the views at the top, but the whole route is scenic and breathtaking!

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.8
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Open details for Flattop Mountain and Hallett Peak Hike

Flattop Mountain and Hallett Peak Hike

Hard
14.2 km
866 m
5-7h

The Flattop Mountain hike can be a challenge as you climb towards the summit, but you are rewarded with stunning views. As you are hiking you can peer down onto some of the park’s other fantastic routes, such as the hikes to Dream Lake, Sprague Lake, and Emerald Lake.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.9
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Open details for Gem Lake and Balanced Rock

Gem Lake and Balanced Rock

Moderate
11.6 km
475 m
3.5-4.5h

Aptly named, the Gem Lake and Balanced Rock hike is a great hike close to Estes Park. This hike is located in the Northern Side of RMNP, in the Lumpy Ridge Area. This unique trail has you hiking through lumps of rocks, beautiful aspen trees and has great views into Estes Park. Gem Lake truly is a gem, and acts as a gateway to a truly unique rock formation - Balanced Rock.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.3
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.

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Open details for Planning your trip to Rocky Mountain National Park

Planning your trip to Rocky Mountain National Park

By Richard Campbell
March 10th, 2018
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