48 Hours in Rocky Mountain National Park

By Tori Peglar ,

Only have 48 hours? Make the most of your time by following our itinerary covering both sides of the park.

Day 1 on the East Side

Watch the Sun Rise 

A sunrise reflection on Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

iStock Photo

Wake up early to get to Bear Lake, a 1.1-mile one-way hike around the lake, to catch the sunlight as it rises over Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain. Arrive at least 30 minutes before dawn. Other east-side lakes with sunrise views include Lily Lake and Sprague Lake.

Hike up a Mountain

Choose your adventure level:

Hardcore Adventure: Climb Longs Peak

Chasm Lake near Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park


If you are a strong hiker who has trained for a really long day of hiking, head to Longs Peak, the park’s tallest mountain at 14,259 feet. Round-trip hikes can take up to 15 hours, so it is important to start your hike really, really early [many will start long before dawn with head lamps] because you’ll want to be below treeline when afternoon storms roll in.

Easiest Summit in the Park: Deer Mountain

View from the top of Deer Mountain

Gloria Wadzinski

Hike up Deer Mountain to summit a 10,013-foot peak. It’s six miles roundtrip with 1,083 feet elevation gain, making it a good trail for those visiting from sea level.

Short but Steep: Lumpy Ridge to Gem Lake

Looking down on Gem Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

NPS Jacob W Frank

Located near downtown Estes Park, this 3.1-mile roundtrip trail is fun for the family and can be less crowded than other trails, mostly because it’s not in the heart of the park. While you’ll climb less than 1,000 feet, there are a number of rock steps that lead you to the sparkling shores of Gem Lake

6-Mile Round Trip: Hike to the Loch

The Loch in Rocky Mountain National Park

Grant Ordelheide

Pass Alberta Falls en route to this stunning lake on the park's east side. Access it via the Glacier Gorge trailhead. It's a 6-mile hike roundtrip. "Loch" is Scots Gaelic for "lake" and the lake sits at 10,000 feet.

Watch the Sunset

Sunset at the top of the trail from the Alpine Visitors Center on Trail Ridge Road

NPS/Jacob W Frank

Stop at the Alpine Visitor Center at the top of Trail Ridge Road and take a short hike up for an amazing Rocky Mountain sunset.

Day 2 on the West Side

Go Horseback Riding

Horseback riding on the Fern Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Ben Fullerton

See the park while sitting in a saddle with Sombrero Ranches, which operates the only two stables inside the park at Moraine Park and Glacier Creek. You can choose how many hours you want to ride from 2, 3, 5, 8 and 10-hour trips.

See a Waterfall

Adams Falls

Kimon Berlin/Flickr

A stone’s throw away from Grand Lake, Adams Falls trail is a .3-mile hike along the East Inlet Trail. If you continue on the trail, you'll find yourself in a large valley with a river and incredible views.

Watch Wildlife in the Kawuneeche Valley

Grant Ordelheide

Moose dwell in this area west of the Continental Divide, making it the best spot to see them. Look for moose along the Colorado River and in the willows. 

Stop in the Kawuneeche Visitor Center

Inside the Kawuneeche Visitor Center.

Gloria Wadzinski

Stop in the west side's visitor center to see exhibits and get tips from rangers. 

Visit Holzwarth Historic Site

David Fulmer/Flickr

Visit a 1920s-era restored collection of cabins that started in 1920 as Holzwarth’s Trout Lodge but evolved into a privately owned dude ranch for 40 years. It’s a half-mile stroll to the buildings, located 7.4 miles north of the Grand Lake Entrance.