Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park is a cinch. Over 350 miles of trails crisscross the Park, linking together alpine lakes, jagged peaks, thick lodgepole Pine forests and rocky tundra. So what are you waiting for? Lace up your boots, grab your pack, and get ready to explore Rocky Mountain National Park one step at a time.
Hike to Alpine Lakes
Using a park map as a dartboard it's nearly impossible to not casually throw a dart and hit a backcountry alpine lake. But don't worry; with so many lakes there is a lake for every fitness level.
Some of our personal favorites (yes we've been to them and not just seen pictures) include: Bear Lake, a small pocket of crystal clear water surrounded by pine and aspen groves. The lake is easily accessed from Bear Lake parking lot, and a short relatively flat self-guided nature walk, encompasses the shoreline. (This is one of the most popular lakes in the Park, so plan on getting there early for a parking spot.)
If you want to explore a bit further into the backcountry, hikers can access Emerald Lake, Mills Lake, Dream Lake, and many others from the Bear Lake trailhead. Other great spots to check out are Fern Lake, Ypsilon Lake and Crystal Lake, all a bit deeper within the Park and a healthy hike in.
Summit a Mountain
Just like hiking in Yosemite, there are plenty of mountains to summit while visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. The most notable is Longs Peak, a massive 14,259-foot peak dominating the Park's eastern skyline. Longs, strenuous and rewarding, typically attracts only the most adventurous hikers and usually takes all day to summit. If you do plan on summiting, check out our guide to hiking Longs. Other great summit hikes include Flattop Mountain above Tyndall Glacier, and off-trial excursions throughout the Mummy Range located in the Park's northeastern boundary. Some of our tips for hikers planning to summit a mountain include: drinking more water than you think necessary, keeping fueled with salty snacks, and watching the horizon for building thunderheads. And if you do plan on hiking cross-country, always remember to have a current topo map and compass, and let someone know your planned route.
Hiking Close to Rocky Mountain National Park
One of the greatest things about Rocky Mountain National Park is national forests and hundreds of miles of hiking trails surround just about every square inch of the Park's boundary. Visitors on the Park's western edge can hike along the Continental Divide Trail passing though the Never Summer Mountains and Arapahoe National Forest. If you are on the Eastern side, head to Roosevelt National Forrest, just off of CO-72, and start from Peaceful Valley campground. From there you can follow the Middle St. Vrain Creek to Allenspark. But the gem of hiking outside the Park, or at least the stuff we can't seem to get enough of, can be found to the south within the Indian Peaks Wilderness. This stretch of wilderness has several trailheads, backcountry lakes, 13,000-foot peaks, and some of the best wildflowers in Colorado. Our favorite hikes include: the Fourth of July Trail, Devils Thumb, and South Boulder Creek Trail. Backcountry campsites are available and camping permits are just a few bucks.