Forget about exploring Rocky Mountain National Park by car (things can fly by too fast). Instead, lace up your hiking boots and explore one of the Park's 350 miles of trail. To help simplify things we've done some hiking for you and came up with three distinct hikes for any fitness level. So what are you waiting for? Dig in!
3.6 miles out-and-back
605 feet net elevation gain
The perfect hike for those wishing to see some of the Park's most stunning backcountry without having to spend hours hiking miles in. This 3.6-mile out-and-back passes four distinct,yet beautiful alpine lakes. Start from Bear Lake Trailhead, and begin a steady 0.5-mile ascent along a crumbling asphalt path to Nymph Lake. From there the trail becomes a ribbon of soft dirt crossing through a boulder field before reaching Dream Lake. If you have a wide-angle lens this is the lake to use it at. Even better, get here early to catch one of the Park's best sunrise photo opportunities. After snapping a few shots at Dream Lake, continue a steady ascent to Emerald Lake, the final yet spectacular destination. At Emerald Lake, make sure to take in the dramatic views of Flattop Mountain and Tyndall Gorge to the west. To the south rises Hallett Peak, which can throughout the Park.To return, simply turn around and retrace your steps back to Bear Lake Trailhead.
Colorado River Trail to Lulu City
7 Miles out-and-back
350 feet net elevation gain
This relatively flat 7-mile out-and-back follows the Colorado River and winds through thick subalpine forest, which depending on the time of year can be blanketed in seasonal wildflowers. The final destination, Lulu City-an 1800's mining town that went bust after just a few years-is a great place for hikers excited about experiencing some of the Park's history. To start, park at the Colorado River Trailhead and immediately being a steady gradual ascent along a wide path. The trail is typically busy, so an early start is recommended, but not always necessary. Continue to ascend crossing the Colorado River several times, before following an old stagecoach route to Lulu's crumbling remains. From the remains several options are available to continue, while those looking to head back just need to retrace their steps to the parking lot.
2,124 net elevation gain
Trailhead: Lawn Lake Trail
Not for the faint of heart,this 8.75-mile hike to Ypsilon Lake is filled with steady elevation gain, sweeping unobstructed views of the Park,and excellent fly fishing. Start from the Lawn Lake Trailhead and immediately begin a steady 500-foot climb to the east bank of Roaring River. Turn left onto the Ypsilon Trail and continue climbing through dense lodgepole pine stands. The trail soon crests an open ridgeline above 10,000-feet. Once you reach Ypsilon Lake, bushwhack to the lake's southern edge where a small hidden meadow can be found. Depending on your map reading capabilities and comfort level, some hikers take an off-trail ravine back down to Lawn Lake Trail, while most just retrace their steps.