Suggested Hikes and Backpack trips in Rocky Mountain National Park
These are a few of the trails that I (and many others) suggest during your
visit to the Park. Numbers in parenthesis are the elevation gains (in feet).
Distances given are one-way only (unless otherwise stated).
For a complete list of trails, consult the
Or, view our list of
which offer details of many of the hikes listed here.
EASY HIKES: Suitable for small children and visitors who are not used
to the high altitudes. Up to 2.5 miles round trip, 750ft elevation gain.
- SPRAGUE LAKE: This 0.5 mile trail circles Sprague Lake. The trail
is level, and especially suited to those visitors with disabilities. The
hike offers incredible views of the Continental Divide.
- ALBERTA FALLS: One of the prettiest waterfalls in the Park is just
0.6 miles (160ft) from the parking area at Glacier Gorge Junction. Along
the way, marvel at the vistas of the peaks above and valleys below.
- BEAR LAKE NATURE TRAIL: This short trail (0.5 miles, round trip)
circles Bear Lake. Highly recommended if your time is limited. Rangers
at the parking lot will answer your questions.
- DREAM LAKE: A hike for people who enjoy mountain lakes! Start at
the Bear Lake trailhead, and hike 0.5 miles (225ft) to Nymph Lake. From
Nymph, hike another 0.6 miles to Dream Lake -- a total elevation gain of
425ft. The hearty can hike on to Emerald Lake, 0.7 miles from Dream Lake
and an additional 180ft of elevation gain. While this is one of the
prettiest hikes in the Park, it is also one of the most crowded.
- TOLL MEMORIAL: Start at Rock Cut, high on Trail Ridge Road, and
follow a short interpretive trail to Toll Memorial. Along the way, read
signs explaining the tundra environment. At the memorial, use the Peak
Finder to name the surrounding mountains. It is 0.5 miles (260ft) of
- COPELAND FALLS: Follow the North St. Vrain Creek to this small cascade.
Start at the Wild Basin trailhead, and hike 0.3 miles (15ft).
- NEVER SUMMER RANCH: From the trailhead along Trail Ridge Road (just
south of the Timber Creek campground), hike 0.5 miles to the Ranch.
You will cross the Colorado River en-route.
- ADAMS FALLS: Leave the East Inlet trailhead near Grand Lake and hike
0.3 miles (79ft) to the lovely Adams Falls.
MEDIUM HIKES: Moderately hard hikes, usually can be done in half a day,
with a few steep sections. A good workout. Up to 8.0 miles round trip,
1,500ft elevation gain.
- DESERTED VILLAGE: Though not in the National Park, this is a very
nice, quiet hike through a forested valley to a small meadow with the
ruins of an old cabin. The cabin was once a resort, which later closed
after bouts with dysentery. The hike follows the North Fork of the
Big Thompson River. Leave the Dunraven Glade Trailhead (Lost Lake
Trailhead), and hike an easy 3 miles (200ft) to the old site.
- GEM LAKE: A classic hike in the Lumpy Ridge area to a rain-fed
lake nestled among the rock formations. Start at the McGregor Ranch
(Twin Owls) trailhead and hike for 1.8 miles (910ft), or start at the
Gem Lake Trailhead on Devil's Gulch Road and hike for 2 miles (1,090ft).
- CUB LAKE: Start at the Cub Lake Trailhead in Moraine Park for this
2.3 mile (540ft) hike. The trail takes you through some wonderful
meadow, near interesting rock formations, and through lush forests to
the lily-pad covered Cub Lake.
- FERN LAKE: A classic hike that takes you past The Pool and Fern Falls.
Start at the Fern Lake Trailhead in Moraine Park, and hike 3.8 miles
- BIERSTADT LAKE: See the peaks of the High Divide towering over
Bierstadt Lake. From the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead on the Bear Lake
Road, hike 1.4 miles (566ft) up Bierstadt Moraine. Or, from Bear
Lake, hike an easy 1.6 miles (255ft) atop the Moraine.
- MILLS LAKE: A spectacular hike into Glacier Gorge. See glacially
carved peaks towering high above a wonderful alpine lake. From Glacier
Gorge Junction, hike 2.5 miles (700ft).
- THE LOCH: Another spectacular hike, but this time into Loch Vale.
See the sheer face of Cathedral Wall high above The Loch. Also see Taylor
and Andrews Glaciers along the way. From Glacier Gorge Junction, hike
2.7 miles (940ft).
- OUZEL FALLS: Most hikers in Wild Basin consider these falls to be the
prettiest in the Park, and I must agree! From the Wild Basin trailhead,
2.7 miles (950ft).
- ABANDONED ROAD: A beautiful tundra hike that takes you to the head
of Forest Canyon. Either hike down to it from Fall River Pass, 2.5 miles
(losing 484ft), or up to it from Milner Pass, 2 miles (530ft). Better yet,
hike along the Abandoned Road from Fall River Pass to a waiting car
at Milner Pass, roughly 4-4.5 miles (losing 1,000ft). The trail marks the
original road over Trail Ridge, before Trail Ridge Road was built.
- LULU CITY: Travel an easy 3.7 miles (350ft) along the Colorado River
to the site of a late 19th century mining town. Pass a few old cabins
along the way, and some good views of the Never Summer Range. Start
from the Colorado River Trailhead.
- CASCADE FALLS: This is a popular hike along the lush North Inlet Trail.
Start at the North Inlet Trailhead near Grand Lake, and hike 3.5 miles
- GREEN MOUNTAIN/ONAHU CREEK LOOP HIKE: This interesting loop hike
circles several unnamed points north of Green Mountain. The hike begins
at either Green Mountain or Onahu Creek trailheads, and covers 6.5 miles.
Both trailheads are close to each other, and are connected by a short
trail. Hike along the edge of Big Meadows, and see a wide variety of
- BIERSTADT LAKE LOOPS: The trails near Bierstadt Lake can be used
to create several easy, day-long loop hikes. The best begins at
the Bierstadt Lake trailhead. From the trailhead, hike the easy 1.4
miles (566ft) to Bierstadt Lake. From the lake, take a side trail
to Bear Lake (for 1.6 miles, loss of 255ft elevation). From Bear Lake,
hike the short connection trail to Glacier Gorge Junction, then follow
a sign that points to Glacier Basin. Follow the trail for roughly
1 to 1 1/2 miles to a small trail that crosses Bear Lake Road and
returns you to the Bierstadt Lake trailhead.
HARD HIKES: Plan for an entire day (or more). Generally includes long
distances, high elevation gains, and off-trail hiking. Only for the
- YPSILON LAKE: Hike high into the Mummy Range, below the towering East
Face of Ypsilon Mountain. From the Lawn Lake Trailhead, hike 4.5 miles
(2,180ft). Visit the pretty Chipmunk Lake enroute.
- ODESSA LAKE: Another classic high mountain lake, nestled below the
towering Continental Divide. Either hike it from Bear Lake, 4.1 miles
(1,215ft) or from Fern Lake Trailhead, 4.4 miles (1,865ft). The latter
hike will take you past Fern Lake, The Pool and Fern Falls.
- FLATTOP MOUNTAIN: A good, solid trail from Bear Lake will take you
to the flat summit of Flattop Mountain. Gorgeous panoramic views
abound. The hike is 4.4 miles (2,849ft). A quick, half-mile boulder
hop will take you to the summit of Hallett Peak, as well (an additional
- BLACK LAKE: Hike into the heart of Glacier Gorge, where high cliffs
ring this magnificent lake. Pass by several waterfalls, Mills Lake and
Jewel Lake along the way. From Glacier Gorge Junction, hike 4.7 miles
- LAKE OF GLASS: This pater-noster lake lies below Taylor Peak, high
in Loch Vale. Pass by Timberline Falls and The Loch along the way.
From Glacier Gorge Junction, hike 4.2 miles (1,580ft).
- TWIN SISTERS PEAKS: A classic hike that offers impressive views of
Longs Peak. A good trail takes you through forest, then tundra to the
summit. Hike for 3.7 miles (2,338ft).
- LONGS PEAK: Easily the most climbed peak in the park. A good trail
takes you to the top of 14,255ft Longs Peak. The hike is very difficult,
and you should arrive at the Longs Peak Trailhead around 2:00-3:00 in
the morning. The route is covered in snow for all but August, and parts
of July and September. Study the route carefully, and come prepared!
The hike is 8 miles (4,855ft).
- OUZEL LAKE: A high lake in Wild Basin. Pass by 3 named and countless
unnamed waterfalls along the way. From Wild Basin Trailhead, hike 4.9
- LAKE OF THE CLOUDS: Hike 6.9 miles (2,440ft) from the Colorado River
Trailhead to this, one of two named lakes in the Never Summer Range that
reside within the Park boundaries. The lake is nestled high above
treeline, and below the towering faces of the Never Summer range. It is
truly a lake that deserves its name.
- BEAR-GRAND LAKE TRAVERSE: Can be done in one long day, or as an
overnight trip. This classic Park traverse takes you from Bear Lake
on the east side of the Divide to Grand Lake on the west. Climb 4.4
miles from Bear Lake to the summit of Flattop Mountain (2,849ft), then
descend either the Tonahutu Creek Trail, or the North Inlet Trail to
the Grand Lake area, an additional distance of (roughly) 13 miles.
EASY BACKPACK TRIPS: These overnight hikes are suitable for children.
They are intentionally short so that you may spend time exploring the
backcountry near your campsite. Up to 3 miles per day. 3 day/2 night
maximum. Backcountry camp site locations may have moved since this
publication; contact the Backcountry Office for the latest information.
- MOORE PARK: A lovely small meadow oasis in a deep forest. Moore
Park includes some of the best views of Battle Mountain and Estes Cone
to be found! Pass by the remants of Eugenia Mine (and cabins) along
the way. Moore Park backcountry site is 1.7 miles from the Longs
Peak trailhead, with a 360ft elevation gain.
- TONAHUTU CREEK TRAIL: This gentle trail includes 3 backcountry
sites within 3 miles of the trailhead. Leave from the Kawuneeche
Visitor Center on the west side of the Park into a lush, thick forest.
Follow Tonahutu Creek for the entire hike. Stay at Lodglepole (1.7 miles,
480ft elevation gain), Paint Brush (2.3 miles, 600ft elevation gain) or
South Meadows (2.4 miles, 640ft elevation gain).
- WILD BASIN: Wild Basin contains several backcountry camp sites within
3 miles from the trailhead. Each is located in a lush forest in one of
the wildest sections of the Park. They include: Pine Ridge (1.4 miles,
380ft elevation gain), Tahosa (1.7 miles, 540ft elevation gain) and
Aspen Knoll (2.3 miles, 900ft elevation gain).
- YPSILON CREEK CAMPSITE: This short (2.6 mile) hike follows
Roaring River into the heart of the Mummy Range. Roughly 1000ft elevation
gain (most of it within the first mile or so).
MEDIUM BACKPACK TRIPS: These overnight hikes are for those who
would like to have the feeling of camping away from civilization, but do
not like cramming too many miles into one day of backpacking. Up to 5
miles per day, 5 day/4 night maximum. Backcountry camp site locations
may have moved since this publication; contact the Backcountry Office
for the latest information.
- MIRROR LAKE: Nestled in a secluded cirque far from civilization. If
you are looking for solitude, this may be your hike! Mirror Lake is
6.1 miles from the Corral Creek trailhead, near the northern border
of the Park. The lake is nestled below Comanche Peak, far in the
Mummy Mountain Range. You can stay at Desolation, Koenig and Mirror
Lake backcountry sites, each (roughly) 2, 4 and 6 miles from the
- BOULDERFIELD/STORM PASS LOOP: This loop hike takes you past some of
the most dramatic scenery in all of Colorado. From the Longs Peak
Trailhead, hike to the Longs Peak/Chasm Lake trail junctions. Take
the Longs Peak trail to Granite Pass, 4.2 miles (2,680ft) from the
trailhead. Descent via the North Longs Peak Trail until you reach
Boulder Brook. Take a trail following Boulder Brook for several
miles until you reach the Storm Pass/Wind River trail. Follow the
trail 3.75 miles (1,400ft) to Storm Pass, then take the trail back
to the Longs Peak Trailhead, crossing Moore Park and Eugenia Mine along
the way (roughly 2 miles).
- THUNDER LAKE: An excursion into Wild Basin takes you to Thunder Lake,
which lies at the base of spectacular high peaks. Hike the Bluebird
Lake (Wild Basin) trail to a junction with the Thunder Lake trail.
Several backcountry sites are just before this junction, including
North St. Vrain, Siskin, Aspen Knoll and Tahosa, each one anywhere from
2-4 miles from the trailhead. Another site is at Thunder Lake. The
one-way hike from trailhead to Thunder Lake is 6.8 miles.
- NEVER SUMMER LOOP: A classic loop hike that follows mostly gentle
terrain. From the Colorado River Trailhead, hike the flat hike up to
Lulu City. From Lulu City, take the Thunder Pass trail until you reach
the Grand Ditch. Follow the Grand Ditch south for roughly 4 miles until
you reach the Red Mountain trail. Descend via this trail back to the
Colorado River Trailhead. The entire hike is (roughly) 10 miles.
HARD BACKPACK TRIPS: These overnight hikes are for the physically
fit. Some are popular traverses or long loop hikes. All lead to remote
areas. Plan on spending several nights! Backcountry camp site locations
may have moved since this publication; contact the Backcountry Office for
the latest information.
- LAKES NOKONI AND NANITA: Situated 9 and 11 miles (respectively) from
the North Inlet Trailhead, these are considered two of the prettiest lakes
in the Park. The first 3/4 of the hike is on relatively gentle grades,
with backcountry sites (roughly) every 2-3 miles. The hike from the
highest backcountry site (Pine Marten, located 7.5 miles from the trailhead)
to the lakes is steep.
- NORTH INLET/TONAHUTU LOOP: A classic loop hike! Start at the North
Inlet trail, and hike all the way to the summit of Flattop Mountain. There
are many backcountry sites to stay at along the way (Twinberry, Ptarmigan
and July, just to name a few). From the summit of Flattop, descend via
the Tonahutu Creek trail all the way back to the North Inlet trailhead.
Pass by Big Meadows and Granite Falls along the way. Stay at Timberline,
Granite Falls, Sunset, Lodgepole, or a myriad of other backcountry
sites along the way. The entire loop is (roughly) 20 miles, with almost
4,000ft elevation gain.