Hiking In Estes Park Colorado – During my trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, our goal was to hike as much as possible and experience the incredible scenery and wildlife this place has to offer. We spent a total of 10 days in the park, mostly focusing on Bear Lake, Fern Lake and Longs Peak on the east side of the park. The trails in this area take you steeper up into the alpine mountains than on the west side of the park and offer stunning panoramic views.
All of these day hikes are centrally located, so you can spend less time driving, and most of them can be accessed by the free Rocky Mountain National Park Shuttle. They are less than 10 miles, well signed and easily completed in a day. Obviously, there are more hikes than those listed in this blog post, but if you’re a first timer, they’ll keep you busy and give you a taste of the park’s different environments and ecosystems. For more tips on your first visit to RMNP, check out this blog post.
Hiking In Estes Park Colorado
Please note: From May 27 to October 10, 2022, admission to RMNP requires timed reservations, which can be purchased here.
Rocky Mountain National Park Lodging: High Altitude Hiking Tips
Ready to go there? Here are some of the best day hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
As it goes with all floors shared in the Barefoot Theory, remember to leave no trace. This means picking up trash you see on the trail, practicing good trail etiquette, and being respectful of other hikers.
For me, this was the hardest, but also my favorite hike we did during our stay in Rocky Mountain National Park. Chasam Lake sits at 11,760 feet and puts you at the base of RMNP’s highest mountain, Longs Peak. Much of this walk is above tree line, so an early start is essential to beat any afternoon storms.
The trail begins at 9,405 feet at the Longs Peak Ranger Station and travels through a forested area for the first two miles of the Chasm Lake Trail. At about 1.8 miles, you’ll reach the Lightning Bridge, a footbridge with two signs warning hikers of the danger of lightning. Stop here to pull on an insulated jacket or windbreaker before entering the open tundra ahead. Here the views really start to open up and you can look across the valley to Longs Peak.
Nymph, Dream, And Emerald Lakes (rocky Mountain National Park, Co)
Along the way, you’ll pass Chasam Junction with an elevation of 2,130 feet behind you, and with the Rocky Mountains in front of you, one of the most beautiful havens for rest and relaxation. Continue until you reach Chasm Meadows with its flowing stream and beautiful green grass. The road here is known to have about 3.8 miles of snow and ice, which does not melt until mid or late June. Go slow and steady as a steep drop to your left. This is another great place to rest and enjoy the view before heading out – just remember not to break the trail to protect the alpine vegetation.
Watch out for the rocks here and head straight into the plain where you’ll see a rock waterfall from Lake Chasm. At the very end of the hike is a steep section and a short run. The best way to climb the mountain is to follow the crushed and broken rocks, which mark the footpaths passed by previous hikers.
When you finally reach Chasam Lake, you’ll get a full view of Long’s Peak and the high alpine lake where you can rest your feet. Cross the outlet and jump to the right side of the lake to find a private place to sit and take it in.
From the park’s east entrance, turn left onto Longs Peak Road under Highway 7, from where it’s a short drive to the trailhead and easily accessible parking.
Tips For Your First Visit To Rocky Mountain National Park
Black Lake Trail and Ski Pond Trail are tied for my second favorite trails, as they have all the features (a waterfall, scenic views, and an alpine meadow) that you want from one of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. be The most notable difference is that we found Black Lake to be less crowded and generally a bit easier. If you want to see them for yourself, you’re in luck because they both leave from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead.
Here, start at Glacier Gorge, and travel a quarter of a mile across Chaos Creek until you see the trail split. Keep left and continue to Alberta Falls, where you’ll be able to walk through aspen groves through a rolling backdrop of beautiful pine forests.
In less than a mile, you’ll reach Alberta Falls. This is a beautiful waterfall that is easily accessible, so be aware that it can get crowded due to its popularity. Many consider it one of the best waterfalls in the park. It’s a great stop to enjoy a short break through the falls or to avoid the crowds and move on.
Swing over to the east side of the lake and rock out over the water to get a great view of Mills Lake from another angle. As you reach the end of the lake, enjoy the view of Chiefs Head across the lake behind you in the distance. Follow the trail through the wooded area and you will soon reach Jewel Lake.
Best Lake Hikes Around Estes Park
As you continue, the trail turns into a narrow boardwalk to take you through a swamp and then into a wooded area left over from downed trees from the devastating storm. Watch your step and take it easy. Since the trail here is not well maintained, give yourself a little extra time to hike this section.
Once you cross the Glacier Gorge Bridge on your right, it’s a series of steep climbs. Hang in there and take a break if you need to, because the glow of Chiefs Head Peak in the distance is worth it.
Keep walking towards Black Lake, where you will come to a meadow. When you reach the end, follow the path all the way to the left end of the lake. There you will find a cascading waterfall with a short, rocky path that leads you to its truly unique location. Go into solitude and soak up all the amazing views of the lakes, valleys and peaks that surround you.
From Estes Park, take Highway 36 to Bear Lake Road until you reach the trailhead and parking lot. Because of the trail’s popularity, this is a good time to use the shuttle.
The Best Hikes And Walks In Estes Park
Starting at the Glacier Gorge trailhead, hike and follow the same direction as before, where after a quarter mile you’ll take a left at the fork and head toward Alberta Falls. You will pass Alberta Falls (one of the most popular and beautiful waterfalls) or stop for a quick break and enjoy the view.
About half a mile before the falls, you’ll come to the North Longs Peak Trail Junction. Turn right here, after the turning at Mills Junction go straight on to the Loch Vale path. On the way up, the trail gets steeper and you’ll be rolling backwards for most of the way. This gives you a beautiful view of the gorge below as ICI Brooks Falls descends the hill.
After the climb, at 1.8 miles, you will reach Loch Vale where the views will blow your mind.
As you continue, turn left at the junction of Skye Pond and Andrews Glacier which you will follow for several more miles until you finally reach Timberline Falls. This takes you directly to a short drive of about 100 feet. Don’t worry, it’s just a few tricks and has a good handle. I would suggest taking the time to put away your hiking poles so you can use your hands. On the way down, you can hand the backpack off to a friend and then go on your hip. However, if exposure really bothers you, the waterfall may be the point where you pivot.
Secret Lakes, Trails & Views In Rocky Mountain National Park
When we were there in late August, not much water came off the hill, but during peak runoff, you can get your shoes wet here.
At 4.5 miles and 10,900′ of elevation, you’ll finally reach Sky Lake. Granite spiers, a clear blue pool and a hard-earned break make this beautiful vista worth the effort. Here we found a nice place to sit under the Sky Pond outlet to enjoy lunch with a view.
Highway 36 will take you right into the park. A
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