If you love hiking trails and you love mountains then there is no better place in the world than The Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. There are actually four Colorado national parks but the Rocky Mountain National Park is the best. This place has it all from beautiful dense forests full of thriving wildlife to the epic alpine tundra. The Rocky Mountain National Park is world-famous for its hiking trails and for good reason. You can find an amazing hike here whether you are on your first hike or you are a seasonal veteran hiker. There are a plethora of things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park so also research before taking on any these hiking trails so you don’t miss out.
So, grab your rocky mountains map and explore the top 10 best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Longs Peak And Chasm Lake Hiking Trails
Probably one of the most quintessential hiking trails in the Rocky Mountain National Park. The Keyhole Route is a hiker’s favorite and can be exhilarating but very challenging. The tallest peak is 4,259ft!. You will find yourself navigating narrow traverses and along with smooth stone ridges. Some hikers opt to start this walk very early in the AM so they can reach the summit by midday. This one of the most difficult but also most rewarding hiking trails available.
If you don’t fancy the challenge of Longs Peak you can settle for Chasm Lake which is located at the foot of Diamond – Longs east face just before the avid climbers attempt to scale the 1000ft wall. Nevertheless, Chasm Lake offers up some incredible scenery including the peak itself. This is still no easy hike though and you will need to be in good shape to complete the 15-mile round trip. Longs Peak is often touted as one of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Distance: 15 Miles
Difficulty: Very Strenuous
Bear Lake to Fern Lake Hiking Trail
Lakes, waterfalls, aspen groves and meadows full of elk. This hike is a ranger favorite for good reason. The hike from Bear Lake to Fern Lake is glorious and encompasses a lot of what Rocky Mountain hiking is all about. Expect to climb up through the famous rocky mountain treelines to the lake and back down again into a lush forested area.
Thanks to the innovative shuttle service provided by the national park, you don’t have to track back making this a great one-way trip. Be sure not to miss Lake Helene, the route is well marked but just in case you will find it beneath the Notchtop and Flattop mountains. This is a busy route in high season so you may want to take full advantage of the shuttle bus from Bear Lake.
Distance: 9.2 miles
This epically beautiful hike starts from the remote Wild Basin Trailhead near Meeker Park and Allenspark. There are some spectacular sights along the way including a large array of wildflowers, stunning waterfalls, and pristine lakes. This is a classic rocky mountain hiking trail.
Waterfalls to look out for include Copeland Falls, Calypso Cascades (200ft!), Ouzel Falls and some smaller unnamed falls. Ouzel Falls, creek and lake are all named after the water ouzel bird which inhabits the area and you may even see them diving in the lakes for fish. Along your way, through Ouzel Creek you may notice the area of fire devastation from the 1970s when a fire swept through here and even threatened the town of Allenspark.
Bluebird Lake itself is a wonderful sight to behold, it’s only a small lake but with pristine waters and wonderful mountain ridges above making it one of best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. During summer months when the wildflowers have bloomed it is a beautiful spot for a picnic after a long day of hiking.
Distance: 12.6 miles
Difficulty: Very Strenuous
Ever wanted to feel like you are on top of the world but don’t quite fancy the climb up Mt. Everest? Well, The Rocky Mountain National Park has your back with this epic, albeit slightly easier hike of Mount Ida. Scaling a massive 12,880ft, Mt. Ida has some breathtaking views to be discovered by those making the climb. It’s also one of the more peaceful areas of the National Park away from the crowds.
The ascent up to the ridge is quite gradual and therefore slightly easier to scale than others on this list. You will walk up past the miniature alpine wildflowers, these flowers are particularly interesting because their roots extend almost 6ft underground. As you climb up through the last area of boulders you will reach the peak and be rewarded with one of the best views in the Rocky Mountain National Park.
Distance: 10 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Gem Lake is perfect for a family hike. The area is teeming with different arrays of boulders which allows for some small rock climbing opportunities for kids. The area itself looks slightly different from the rest of the national park as the rocks here were formed by the weather and not by glaciers. Expect to see a variety of epic domes, rock formations, and boulders. Along the trail, you will be treated to a number of impressive vistas that are well worth a photo or two.
The Gem Lake trail is relatively short and not very strenuous making it one of best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park for beginners. This allows hikers to really take in the stunning views and fresh air. Avid climbers might also enjoy scrambling up the various rock formations on offer here.
Distance: 3.6 miles
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Hallett Peak is a great alternative to the Longs Peak Trail should you think it’s too long or difficult for yourself or the members of your group. Also, Hallett Peak allows you still to get that peak summit to feel without as much hard work. The peak reaches 12,713ft in total offering a proper Rocky Mountain feeling without the dangerous drop-offs.
Some of the sights not to miss along the way include Bierstadt Lake, Mill Creek Basin and stunning views of Longs Peak, Pagoda Peak, Chiefs Head Peak and Keyboard of the Winds. Once you enter the Krummholz zone you will be offered sublime panoramic views of the area.
Also, Hallett Peak is named after the cattle rancher who spent many years navigating his way around the National Park and who was instrumental in forming the Rocky Mountain Club.
Distance: 10.3 miles
Chapin-Chiquita-Ypsilon Hiking Trails
This is another great trail for anyone wanting a summit feeling without the long hike or dangerous trail or just those unable to trek too far. This alpine hike gives you the chance to reach 3 different mountains. This trail is named the ‘CCY route’ for short and may appear as that name on maps or information boards. Among the three mountain peaks available, Ypsilon Mountain is the tallest and is, in fact, the 5th tallest mountain in the National Park.
Once at the top of Ypsilon you will be treated with 360-degree views of the park and should be able to see Longs Peak. CCY is one of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park for scenic and panoramic views.
People opting for the CCY route will be rewarded with some stunning views across the park. Be warned that you may face cold winds in this area and you should take the necessary clothing for the hike and use rocks for cover where possible.
Distance: 8.3 miles
Venture deep into the Tyndall Gorge and explore the subalpine lakes of this beautiful and fascinating area of The Rocky Mountain National Park. Emerald Lake is considered to be a true gem of the National Park; one that most people miss whilst exploring some of the more popular hiking trails. Additionally, views along the way include Nymph Lake, views of Longs Peak, pond lilies and views of Hallett Peak. Additionally, the best views on this trail are of Hallet Peak and Flattop Mountain from the subalpine lake.
Distance: 3.5 miles
Stunning panoramic views without the huge elevation. That’s what this Ute Trail offers those who walk its trail. The hike is actually relatively flat making it one of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. This is especially for those unable to take the more strenuous trail routes or those with small family members. On the Ute Trail, you can explore the alpine tundra zone. Here, you will get awesome views of the Forest Canyon, Moraine Park, Longs Peak, and Estes Park.
The Ute Trail highlight is the views of the alpine tundra. You get these views without the strenuous hike of other routes. The alpine tundra is an area where trees in the Rocky Mountains cannot survive, usually between 11,000ft and 11,500ft elevations.
This Ute Trail was once used by the Arapaho and Ute natives who used it to move between Summer and Winter plains for hunting purposes.
Distance: 4 miles
In need of dramatic alpine scenery? Sky Pond is the hike for you. This glorious trail offers some of the most stunning scenery in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Along the way, you will find two waterfalls and two stunning lakes. This one is not for faint-hearted and includes a slightly difficult scramble on the ascent up Timberline Falls. Don’t forget your rocky mountain map for this one.
Don’t miss the Alberta Falls along the way which is one of the most popular destinations within the Rocky Mountain National Park and for good reason. The 30-foot waterfall is impressive and well worth some time to gaze at and take some epic photos. The two lakes mentioned earlier at Black Lake and Mills Lake. Both offer great scenery and good spots for a break or a picnic.
Distance: 9 miles