Estes Park And Rocky Mountain National Park Hiking Guide

Estes Park And Rocky Mountain National Park Hiking Guide

Introduction

Estes Park is home to over 300 miles of hiking and walking trails. Situated in the Rocky Mountain National Park, hiking is the number one activity and you are literally spoilt for choice, with hundreds of fantastic trails through National Park and Forest landscape. 

Photos By Stephanie Graudons of http://www.greatrangeframes.com/

To help you pick the best trails to enjoy during your Estes Park vacation we have picked a selection of trails from easy and moderate, to the most challenging of trails.

Estes Park And Rocky Mountain National Park Hiking Guide

Easy Hiking Trails

1. Lily Lake Trail

Lily Lake Estes Park Vacation Lodge-Rental
Lily Lake near Estes Park. Photo Credit: UnknownNet Photography

Best used from March to September this wheelchair accesible trail takes you through forests of Alpen and Pine, and features beautiful wild flowers along the 0.8 mile route which circuits Lily Lake.

The Lily Lake trail is a short route with little incline, but which meets the trail to Lily Ridge Loop, which has a 180-foot elevation gain. The Lily Lake Trail and Lily Ridge Loop are ideal for groups of mixed skill levels.

Fishing is also allowed at Lily Lake and the pier is wheelchair accessible. The route is located around 5.8 miles from Estes Park along Route 7.

Video Credit: HDavatar

2. Sprague Lake Trail

Sprague Lake Trail_Estes Park Vacation Lodge
Sprague Lake Trail Photo Credit: Todd Petrie

This 0.9 mile virtually flat trail within the Rocky Mountain National Park affords stunning views across Sprague Lake and to the Continental Divide.

This is another wheelchair friendly route across mainly gravel surface and there are benches along the route if you need a rest or just to enjoy the scenery This is an ideal route to hike in the morning and the panoramic views to the Continental Divide are incredible.

The Sprague Lake Trailhead is located off Bear Lake Road around 5.5 miles from the turn-off at Highway 36. There is a free park shuttle during high tourist season, which is worth taking as parking can be difficult.

Video Credit: Panhandle Hopper

3. Copeland Falls Trail

Copeland Falls Trail Estes Park Vacation Lodge
Copeland Falls Trail. Photo credit: Peter Ciro

The Copeland Falls Trail is a short hike of just 0.3 miles with no incline, but the end result is absolutely worth it, as the trail reaches three wonderful cascading falls.

You can follow the lower and upper trails which take you above and below the falls. If you want to make the route harder, then continue on to Calypso Cascades, which feature along the Thunder Lake Trail. This adds an extra 1.1 miles to your route with a 780-foot incline.

The Copeland Falls trails starts off at the Wild Basin Trailhead, which can be found 12.6 miles from Estes Park heading south on Colorado Highway 7 to the Wild Basin Junction. 

Video Credit: Jean Patton

4. Alberta Falls Trail

Alberta Falls Trail Estes Park Vacation
Alberta Fall Trail. Photo Credit: Dave Dugdale

Alberta Falls Trail is a great family-friendly hike although can get overcrowded in the tourist season, so it’s best to visit in the early morning, weekday or out of season. At just 0.6 miles long it’s perfect for even smaller children, and one of the most picturesque trails in the area.

Along the walk, you’ll get to enjoy the beautiful waterfalls and stunning views.

You can pick up the trail from Bear Lake Trailhead or Glacier Gorge Trailhead. There is a park and ride bus which runs every 10 minutes and is worth waiting for, as parking can get quite crowded.

Video Credit: Wildness Survival Tricks & Tips

5. Horseshoe Falls Trail

Horseshoe Falls Trail Estes Park Vacation
Sheep Lakes at West Horseshoe Park. Photo credit: adifferentbrian

Another family favorite is the hike to Horseshoe Falls in Horseshoe Park. Actually the falls are at the start of this easy hike and are even visible from the roadside. However, it’s still worth hiking the trail as there are more falls along the way and the cliffs of volcanic rock that reach high above the trail are very impressive.

Around 0.2 miles into the hike you’ll find Upper Horseshoe Falls, also known as Ponytail Falls, and where you can hike below the overhang of the falls. Be sure to look for the path that heads off to the right about 0.9 miles into the hike.

This path will take you to a bluff where you can enjoy spectacular views across the Columbia River Gorge.

Reach the start of the trail from the Alluvial Fan parking lot.

Video Credit: Kool 107.9

6. Moraine Park Loop

Moraine Park Loop Trail_Estes Park Vacation
Moraine Park Valley. Photo Credit: Frank Schulenberg

Best used from March to September this wheelchair accessible trail takes you through forests of Alpen and Pine, and features beautiful wild flowers along the 0.8 mile route which circuits Lily Lake. The Lily Lake trail is a short route with little incline, but which meets the trail to Lily Ridge Loop, which has a 180-foot elevation gain.

The Lily Lake Trail and Lily Ridge Loop are ideal for groups of mixed skill levels. Fishing is also allowed at Lily Lake and the pier is wheelchair accessible. The route is located around 5.8 miles from Estes Park along Route 7.

Although a longer trail at 5.5 miles, Moraine Park Loop is an easy hike which takes you on a loop around the golden meadows of Moraine Park in the Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s more of a horse trail, so expect lots of horse poop along the way.

It’s a great early morning hike and very atmospheric, as you see Elks grazing in the meadows and the mist rising off the Big Thompson River with the snow capped Rocky Mountain in the distance. 

You can pick up the Moraine Park Loop trail from the parking areas at Fern Lake Bus Stop and Cub Lake Trailhead, or park at Moraine Park Discovery Center, where they have a much bigger parking lot.

Video Credit: HDavatar

Download A Mobile App To Enhance Your Hiking Experience

Turn your trip into a fun game of “how many species can I identify?

This interactive guide features over 50 plants and animals found in the park including amphibians, birds, fish, insects, mammals, reptiles, wildflowers, trees, shrubs, and more.

It’s only available in the Apple Store though.


Estes Park And Rocky Mountain National Park Hiking Guide

Moderate Hiking Trails

1. Gem Lake Trail

View_from_Gem_Lake_Trail_Estes Park Vacation
View from Gem Lake Trail. Photo credit: SOTMUS

This 0.9 mile virtually flat trail within the Rocky Mountain National Park affords stunning views across Sprague Lake and to the Continental Divide.

This is another wheelchair friendly route across mainly gravel surface and there are benches along the route if you need a rest or just to enjoy the scenery This is an ideal route to hike in the morning and the panoramic views to the Continental Divide are incredible.

The Sprague Lake Trailhead is located off Bear Lake Road around 5.5 miles from the turn-off at Highway 36. There is a free park shuttle during high tourist season, which is worth taking as parking can be difficult.

One of Colorado’s most popular trails, Gem Lake Trail is a 3.5 mile hike of moderate difficulty. Starting out at Devil’s Gulch road, the trail ascends across a mountainside to Gem Lake.

Along the way you will follow a narrow boulder strewn canyon, pass the historic MacGregor Ranch, through Aspens to the small but perfectly formed Gem Lake, which is picture framed between granite cliffs and a fir and spruce forest.

Part of the trail features a massive rocky outcrop which has been sculpted over 1.8 billion years by erosion and wind, and was added to the Register of Historic Places in 2008. 

Access to Gem Lake Trail is through the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead, which is reached from MacGregor Avenue, Estes Park. There is a parking lot, but it can get full up quickly in the busy tourist season.

Video Credit: nickmollefilms

2. Finch Lake Trail

Finch Lake Trail Estes Park Vacation
Finch Lake, Colorado. Photo credit: John & Belinda Bosley

A moderate level trail which starts off with a rather stiff climb, so be prepared! Finch Lake Trail is a less known trail but well worth the effort. The lake itself is found at 10,000 feet and is a favorite with birders, botanists and wildlife lovers, as the swampy banks of Finch Lake provide an ideal habitat and rest point for migrating birds.

In the Spring and early Summer the initial stiff climb is compensated by the blankets of wildflowers that path the way. On reaching the ridge you’ll be hiking through a delightful montane forest enjoying its own ecosystem. Once you arrive at Finch Lake you can head on further to Pear Lake which makes for an ideal spot for a picnic!

Finch Lake Trail is found just south of Estes Park, off Highway 7 in the Wild Basin area of the Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Video Credit: The Marmot JK

3. Granite Falls Trail

Tonahutu Creek Trail_Estes Park Vacation
Tonahutu Creek on the way to Granite Falls. Photo: Eric Schmuttenmaer

This is a moderate to difficult trail, well worth the hike if you enjoy wildlife viewing and is a good warm up for some of the more difficult hiking trails around Estes Park.

Accessible via the Green Mountain Trailhead on the western side of the Rocky Mountain National Park, the Granite Falls Trail passes the three tier falls, meadows, creeksides and forest on this 10.3 mile round hike.

Hike through Big Meadow blanketed by wildflowers during the Spring and early summer months to Granite Falls where you’ll experience the amazing 50 feet cascading waters of Tonahutu Creek.

Video Credit: videofilmik

4. Fern Lake Trail

Fern Lake Trail Rocky Mountain National Park
Fern Lake Trail. Photo Credit: John B. Kalla

In the early 1900s Fern Lake was a popular winter adventure hotspot in the Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail was mostly created to reach Fern Lake Lodge, a popular spot for tourists.

Today this moderate to challenging hike takes you to a 1,275 rise with stunning views to Notchtop and Little Matterhorn. If your energy levels are ready for more you can hike the extra mile to Odessa lake.

Video Credit: Marie Belanger

5. Lake Haiyaha Trail

Lake Haiyaha trail-Estes Park Vacation
Lake Haiyaha Landscape

The word Haiyaha is the Native American word for ‘Rock’ and the secluded alpine shoreline of Lake Haiyaha is a beautiful rugged landscape of rocks and boulders, which makes this trail popular with adventurists and those looking for a more vigorous hike.

Expect to do some scrambling over boulders to finish the hike and get to the lake.

The 4.2 miles round trip takes you through spruce and fir forest, past Nymph and Dream Lakes, and at one point reaches an elevation of over 10,000’ which can have an affect on hikers who aren’t used to such altitudes.

But it’s worth it to take in the glacier landscape, the landscape in fall is particularly wonderful and this is a great trail for snowshoeing during the winter months.

Pick up the trail for Lake Haiyaha from the Bear Lake Trailhead, or Park and Ride from the Bierstadt Trailhead.

Video Credit: Rein Wald

Estes Park And Rocky Mountain National Park Hiking Guide

Challenging Hiking Trails

1. Longs Peak Trail

Longs Peak from Flattop Mountains Trail_Estes Park vacation
Longs Peak from Flattop Mountains Trail. Photo credit: Pimlico27

If you are looking for a challenge, then the Longs Peak Trail is a must during your Estes Park vacation. The Rocky Mountain National Park’s highest summit needs an early sunrise start (3am) and careful planning to make the 8.4 mile round hike, which will take you over 14,000 feet, with over 5,000 feet of climbing.

The route can be windy and the steep ascent will have you catching your breath, there can also be rain showers and lightning during the afternoon, so make sure you have checked the weather before you leave.

Unless you are an ultra runner, then you’ll need to give yourself at least 14-16 hours to make the round trip. Yes, this is a tough one, but it’s worth it to reach the summit and take in the views. 

The trailhead is found to the south of Estes Park, just off Highway 7. 

Video Credit: Benjamin Gadberry

2. Andrews Tarn & Andrews Glacier

Andrews Tarn & Andrews Glacier_Estes Park Vacation
Photo credit: daveynin

You’ll be hiking a 2,000 feet elevation on this trail, taking you over 11,000 feet to the glacier-fed lake. The start of the trail can be busy but tends to thin out around Loch Vale and the Sky Pond split.

Hike through forest-scape until you emerge to find yourself in a stunning valley that sits below the glacier. At this point you’ll need to navigate a lot of boulders and climb at the same time, which makes that final short part of the trail to reach the ridge of Andrews Tarn and the glacier pretty difficult.

You’ll need to plan this hike in advance, as depending on weather conditions, you may need some technical equipment.

Access the Andrews Tarn trail from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, located off of Bear Lake Road. Then follow the Loch Vale Trail to Andrews Creek Trail. 

Video Credit: Jim H. Franckum

1. Black Lake Trail

Black Lake Trail_Estes Park Vacation
Photo credit: Tiia Monto

This 10 mile round-trip hike which is an extension to the Alberta Falls hike, will take you to see one of the most spectacular lakes in the Rocky Mountain National Park and boasts some of the best scenery of the Rocky Mountain National Park.

It’s strenuous with a significant climb (1430 feet) to enjoy the end destination of Black Lake. Along the way you’ll pass some beautiful waterfalls, and as the trail winds up through the Glacier Gorge Trail System, you’ll catch your breath on the views to Mills Lake, Ribbon Falls and Jewel Lake.

Video Credit: nmceach1415

More Things To See And Do

Estes Park Bucket List

The Best Things To See And Do In The Area
Estes Park Wildlife
Estes Park Wildlife

Get ready to meet some wild residents up close. 

Top Attractions
Top Attractions

You’ll be spoilt for choice with so many attractions!

Estes Park Hiking
Estes Park Hiking

Oh yes. 300 miles of hiking and walking trails await.

Horseback Riding
Horseback Riding

Saddle Up – The perfect way to enjoy the scenic landscape.

Water Activities
Water Activities

Excellent water activities for the whole family.

Estes Park Kids
Estes Park Kids

Our favorite kid-friendly activities in Estes Park.

If you have any questions feel free to get in touch

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