It's easy to feel a little intimidated by the amount of hiking trails and options within Rocky Mountain National Park – over 350 miles of trail is more than most of us could hope to hike in an entire summer. If you only have a few days and want to see some of the best trails Rocky Mountain National Park has to offer, try out these five. We've included a bit of everything, so you're sure to find at least one that suits your schedule.
This quick and easy hike along Glacier Creek is a popular destination for Park-goers. The trail hugs Glacier Creek, crossing over it four separate times, and offers opportunities to see beaver dams, birds and wildlife among the fir and aspen stands. After a short hike, you'll be able to see the Mummy Mountain Range before arriving at the waterfall, which is surrounded by rocks, boulders and conifers.
While Alberta Falls is a scenic destination spot for many, if you continue further down this trail you can reach The Loch, Timberline Falls, Andrews Glacier and Mills Lake.
- Trailhead – Glacier Gorge Parking Lot on Bear Lake Road
- Mileage – just under 2 miles
- Difficulty – easy
- Time – 1 hour
Emerald Lake is a popular hiking destination for many Rocky Mountain National Park visitors. The beautiful lake is set in a small valley between Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain, a scenic spot to sit and enjoy lunch, watch the sunset or just spend fifteen minutes soaking in the mountains. Along the rolling trail, which winds through lodgepole pine and fir forest and boulders on the way to Emerald Lake, you'll pass Nymph Lake, Lake Haiyaha and Dream Lake, each of which alone is worth the hike. In early summer, wildflowers carpet surrounding meadows and line the trail.
This is a popular trail, and the large parking lot fills up as the day progresses. Try to get here early and you'll be able to enjoy the trail with fewer people. Alternatively, Emerald Lake is a beautiful place to watch the sunset over the mountains, and the short, straight-forward trail is easy (and fun) to navigate in the low light of dusk.
- Trailhead - Bear Lake Trailhead at the south end of Bear Lake Road. The trail takes off from the west edge of the parking lot, just south of Bear Lake.
- Mileage – just under 4 miles, roundtrip
- Difficulty – easy
- Time – 1.5-2.5 hours
Hiking to Cub Lake in the fall is a must – changing aspen trees blanket the trail with colors and crisp, blue mornings highlight the sometimes snow-capped mountains against bright reds and yellows of fall. The trail follows Big Thompson River up to Cub Lake, climbing up and out of thick willows and into pine and aspen stands interspersed with streams, small ponds, boulders and cliffs.
If you can't get enough of this trail, continue about a mile more to The Pool, a pool of turbulent water just below the junction of Fern Creek, Spruce Creek and Big Thompson River. From here, you can return via Cub Lake, take the Fern Lake Trail back (about one mile on trail plus a mile along the road from the Fern Lake Trailhead to the Cub Lake Trailhead) or continue along the Fern Lake Trail toward Fern Falls, Marguerite Falls and, just over two miles from The Pool, Fern Lake.
Cub Lake is another popular hike – don't be surprised if you see other visitors. Again, an early start will help avoid the crowds.
- Trailhead – Cub Lake Trailhead in Moraine Park
- Mileage – just over 4.5 miles, roundtrip
- Difficulty - moderate
- Time – 2-3 hours
If you'd like to reach a summit in Rocky Mountain National Park without having to commit your entire day, Deer Mountain (10,013 feet) is a great option. After climbing out of the imposing ponderosa pine stand, you'll find stunning views of Longs Peak (arguably the Park's most famous landmark) and Ypsilon Mountain through occasional breaks in the thick lodgepole and limber pines and aspens. Once you reach the summit plateau, you'll be treated to uninterrupted views of the Continental Divide, Horseshoe Park and Beaver Meadows. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife along the trail.
This area of the park doesn't allow hunting, making it a good place to take children during hunting season.
- Trailhead – Deer Mountain Trailhead at Deer Ridge Junction
- Mileage – 6 miles, roundtrip
- Difficulty – moderate
- Time – 4-5 hours
If you're looking for a lesser-known, longer alpine summit in Rocky Mountain National Park, look no further than Mount Ida (12,280 feet). Located right along the Continental Divide, Mount Ida's summit provides views down into the Gorge Lakes, north and south along the Continental Divide and the Never Summer Range. From Milner Pass, climb up to the alpine tundra and follow a little-maintained trail along the crest of the Continental Divide until you reach the summit. Much of the trail is in exposed tundra, so keep an eye on the weather.
- Trailhead – Milner Pass, at the south end of Poudre Lake
- Mileage – 10 miles, roundtrip
- Difficulty – moderate to strenuous
- Time – 5-7 hours
For more information:
Back to: All