Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park has 355 miles of hiking trails. They range from flat lakeside strolls to steep mountain peak climbs. If you are new to the park consult with rangers at the visitor centers and backcountry office. They can provide advice about trails which are appropriate to different fitness and experience levels.

As you plan your hike, keep in mind that park elevations range from 7,500 to over 12,000 feet. Even very fit individuals coming from lower elevations may experience altitude problems. Symptoms include headaches, shortness of breath, insomnia and rapid heartbeat. After a few days your body will have made some physiological adjustments to higher elevations, but full acclimation may take weeks. To minimize symptoms drink plenty of fluids, avoid alcohol, don't skip meals and get plenty of rest.

Although you may not feel thirsty, the "thinner" air at high elevations actually results in increased water evaporation from your lungs. Again, drinking extra water may prevent a bad headache or other altitude symptoms.

Ultraviolet light is stronger in the mountains because there is less atmosphere for the sunlight to pass through. Wear sunscreen, a hat, sun glasses and consider wearing a long sleeved shirt if you are out in the sun for an extended period.

If you have never hiked before or are traveling with children, check out the recommended accessible trails. Ranger-led walks are free and can increase your confidence while you learn more about the park. Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place to discover how traveling by foot brings you closer to nature.

Mt. Ida

Rocky Mountain

Hands down this is the best hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. The views from the summit are simply epic. In fact, hikers will enjoy outstanding panoramic views along much of the route. Although the terrain becomes fairly rugged on the final leg to the summit, you'll have very little exposure to steep drop-offs. If this still sounds like this might be a little bit out of your comfort zone, you should check out the much easier version of this hike which ends atop Peak 12,150.

Hallett Peak

For those that feel that Longs Peak is just a little too hard, or maybe too dangerous, Hallett Peak just might be the perfect mountain to satisfy your big mountain, "summit fever". Reaching a height of 12,713 feet, the mountain provides a great opportunity to feel like you're on top of the Rockies, without being exposed to dangerous drop-offs.

Chapin-Chiquita-Ypsilon

This another alpine hike that ventures up into the highest elevations of Rocky Mountain National Park. On this hike you'll have the choice of either summiting one, two or all three mountains along the so called "CCY Route". The highest among these three peaks is Ypsilon Mountain, which is also the 5th highest mountain in the park. No matter your choice, the views from any of these mountains are simply amazing.

Chasm Lake

In my humble opinion this is the best lake hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. In addition to the outstanding panoramic views you'll encounter on the way up, you'll also enjoy front row views of the famous "Diamond" - the east-facing wall of Longs Peak which rises more than 2,400 feet above this incredibly beautiful alpine lake.

Emerald Lake

This hike will take you deep into the Tyndall Gorge, while visiting four beautiful subalpine lakes along the way. Although Bear Lake and Dream Lake are very nice destinations, Emerald Lake is the true gem in this chain of lakes fed by the Tyndall Glacier.

Ute Trail

Want great panoramic views without having to climb a lot of elevation? The Ute Trail is the perfect choice. This relatively flat hike along Tombstone Ridge offers hikers the chance to explore the alpine tundra zone, while soaking in the outstanding views of Forest Canyon, Longs Peak, Moraine Park and Estes Park.

Sky Pond

Surrounded on three sides by sheer cliff walls, Sky Pond offers hikers dramatic alpine scenery. What makes this hike a RMNP classic is that you'll visit two waterfalls and two other stunning lakes along the way. However, the scramble alongside Timberline Falls to reach the basin may present a challenge to some with a fear of heights.

Bear Lake to Fern Lake TH

As a result of Rocky Mountain's excellent shuttle system, hikers have the option of taking the one-way hike from Bear Lake to the Fern Lake Trailhead in the Moraine Park area. Along the way you'll visit four magnificent lakes, a 60-foot waterfall, plus you'll make the descent into the spectacular Odessa Gorge.

Lake Helene

Although Lake Helene is denoted on the official park map, the short side trail leading to its shore isn't marked with a trail sign. Don't let this deter you - this is one of the most scenic lakes in the park.

Bluebird Lake

Rounding out the top 10 hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park is Bluebird Lake. This is another outstanding hike that offers several attractions along its route, including three waterfalls. However, Bluebird Lake, which fills a deep cirque beneath Ouzel Peak along the Continental Divide, is definitely the star attraction.

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