Looking for the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park? We got you covered with trails from 0 to over 5,000 feet in elevation gain.
Boasting over three hundred miles of hiking trails, Rocky Mountain National Park is a hiker’s haven.
Ranging from flat lakeside strolls to steep mountain climbs, these hikes are incredible! There’s a little something for everyone here, from families traveling with young kids to the most enthusiastic peak collectors.
If you’re currently plotting a nature-filled escape to the Rockies and want to make sure to pick the best hikes, we’ve taken the time to gather 15 of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National park that need to be on your bucket list!
Best Time to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park
Even though you can visit pretty much any time of the year, the best season for hiking in the Rocky Mountains is between June and October.
Although summer and early fall are typically crowded, summer brings in great weather for hiking, wildflowers, and clear blue skies during the mornings and early afternoons.
September through mid-October is another excellent time to visit when fall foliage makes the landscape look absolutely stunning, and opportunities to stumble across seasonal elks are high!
Tips for Hiking in Rocky Mountain
- Before you go, be sure to check trail conditions at the National Park Service website.
- RMNP implemented a timed entry permit system to manage crowds from late May to early October. Still, the park is pretty popular, so reserve your entrance in advance!
- To enter RMNP, you’ll need a timed-entry permit and a Park Pass. If you’re visiting a few national parks within 12 months, it is worth purchasing the America the Beautiful Pass so you can save money while enjoying the great American national parks. We highly recommend it!
- Last but not least: please leave no trace behind. Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most beautiful places in Colorado, and places like these can only exist if we protect them. Dispose of trash properly, don’t feed animals, keep dogs on leash, take nothing back home (except your own waste bag), park and drive in designated places (not on vegetation), never build a fire outside of fire grates/campgrounds, and respect others.
15 Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
We divided this guide into three sections: easy, moderate, and challenging.
Easy Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
1. Emerald Lake Trail
- Length: 3.2 miles | Elevation gain: 698 feet | Guide
The Emerald Lake Trail is one of the most accessible hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park and one that provides a ton of bang for your buck (or effort?).
Even though this popular hike is relatively short and easy to moderate, it provides some of the best panoramic views in the entire park, especially if you’re short on time and want to see a few of the prettiest alpine lakes in the Tyndall Gorge in one go.
Besides, you’ll visit Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake along a scenic trail that offers views of Glacier Gorge, Flattop Mountain, and Hallett Peak.
This is also a great “initiation” hike if you’re a first-timer hiking the Rocky Mountains and want to get used to the altitude and elevation gain.
The trek begins on a gently graded trail, starting at Bear Lake Trailhead (along Bear Lake Road) and heading to Nymph Lake.
You’ll arrive at the south shore of the lake after a mere .5 miles, with a little extra distance to the north shore and the majestic vistas of iconic Longs Peak and Hallet Peak.
After taking in the stunning views, set off on a more moderate trail for another half mile towards Dream Lake.
Next is Emerald Lake, which requires a bit more effort to get to, but it’s absolutely worth it!Once you catch sight of its jewel-like toned waters and the splendid views of the Tyndal Glacier around it, you’ll quickly understand why it was named that way.
Read next: Best Places to Visit in Colorado
Even though the lakes are the main stars of the show, this hike also provides fantastic alpine scenery every step of the way as well as chances to spot incredible wildlife if you get lucky. Black bears roam the area, so keep your eyes peeled for them and if you’re visiting during the fall, be sure to linger for a while around Morain Park, where elk sightings are common!
Note that this is one of the most popular hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, so the parking lot fills up before 7:30 a.m. Your best bet if you arrive later is to take the shuttle to the trailhead.
Bonus: If you’re not done gawking at alpine lakes surrounded by rocky peaks, you can continue a mile onwards after Emerald Lake to see Lake Haiyaha, too! This lake is just as gorgeous, but thanks to the fact that it’s not officially a part of the Emerald Lake hike, it tends to be a lot quieter.
Pssst: If you prefer a shorter scenic hike, you can shave a little over a mile off the Emerald Lake Trail by following the two-mile Dream Lake Trail instead. You won’t get to enjoy Emerald Lake, but the shorter trail still includes Dream Lake and Nymph Lake.
2. Bear Lake Nature Trail
- Length: 0.7 miles | Elevation gain: 49 feet | Guide
If you’re traveling with kids, Bear Lake is one of the best trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, thanks to how easy it is to tackle.
Bear Lake Trail is a short but stunning loop and is just under a mile long. Still, what it lacks in length, it makes up for with gorgeous scenery all over.
As you circle your way around a beautiful subalpine lake, you’ll get to walk amid an enchanting forest of aspens, pine, and fir as well as get to catch spectacular views of some of the most iconic peaks in the park, including Half Mountain, Longs Peak, and Hallet Peak.
As a tip, try to do the Bear Lake hike as early in the morning as possible in order to photograph Hallett Peak mirrored on the lake’s shimmering waters!
Good to know: Emerald Lake, Lake Haiyaha, Black Lake, Sky Pond, Flattop Mountain, and Fern Lake are some of the trails that start at or near Bear Lake.
3. Alberta Falls Trail
- Length: 1.6 miles | Elevation gain: 232 feet | Guide
As one of the most popular hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Alberta Falls Trail is a must on any itinerary. This trail begins at the Glacier Gorge Junction trailhead.
This trail is rated as a moderate hike but doable thanks to its short distance, this trail will take you to a 30-foot waterfall, a rare sight in Colorado!
The falls were named after Alberta Sprague, wife of Abner Sprague, who settled and farmed land in Moraine Park back in the late 1800s.
The falls are a wonderful sight to behold, especially during late spring and early summer when water pours down from snow melting above.
As a tip, keep in mind that this is one of the most popular trails at Rocky Mountain National Park, so, if possible, try doing this hike on a weekday morning in order to avoid large crowds.
4. Alpine Ridge Trail
- Length: 0.7 miles | Elevation gain: 147 feet | Guide
One of the best features of the Alpine Ridge Trail is that, from the summit, the mountain views are simply spectacular, but so are the vistas pretty much the entire way up.
At just 0.6 miles, this is one of the shortest trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, but what it lacks in length, it makes up for with amazing views all the way up.
Along the route, you’ll be walking on pure alpine tundra while getting to catch glimpses of peaks like Mount Chapin, Ypsilon Mountain, and Mount Chiquita on the east and the Never Summer Mountains on the west.
The hike begins at the parking lot of the Alpine Visitor Center at the top of Trail Ridge Road, one of the most scenic drives in Rocky Mountain. The trail is pretty steep, and due to erosion on the terrain, over 200 steps had to be built in order to keep the trail going, which is why it’s commonly dubbed “Huffers Hill.”
In addition to the outstanding vistas and stunning alpine tundra scenery, you’ll also be treated to carpets of colorful wildflowers during the summer months as well as wildlife encounters galore – keep your eyes out for marmots and, if you get lucky, you may even get to spot a pika!
Moderate Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
5. Ute Trail to Tombstone Ridge
- Length: 5.6 miles | Elevation gain: 1,912 feet | Guide
Want to walk in the footsteps of the Ute and Arapaho Indians who once called the mountains their home? Way back in time, they used this exact same trail to travel between their summer and winter hunting grounds, making it a wonderful way to take a trip back in time and get glimpses of how they used to live.
In fact, the trail is named after the footsteps they left behind!
As you make your way through nature and history, you’ll get to walk on alpine tundra with incredible views of the iconic Longs Peak and Forest Canyon keeping you company the entire way. This is a wonderful hike to do with kids because you don’t necessarily have to finish the whole 4 miles and can turn around whenever you feel like it.
It is also a great add-on to your scenic drive along Trail Ridge Road!
6. Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
- Length: 6.1 miles | Elevation gain: 964 feet | Guide
Did you know waterfalls aren’t that common in Colorado? Even though its natural beauty is unparalleled, huge falls aren’t exactly its strong feature, which makes Bridal Veil a whole lot more memorable!
This hike in Rocky Mountain National Park will not only have you getting close and personal with the scenic Cow Creek region of the park, catching glimpses of wildlife regularly, and walking among aspens and meadows, but it will also have you arriving at a striking 20-foot tall cascade.
As far as popular hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park go, this one is one of the longest ones out there at 6.1 miles, but with so much to see along the way, you’ll have plenty of excuses to stop and catch your breath. Keep your eyes out for elk and mule deer, who are regular guests of this trail!
7. Deer Mountain Trail
- Length: 6 miles | Elevation gain: 1,400 feet | Guide
If you’re on the lookout for a hike that is a bit longer than the most popular ones in Rocky Mountain but doesn’t require enormous amounts of effort, the Deer Mountain Trail is your go-to.
The Deer Mountain trailhead is located on Trail Ridge Road, about 3 miles west of Beaver Meadows entrance.
As you make your way along the trail, you’ll be treated to fabulous views of Little Horseshoe Park and the Mummy Range almost at the beginning before gaining altitude and getting to see clear birds-eye views of Estes Park, Longs Peak, Moraine Park, Hallett Peak, and the Continental Divide.
Keep your eyes wide open along the hike, as this is a favorite area for deer and elk, especially on the flatland section of the trail.
8. Gem Lake Trail
- Length: 3.1 miles | Elevation gain: 994 feet | Guide
The Gem Lake trail begins at the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead, near the Twin Owls, which are two massive rocks that resemble two large owls that overlook the town of Estes Park.
Living up to its name, Gem Lake is a bit of a “hidden gem” in Rocky Mountain, making it an excellent trail for those looking for a bit of solitude while hiking.
The lake is nestled amid an expansive field of granite domes known as the Lumpy Ridge Area. Because it has no inlet or outlet streams, it’s actually more of a (gorgeous) shallow pond created by snowmelt and rainfall.
To reach the trail, head to the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead, where you’ll start hiking for two miles along several switchbacks that provide insanely gorgeous vistas of Estes Park, Longs Peak, and the Continental Divide.
Even though it’s a steep climb up, the fascinating rock formations you’ll get to see along the way paired with the beautiful views of the lake towered by mighty peaks make the effort you’ll put in well worth it. Make sure not to miss the views from the rocks behind Gem Lake!
9. Odessa Lake via Fern Lake Trail
- Length: 8.3 miles | Elevation gain: 2,004 feet | Guide
Put in simple words, the Odessa Lake and Fern Lake Trail is a cirque of majestic landscapes and different terrains, making it one of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park to tackle if variety in scenery is what you’re after.
This 8.8 miles out and back trail begins at Bear Lake and will have you hiking through a dense pine forest before arriving into the wide-open Odessa Gorge, where you’ll be able to catch glimpses of Grace Falls in the distance.
Once you make it to Odessa Lake, you’ll be treated to views of looming mountain peaks that look as though they’re rising from its shimmering waters. If weather conditions are right, camping is allowed at the lake, so consider overnighting here if you’re up for a night spent under the stars!
After gawking (or camping) at Odessa Lake, continue your adventure onto Fern Lake. This trail will take you along the Big Thompson River, alternating between open and forested areas where you’ll find aspens, lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine, cottonwoods, and willows.
As you continue onwards, you’ll pass Arch Rocks, which are a set of massive rock formations that look larger than life. Not too far after, you’ll stumble across The Pool, which is the spot where Fern Creek meets the Thompson River and the last stretch of trail before arriving at Fern Falls, Fern Creek, and finally, Fern Lake.
Tip: You can actually do this hike backward by beginning at Fern Lake and then getting to Odessa Lake. Check out the shuttle services for hikers available and see which lake fits your schedule best!
Challenging Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
10. Chasm Lake Trail
- Length: 8.8 miles | Elevation gain: 2,542 feet | Guide
Rocky Mountain National Park is a haven when it comes to impressive pristine lakes, and Chasm Lake may just be one of the most beautiful of them all.
The Chasm Lake Trail is one of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain, especially if what you’re after is a longer feat with challenging parts to test your skills with.
Aside from the alpine lake you’ll get to see at the end, the entire way to it will have you swooning at the gorgeous scenery on offer, including spectacular views of Longs Peak, a striking amphitheater with unusual rock formations, and even a lovely waterfall!
Chasm Lake is hands-down one of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park!
11. Continental Divide Trail to Mount Ida
- Length: 9.3 miles | Elevation gain: 2,358 feet | Guide
Keen for a challenge? If you’re done tackling the easier hikes, or you simply want to head straight into rugged nature and conquer a difficult trail, this day hike is guaranteed to please.
The Mount Ida Trail is a 9.3 mile out and back hike near Grand Lake, which will have you crossing a vast array of varied (but equally stunning) scenery as you make your way to the top. Among the highlights, you’ll get to see a beautiful lake, a forest you’ll hike through, the clearest 360-degree views in Rocky Mountain National Park, birds-eye views of Poudre Lake, as well as stunning vistas of the Never Summer Mountain Range.
Moreover, wildlife spotting is another highlight of the trail, with yellow-belled marmots being the stars of the show!
12. Mills Lake, Black Lake, Frozen Lake Trail
- Length: 11 miles | Elevation gain: 2,529 feet | Guide
They say good things take time, and the Mills Lake & Black Lake Trail proves just how true the saying is.
Black Lake is one of the most spectacular lakes in Colorado, but one that requires a bit (okay, a ton) of effort to reach. If you don’t mind a challenge, though, this is by far one of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park to take on.
To get there, you’ll need to do a pretty strenuous hike (about a 10-mile round-trip hike) with a hefty elevation gain through Glacier Gorge, but you’ll be glad you made the effort long before you reach the end.
Striking lakes, several waterfalls (including Alberta Falls), and Glacier Creek are just a few of the landscapes you’ll get to see as you move forward on this hike.
The trail is part of the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. It’s pretty easy at the beginning, but it gets tougher pretty soon.
Don’t worry, though. There is always the option to turn around at any point. A series of quaint wooden bridges will help you pass along several marshy areas between the lakes, and you are likely to see some moose roaming around.
13. Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge Trail
- Length: 9.4 miles | Elevation gain: 1,758 feet | Guide
If you want to see striking alpine lakes while visiting Colorado, but hikes like Emerald Lake sound a tad too easy for you, the Sky Pond trail is a fantastic alternative for those looking to challenge their hiking skills.
Not only will you get to catch breathtaking views of dramatic valleys, looming granite spires, and Sharkstooth and Taylor Peaks along the way, but this hike also homes two of the most beautiful alpine lakes in the park, making every step of the way an absolute treat for those who are into unraveled natural scenery!
14. Keyhole and Longs Peak via Longs Peak Trail
- Length: 14.8 miles | Elevation gain: 5,039 feet | Guide
It’s not exactly a secret that one of the best things to do in Colorado for outdoor enthusiasts is getting to conquer one of its 58 fourteeners, and Longs Peak may just be the most iconic one in the entire state!
While there are plenty of routes available for hikers, the Keyhole Route is by far the best one to follow, especially if what you’re after is an excuse to test out your hiking skills.
Rated as extremely challenging, the Longs Peak via Keyhole Route is a 14.5 mile (out and back) trail that boasts a whopping elevation gain of almost 5,000 feet.
As you ascend, you’ll be challenged by enormous vertical rock faces, loose rocks, and various steep cliffs.
Scrambling is a must on Longs Peak Trail, making it a pretty challenging hike even for experienced peak collectors!
This is definitely not a trail for the faint of heart, but it is definitely one of the best trails in Rocky Mountain National Park for those who are experienced enough to tackle it.
Make sure you wear a helmet and don’t hike without checking first if weather conditions are ideal for summiting.
15. Twin Sisters Peak Trail
- Length: 7.5 miles | Elevation gain: 2,516 feet | Guide
If you’re looking for a challenging (but extremely rewarding) hike, the Twin Sisters trail is guaranteed to please because the incredible views at the top are simply striking.
The Twin Sisters Peak Trail begins at the Twin Sisters Trailhead near Lily Lake.
At the beginning of the hike, you’ll find yourself crossing forested terrain before reaching a massive landslide area. As you proceed higher and the forest begins to fade out, you’ll be able to catch glorious views of various peaks, including Longs Peak, Mount Meeker, Lily Mountain, Estes Cone, and Powell Peak.
At 2.9 miles in, you’ll reach the tree line, where you’ll be able to get excellent views of the two Twin Sister Peak summits. A bit further on, you’ll be able to choose which peak to summit. It’s considered much easier to reach the western peak, making it the more popular destination for hikers, but both peaks are accessible with a little effort.
As a tip, if you plan on doing the Long Peak hike via Keyhole Route, Twin Sisters is considered a great hike to warm up and acclimate first.
Rocky Mountain National Park Hiking Trails Map
Click here to access a free and interactive map of all hiking trails at RMNP. The pins on the map mark the trailhead so you can easily find your way through the park using your mobile.
More Trails at the Rocky Mountain You Might Want to Check Out
- Easy: Copeland Falls to Calypso Cascades, Adams Falls Trail, Glacier Gorge Trail, and Sprague Lake Trail.
- Moderate: Ouzel Falls via Wild Basin Trail, Lake Helene via Fern Lake Trail, Bierstadt Lake Loop Trail, The Loch via Glacier Gorge Trail, and Cub Lake Trail Loop.
- Challenging: Timberline Falls and Sky Pond Trail, Bear Lake to Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge Trail, The Loch and Lake of Glass, and Flattop Mountain Trail.
Final Thoughts on Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park
We hope this list of the best trails in Rocky Mountain National Park helped you come up with the perfect hiking itinerary for your time at the park.
Even though there are hundreds of miles worth of terrain (seriously, there are so many of them that you could easily spend an entire year hiking and still not do them all), these trails are a great way to start getting acquainted with the park and get to see some of its most iconic sights.
Have you ever been hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park? Which was your favorite hike and why? Feel free to let us know all about your experience in the comment section below!