In Rocky Mountain National Park, there is never a shortage of things to do or places to go. The park spans across 415 square miles of lush forest and climbs to heights of 14,259 feet above sea level. So, whether you’re into panoramic views, raging waterfalls, or rarely seen wildlife, you’re sure to find something you’ll like on our list of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Distance: 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 650 feet
The path up to Emerald Lake is one of the most hiked trails in all of Rocky Mountain National Park. This short hike is great for beginners and has sights that are sure to satisfy even veteran mountaineers. Along your way, you’ll catch glimpses of towering cliffsides, commanding mountains, and multiple pristine lakes. If you’ve only got a short amount of time in the park, this hike checks all the boxes.
Distance: 0.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 45 feet
If you don’t want to hike up to Emerald Lake but still want the same experience, you’ll love Bear Lake. Its beauty and history make it a popular stop for many families. The loop around the lake, which is meant to be walked in a counter-clockwise direction, goes along with an interpretive guide that provides information on the geology, geography, and history of the lake. It’s highly recommended for first-timers and covers a range of subjects, from the Bear Lake Fire to the construction of the Bear Lake Lodge. If you are interested in this guide, you can find it here.
Distance: 2.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 450 feet
Just beyond Bear Lake is idyllic Dream Lake. This stunning lake is guarded by two towering mountains, Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain. Many hikers enjoy this view of the Tyndall Gorge instead of hiking up to Emerald Lake to see. If you’re a photographer, it's recommended to start this hike early in the morning to catch beautiful reflections of Hallett Peak on the still lake water.
Distance: 1.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
If lakes aren’t quite your thing, Alberta Falls might be right up your alley. The path to this popular waterfall is lined with a mix of Pine and Aspen trees. The results are picturesque views popping with reds and yellows. If you decide to give this hike a try, many locals recommend bringing food and drinks as there are plenty of spots to stop for a picnic.
Distance: 5.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,040 feet
After your picnic next to Alberta Falls, continue heading up the trail toward The Loch. This hike offers outstanding lake views on both sides of the trail, meaning there are plenty of sights to see. This hike is great for adventurers with limited time that are still seeking the challenge of a tough hike, like the one up to Sky Pond. The length and difficulty of this hike make it one of the best day hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Distance: 8.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,500 feet
Chasm Lake is one of the top hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. This tough trek rewards adventurers with stunning panoramic views from one of the highest points in the entire park. Sitting at an elevation of 11,800 feet, the only way to get higher would be to summit Longs Peak, which sits adjacent to this alpine lake. If you’re looking for sweeping views, all while getting in a great workout, you will want to make a point of checking out Chasm Lake.
Disclaimer: This is a difficult hike and is only recommended for experienced hikers.
Distance: 9 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,780 feet
Sky Pond is another challenging, yet rewarding hike. Like Chasm Lake, this trek will take you way up into the mountains and offer alpine scenery that will leave you speechless. Along the way, hikers will traverse through thick forest and climb a near-vertical rock scramble. As mentioned before, this hike is difficult but the numerous waterfalls and lakes along the way more than make up for it.
Disclaimer: This is a difficult hike and not recommended for individuals who are afraid of heights or inexperienced.
Distance: 0.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 10 feet
This is one of the easiest hikes in the park. With only 10 feet of elevation gain, this trail is a flat loop perfectly for strolling. Don’t let the length or ease of this hike fool you, though; it's packed with natural beauties. Besides the lake, visitors will get stunning views of numerous mountains, like Hallet Peak and Flattop mountain, as well as the chance to get up close and personal with the wildlife that frequents the area.
Distance: 6.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,210 feet
The hike up to the top of Deer Mountain is a great warm-up for longer treks as, despite the dramatic elevation gain, this trail eases its way up the mountain through a series of gentle switchbacks. While hiking up this trail, you’ll find yourself passing through wooded areas and open plains with sweeping views on either side. Once you reach the summit, you’ll get 360-degree views of the Continental Divide. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the mountain’s namesake along the way: Deer!
Distance: 12.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,490 feet
If waterfalls are your thing, you’re sure to love the hike up to Bluebird Lake. On this trail, you’ll be treated to three waterfalls, outstanding views of alpine lakes, and fields of wildflowers. But this trek is more than just sights to see. Along your journey, you will walk through the history of the park, which takes you through locations like plains scarred by the Ouzel Fire and the site of the old Bluebird Lake Dam. There are so many things to see on the Bluebird Lake Trail it only makes sense this would be the longest hike on our list.
With that, we wrap up our list of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. If you ever find yourself in the Continental Divide, try one of these hikes you’re bound to love. Not sure where to start? Check out our Rocky Mountain National Park trip for what to do, where to go, and what to bring on your next adventure. If you do, be sure to tag us in your social media @adventuretripr — we love seeing where you explore!
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