Since moving to Colorado back in 2009, I’ve hiked countless trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. This guide to the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park gives you an exclusive, local insight to incredible day hikes and more.
Located so close to Boulder and Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most accessible national parks in the US.
There are many adventures to be had in Rocky Mountain National Park, but the best thing to do by far is go for a hike. With countless trails, you can spend a lifetime hiking in the park.
The Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
As an amazing day trip near Denver, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park is a hiker’s paradise. We’ll cover all the top hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. We’ll cover:
- The best easy hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
- The park’s most scenic moderate hiking trails
- A list of mega-challenging hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
- Distance, elevation, and difficulty for each hike
- Quick tips for visiting Rocky Mountain National Park
Easy Day Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
If you’re new to hiking, or you’re just looking for a mellow outing, there are plenty of incredible easy hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Just be sure to arrive at trailheads early, since parking lots often fill up before 8 am (don’t worry, you can take a shuttle too).
Dream Lake, Nymph Lake, Emerald Lake, and Lake Haiyaha
This mellow hike hits over four of the best alpine lakes in Colorado, making it a real bang for your buck. Reaching Dream, Nymph, and Emerald lake is pretty straight forward. If you continue on to hike to Lake Haiyaha, the trail does get steep for a little bit, but it’s not too difficult.
Local tip: This string of lakes is one of the most beautiful winter hikes in Colorado. Arrive for sunrise for a real special treat.
Distance: 3.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 864
Arguably the easiest hike in Rocky Mountain National Park (next to Sprague Lake), you’ll be granted extraordinary views of Bear Lake and the nearby peaks just minutes from the parking lot. Loop the lake or head out to one of the park’s more difficult trails.
Local Tip: The Bear Lake Trail is an accessible trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, meaning it’s wheelchair and stroller friendly.
Distance: 0.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 42
Difficulty: very easy
Another amazing sunrise hike option in the park, Sprague Lake is one of the best day hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. As a stroller and wheelchair accessible hiking trail it’s a great option for the entire family.
Distance: 0.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 32
Difficulty: very easy
Located at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead parking area, the trail to Alberta falls leisurely makes its way to one of the most beautiful viewpoints in Rocky Mountain National Park. The best times to view the falls are in late May and early June when the snow runoff is at a high.
Elevation Gain: 252
Gem Lake via Lumpy Ridge
Outside of the main area of Rocky Mountain National Park, you’ll find Lumpy Ridge, one of the premier rock climbing areas in Colorado. Climbing aside, this area has some incredible hiking trails. Far less crowded than the Glacier Gorge and Bear Lake area, you’ll find solitude amongst the huge rock formations jutting from the mountainside.
Elevation Gain: 990
Difficulty: easy to moderate
You can’t talk about the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park without mentioning Glacier Gorge. You’ll find that lots of the hikes on this list start along Glacier Gorge. Fortunately, for beginner hikers, Glacier Gorge is an excellent introduction to the park. The trail itself features plenty of gorgeous scenery and if you’re feeling up to it, you can connect with more difficult trails.
Elevation Gain: 403
Difficulty: easy with options ranging from moderate to difficult.
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Moderate Hiking Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park
Most of the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park are moderate in difficulty. Compared to much of Colorado, the moderate trails are substantially easier, thanks to a stellar trail maintenance team.
Lake Helene and Two Rivers Lake
Scope out the epic views of Notchtop Mountain, Little Matterhorn and Flattop Mountain along this classic Rocky Mountain National Park Hike. Follow the Bear Lake Trail then take a right towards Odessa Lake and Flattop Mountain. Continue onwards passed the Sourdough Campsite and take one of the several unmarked trails on your left to reach the lake. If you make a sharp hairpin turn north (right), you’ve passed it.
Distance: 6.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,348 feet
Black Lake Trail
For dramatic lake views, hike out to Black Lake. The water meets sheer granite faces with this jaw-dropping alpine lake. Can you spot the Diamond, Longs Peak’s most famous face, in the distance? You can continue onwards above the lake towards the Spearhead for even more alpine scenery.
Distance: 9.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,643
Ypsilon Lake Trail
If you’re looking to ditch the crowds, head to Ypsilon Lake. One of the best-kept-secret trails in Rocky Mountian National Park, this trail boasts beauty and tranquility. It terminates at Ypsilon Lake which is at the base of its namesake’s mountain.
Distance: 10.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,244 feet
Difficulty: moderate to difficult
Ute Trail to Tombstone Ridge
Ridge walking is something of a Colorado pastime and there’s no better way to experience it than hiking the Ute Trail to Tombstone Ridge. Walk an ancient path that the Ute Native Americans used to use to migrate across the area.
Local Tip: This hike is all above treeline, so do be sure that the weather is storm-free before attempting.
Elevation Gain: 1,912
Difficulty: moderate to challenging
Loch Lake Hike
As one of the best trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, Loch Lake is an excellent moderate challenge that’s jam-packed with views. Loch Lake itself is quite stunning, and a great spot to have a picnic and snap some photos. The best part about Loch Lake is you can carry onwards to Sky Pond if you’re feeling fresh.
Distance: 5.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,072
Related: The Best Hiking Trails in Colorado (coming soon)
Ouzel Falls Hike
The Wild Basin area of the park boasts several excellent hiking trails that are away from the main drag. Ouzel Lake boasts scenic alpine views and makes for an unforgettable picnic spot.
Distance: 9.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,683 feet
The Most Challenging Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
As a hiker’s paradise, RMNP has an endless array of extraordinarily challenging hiking objectives. These hikes are for seasoned mountain hikers only and should be taken seriously. Many of the top hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park are real challenges for any mountain hiker.
Flattop Mountain Trail
If you love hiking Colorado mountains but want to skip the crowds on Colorado’s famous 14ers, then take on the challenge of hiking Flattop Mountain. It’s surely a grind, but the views from the top are well worth the effort.
Distance: 8.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,870 feet
Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge Trail
This is arguably one of the best lake hikes in Colorado and absolutely a top trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. If you’re up for a challenge and willing to use your hands, you’ll love the Sky Pond hike. Most of the hike is relatively mellow, until the end where you’ll hike directly up a creek bed. You’ll be scrambling and will need your hands.
Pro Tip: This trail becomes quite dangerous in the winter, special gear is required so be sure to check trail conditions before heading out in the colder months.
Distance: 8.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,870
If you are up for a challenging hike but don’t want to summit a mountain, Chasm Lake is a world-class hiking trail. Terminating at the rocky alpine lake, you’ll be right at the base of the Diamond, a prominent and dramatic slice of granite that is one of the world’s most coveted climbing objectives. The way up isn’t easy and is riddled with steep elevation gains and switchbacks.
Distance: 9.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,601 feet
Scrambling Longs Peak
Longs Peak is one of the most famous Colorado 14ers. It certainly isn’t the easiest Colorado 14er, in fact, it requires scrambling skills and prior mountain summits before attempting. You’ll need a helmet and a stomach for exposure to hike this challenging route.
Local Tip: There are lots of things to know before hiking a Colorado 14er, but the most important tip of all is to start early. Plan to be below treeline by noon to avoid getting caught in a life-threatening thunderstorm.
Distance: 14.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,911 feet
Difficulty: difficult to expert
The Mummy Kill
More of a trail running suffer-fest than a leisurely hike and should only be attempted by well-seasoned mountain hikers and trail runners. The Mummy Kill refers to a slog-a-thon challenge that goes over the 6 peaks in the Mummy Range. It’s a serious objective that commands respect and many people train for years just to attempt it.
Distance: 20 miles
Elevation Gain: 5,600
When is the Best Season for Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park?
The best time of year to hike in Rocky Mountain National Park is from late June until October. Keep in mind that July and early August are the monsoon season. This is when dangerous and life-threatening thunderstorms take over in the mountains. Storms usually show up quickly and violently by noon so always check the weather before hitting the trail.
You can certainly hike year-round in Rocky Mountain National Park, but keep in mind that many trails have avalanche hazards in the winter. Beginner winter hikers should have an avalanche safety education before heading out.
Quick Tips for Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park
As a mountain hiking expert, I know a thing or two about hiking in the Rockies. Before hitting the trail, be sure to read my guide to hiking in Colorado. You’ll find loads of safety tips and information about what to expect in the alpine.
When it comes to hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, there are a few location-specific tips to keep in mind:
- Many of the road close in the winter and trails can be inaccessible with snow. Always check with the ranger station for the latest conditions.
- If you plan on visiting the park for multiple days, consider buying a parks pass, it might be cheaper and it will get you into a variety of national parks and monuments across the US
- Parking lots fill up super early in RMNP. If you’re there after 8 am, plan on taking the bus to get around.
- As always, keep it better than you found it. Pack out your trash (even apple cores, TP, and orange peels), don’t harass or approach wildlife, stay on the trail.
Planning a Trip to Colorado? I’ve got you covered with these related articles:
- 10 Colorado Backpacking Trips You’ve Got to Try
- The Only Colorado Road Trip Itinerary You’ll Ever Need
- Tips for Visiting Colorado
- Things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park
What are your favorite hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park? Contact me and let me know! Happy hiking!