The Perfect Sunrise Hike at Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter

Lake Haiyaha is one of Rocky Mountain National Park’s most visited areas. This trail offers a great introduction to winter hiking and snowshoeing. Travel during the winter to beat the crowds and enjoy a sunrise for even more solitude. Here’s how to hike to Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park in winter.

Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park - Squirrel

Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter

Rocky Mountain National Park is quickly becoming one of the most popular national parks in the United States. According to the park, in 2014 there were over 3.4 million visitors. That’s staggering. Traffic jams, long lines, and overcrowded trails lead me to mostly stay away from the place despite the scenery.

The key to avoiding the crowds at this national landmark is to visit Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter. Although the road connecting the west and east end of the park is closed, you can still enjoy several viewpoints (like Many Parks Overlook), hike in the Bear Lake Trailhead area and explore endless snowy landscapes.

Be prepared for windy, wintery conditions. However, the reward for braving the cold are fantastic views with about a quarter the crowds you’ll see in summer. If you really want some solitude, wake up for sunrise. I promise, it won’t dissapoint.


Lake Haiyaha Trail Area

The trail to Haiyaha Lake is one of the most popular trails in the state if not all of the National Parks. It’s easy to see why: Lake Haiyaha Trail is one of the best trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, especially during winter. The trail is roughly 4 miles round trip up pretty easy terrain. As you meander gently uphill the trail treats you to four pristine high alpine lakes nestled among staggeringly high dramatic cliffs. The trail gets tougher and thus, less crowded, once you start to gain a rather short ridge to the final Lake – Lake Haiyaha. As you round the corner you’re greeted with a steep drop to a valley below while surrounded by the iconic rocky peaks that make Colorado famous.

The place is a dream. And we had it all to ourselves. Ya sure, conditions were less than ideal, with strong winds and freezing temps, but fit for a new year. Everything isn’t going to go your way, there will always be an obstacle to overcome in return for the reward.

Trail Information for Lake Haiyaha Rocky Mountain National Park

Trailhead: Located at the end of Bear Lake Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. Use the East access for entry.

Warnings: Be aware that this trail goes through avalanche terrain. There is a workaround if you do not have experience traveling through avalanche terrain, this adds distance to the journey. Always check for avalanche conditions prior to heading out in winter.

Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park - Lake Haiyaha

Round Trip Distance: This trail is roughly 6 miles round trip. It was hard to track this time of year, as the snow means that the main trail is covered. With all of the drifting snow, we were certainly off the main trail.

Elevation Gain: Only 885 vertical feet of gain makes this trail a breeze, even in the snow.

Dogs: Dogs are not allowed on trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. Leave Fido at home, as the car gets very cold.


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Want more winter trail inspo and tips? Check this out:

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Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure. She'd rather be dirty than done up.