Rocky Mountain is one of the most breathtaking parks in the United States and has over 350 miles of hiking trails to explore.
In this Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park Guide we’re going to break down 8 of the best hikes for everything from a quick trip out to full-day hikes and hikes best for kids.
We’ll give you all the details from where to start to what to expect from each hike. So you can easily plan your trip and get the most out of your hiking time at Rocky Mountain National Park.
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What You’ll Find in this Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park Guide
We’re going to tell you all of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park so you can plan your trip more easily and find the best hike for you.
- Easiest Hikes, Best Day Hikes, Best Hikes for Kids and More!
- How the Free Shuttle Bus Works
- Hiking Essentials and what to pack
Keep Reading for the must do hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park!
The Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
Distance - 9.4 Miles
Difficulty - Hard
Elevation Gain - 2,601 Feet
Trailhead - Longs Peak Ranger Station
Chasm Lake has earned its place as one of the top hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s an amazing hike that has just about everything you could possibly want. The trail starts at the Longs Peak Ranger Station and follows the Longs Peak trail for the first little while as you go through the woods. It’s a consistent gentle climb that will start to get a little steeper once you get above the treeline.
For the second part of the hike, things get a little more intense since the winds pick up quite a bit once you’re out of the trees. You’ll face one last challenge right before reaching Chasm Lake with a 150-foot rock scramble to get up to the lake.
The lake itself is absolutely stunning and has a beautiful mountain backdrop that makes it worth every last step it took to get there. The trail is “out-and-back” meaning you will hike back the same way that you came in. It’s best to hike Chasm Lake trail from June until October.
Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge
Distance - 8.5 Miles
Difficulty - Hard
Elevation Gain - 1,761 Feet
Trailhead - Glacier Gorge Trailhead
Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge is without a doubt one of the best Rocky Mountain National park hikes. It’s an 8.5-mile out-and-back hike that takes you past not one, not two but THREE beautiful mountain lakes AND Alberta Falls to top things off!
The trail starts at the Bear Lake Trailhead which has limited parking so arrive early or be prepared to take the shuttle. From there you’ll start out hiking through the woods along several different rivers until you hit Glacier Creek, the home of Alberta Falls.
You then get to enjoy a variety of scenery as you pass first The Loch lake and then later the Lake of Glass before finishing at Sky Pond. There is a somewhat difficult rock scramble just before the Lake of Glass. The Sky Pond trail is rated as Difficult and so it’s certainly not for young children or the faint of heart. From June until about October is the best time of year to hike to Sky Pond.
While it’s not easy, Sky Pond is certainly one of the best hikes Rocky Mountain National Park has to offer!
Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park for Easy Hiking
Distance - 2 Miles
Difficulty - Easy
Elevation Gain - 426 Feet
Trailhead - Bear Lake Trailhead
Dream Lake is certainly one of our favorite easy hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s conveniently located, it’s short but not too short, has plenty to see, and is great for all experience levels and ages!
The trail starts at the Bear Lake Trailhead which makes it great if you have a few people in your group who would rather do something a bit more challenging. The Bear Lake area is also the starting point for the Flattop Mountain Trail as well as the Black Lake Trail which are both quite a bit more difficult.
The Dream Lake Trail is 2 miles and takes you past Nymph Lake along the way. It’s an out and back trail and you can easily stop by Bear Lake before you leave! It’s normally best to hike to Dream Lake from April until about November.
Don’t miss the chance to check out one of the best short hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park!
Aspenglen Deer Mountain Loop
Distance - 2.8 Miles
Difficulty - Easy
Elevation Gain - 429 Feet
Trailhead - Aspenglen Campground
Most of the easiest hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park are also generally speaking quite crowded. This can make things a little tough if you’re looking to enjoy the peace and quiet of nature. If you’re looking for a little break from the crowds then Aspenglen Deer Mountain Loop is for you! The trailhead is at the Aspenglen Campground and is far less trafficked than most of the other short hikes in the park.
It’s 2.8 miles in a loop and rated as Easy so it’s great for all skill levels. You get some wonderful views of Deer Mountain and later on also the Mummy Range. Since it’s a loop you’ll also get different views the entire time and even finish with a nice walk along the Fall River.
June until early October is the best time of year for an Aspenglen Deer Mountain Loop hike.
Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park for a Day Hike
Bear Lake to Alberta Falls to Mills Lake
Distance - 5.5 Miles
Difficulty - Moderate
Elevation Gain - 928 Feet
Trailhead - Bear Lake Trailhead
Bear Lake to Mills Lake is without a doubt one of the best day hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park! And while there are actually two different ways to get to Mills Lake from Bear Lake why miss the opportunity to go past Alberta Falls along the way!
It’s a 5.5-mile trail that’s best hiked between June and October. This trail can be pretty crowded at times especially from Bear Lake to Alberta Falls, but after the falls there tends to be far fewer people on the trail. Remember to dress in layers when you hike! Past the falls and treeline, the temperature can change quite a bit!
Deer Mountain Trail
Distance - 6.7 Miles
Difficulty - Hard
Elevation Gain - 2,801 Feet
Trailhead - Deer Mountain Trailhead
Even a shortlist of great day hikes in Rocky Mountain wouldn’t be complete without Deer Mountain Trail! There are tons of great trails in the park that have some absolutely stunning views, but few with panoramic views like the ones you’ll be treated to at the end of the Deer Mountain Trail.
It’s just under 7 miles, very well maintained, an out-and-back trail. You start out in a deep forested valley before gradually climbing in elevation. There are lots of switchbacks on the trail so you don’t need to worry about climbing a steep grade straight up.
The last half a mile or so up to the summit is not as clearly marked to remember where you came out so you can find your way back down. Deer Mountain Trail truly is one of the best day hikes Rocky Mountain National Park has to offer.
Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park for Families
Alpine Ridge Trail
Distance - 0.7 Miles
Difficulty - Easy
Elevation Gain - 147 Feet
Trailhead - Alpine Visitors Center
Alpine Ridge is certainly one of the best family hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. It can be tough when everyone has their own idea of what makes a great day in the park but the Alpine Ridge Trail makes it a lot easier.
First the trail itself. It’s only just under a mile long which is a great stretch of the legs but short enough for little ones with short attention spans. It also goes through several areas that are often full of wildflowers so there will be plenty to look at and learn about along the way.
The trailhead also starts at the Alpine Visitor Center and so after your hike you can talk to the Rangers and learn a bit more about Rocky Mountain National Park or the National Parks Service! It’s best to hike the Alpine Ridge Trail between June and October.
Distance - 1.1 Miles
Difficulty - Easy
Elevation Gain - 29 feet
Trailhead - Coyote Valley Trailhead
Coyote Valley is a great hike for kids and a much different location! Many of the most famous trailheads in Rocky Mountain National Park are on the Estes Park (East) side of the park. Coyote Valley however starts on the Grand Lake (West) side of the park right off of Trail Ridge Road! So depending on where you’re setting up camp it can be the perfect option.
It’s a nice quiet hike along the Colorado River that’s only just over a mile long making it great for the little ones. It’s also a great place to look for moose! Either early in the morning or later in the evening is usually the best time to try and spot one. But if you can it’s a treat for all ages!
The trail is out and back and rated as wheelchair accessible so you should have no issues with strollers for the super young hikers! April until about October is usually the best time of year for hiking Coyote Valley.
Getting Around in Rocky Mountain National Park
Driving to the Trailhead
Most of the trailheads in the park are right off of very well maintained roads and so driving your car directly to the trailhead is certainly an option in most cases. It’s also great to have your car there when you’re done hiking.
Coming back after a long hike to a cooler in your car full of fresh cold water and some snacks is a great way to end a hike! You’ll also have the benefit of being able to leave whenever you’re ready.
However, it’s worth noting that most of the parking lots at the trailheads are pretty small and so unless you’re willing to be at the trailhead before sunrise (sometimes several hours before sunrise!) it’s very possible that there won’t be any parking spots when you arrive.
But that’s okay! The National Parks Service has a great FREE shuttle bus service that can bring up to the trailhead from one of the lower (and far larger) parking lots.
Taking the Shuttle
There are two lines for the shuttle service. The Bear Lake route and the Moraine Park Route. Both of the shuttle routes run from 7:00am until 7:30pm.
The Bear Lake Route
The Bear Lake shuttle runs from the Park and Ride parking lot up Bear Lake Road to the Bear Lake Trailhead and departs every 10 - 15 minutes.
Along the way, it makes stops at the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead as well as the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. The Bear Lake shuttle route is perfect if you’ve decided to hike to Sky Pond, Dream Lake, or Mills Lake.
The Moraine Park Route
The Moraine Park Route runs from Sprague Lake to Fern Lake but also stops at the Park and Ride and departs every 30 minutes.
It also makes stops at Hollowell Park, Tuxedo Park, the Moraine Park Campground, and the Cub Lake Trailhead.
Unfortunately, pets are not allowed on any of the park shuttle buses and they are also not equipped with bike racks.
Overall the shuttle buses are a great option for getting around to some of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Being that the trailheads are often very crowded we highly recommend that you plan to use the shuttles to get there and back.
What to Pack for Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park
You should always make sure that you’re prepared for a day out hiking in the wild. Not just for long hikes, but short hikes as well!
Here’s our shortlist of hiking essentials for hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, don’t leave home without them!
Snow Cleats - For some of the hiking trails in Rocky Mountian it's possible to run into snow any time of year! The snow is often completely packed down from other hikers and so it can be very difficult and icy to walk on. Shoe cleats are an absolute lifesaver!
Water hydration pack - You’ll need water for any hike that you go on, even if it’s a short one. Having a water bladder is so much easier than carrying a water bottle the whole time!
Hat - Don't let the glare of the sun ruin those amazon views. A great hat can not only help you to see better but it’ll also protect your face from getting a sunburn.
Sunscreen - Don’t forget about the rest of your skin as well. It doesn’t need to be hot out to get a sunburn and when you’re hiking above the treeline it can happen faster than you would think!
Snacks - There’s nothing worse than getting halfway into your hike and realizing you didn’t eat enough for breakfast. Bring some trail mix or a protein bar at a minimum to keep your energy up.
Toilet Paper and Camp Trowel - If nature calls while you’re out in nature you’re going to need to be prepared. Make sure you pack not only toilet paper but also a camp trowel and follow leave-no-trace ethics.
Whistle - If the worst happens and you find yourself lost on your hike having a rescue whistle is a must. They’re very inexpensive and easy to bring along.
Camera Backpack Holder - This isn’t an essential by any means but SUPER convenient to have. If you have a nice camera you’ll want to bring it along! But it can be really annoying to carry it the whole time. This clip lets you attach it to your backpack so it’s ready when you need it and out of the way the rest of the time.
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