Recently, I went up to Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time ever and I have been so excited to get this post together to tell you guys all about it!
If you ever look up “best Colorado hikes” on Google or Pinterest, hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park are the first to pop up. After searching through all of the trails and views that the park had to offer, I knew that I had to make a day of it.
The park is about an hour and a half away from where I live, so I wanted to spend the entire day up there in order to get the most out of my experience. Something came up with the friends that I went hiking with and we had to plan on leaving earlier than I had originally expected, so we ended up leaving early in the morning. We also wanted to head out and get started on the trails before it got too busy and the crowds became unbearable. Luckily, I remembered to bring some snacks for the long drive, so we ate giant chocolate chip muffins and apple slices on the way up! In case you were wondering, a giant chocolate chip muffin is not the best thing to eat while you are driving on a highway, but it is best thing to eat before a long day of hiking.
Once you drive through the mountains close to the park, there is a downtown area (that is also a part of Estes Park) that was home to multiple small shops and restaurants! I would have loved to spend time in town, but we didn’t have time on that day. I was bummed out because not only was there a fudge shop, but there were so many storefronts that looked like they sold fun t-shirts and other souvenirs inside! I have mentioned this before, but I am a total sucker for tourist-y apparel and keychains and stickers and that kind of thing. I am hoping that once the weather starts to warm up again here in Colorado that we can not only explore more of Rocky Mountain National Park, but also stop and visit the downtown area (and maybe get some ice cream or fudge)!
To get into Rocky Mountain, it costs $20 for one automobile for one day, which is another reason why I wanted to spend as much time as possible at the park so that we could get the most bang for our buck! Overall, though, I consider the cost to be a great deal for everything that Rocky Mountain National Park has to offer. There are other expenses for multi-day passes or for individuals without a vehicle, so I will insert the link at the end of the post for anybody who is interested. As a side note, I must point out that every park ranger that we interacted with at the park that day were so kind and helpful! I didn’t come across one park ranger that didn’t have a great attitude, and they were all genuinely excited to hear about our plans for the day! We experienced out first park ranger at the payment station before officially entering into the park, and he was wonderful and got our day off to a great start!
I also feel the need to state that the visitor center that is closest to the trails that we completed on this day (which began with the Bear Lake Loop) is actually placed before you pay to enter the park. We didn’t know this before we went, so we didn’t get a chance to stop and grab a Junior Ranger booklet before beginning our hike which was a total bummer! Just a heads up (and another excuse for me to head back to Rocky Mountain National Park soon, as I am always looking to grow my collection of Junior Ranger badges).
Throughout the day we hiked three trails total: Bear Lake Loop, the Alberta Falls Trail, and another trail that took us up past Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake. We decided that this was the easiest way to plan out our day because all of these trailheads were right next to each other, meaning that we didn’t have to keep taking the bus provided by Rocky Mountain to multiple locations. The only time that we had to ride on the shuttle to get around was after we initially parked. Other than that, the trails that we hiked were within walking distance of one another! Another reason to head up to the park early is because parking spots fills up fast. We were lucky enough to get a great spot and start out on our way.
Bear Lake Loop was our first trail of the day, and this entire loop around Bear Lake is 0.8 miles; however, we just walked a little ways up to be able to see the lake and take some pictures, and then we were on our way to the Alberta Falls Trailhead.
Alberta Falls was my personal favorite out of all the trails we completed, and that is because there are a ton of neat things to do and look at throughout the entire hike. Along the way, there were lots of creeks and mini water falls to look at, as well as some boulders for us to climb up (but don’t tell anybody we did that). Overall, this trail is 1.8 miles roundtrip but with only a 200 ft elevation gain, so it is a perfect hike if you are traveling with younger children. This way, they won’t get exhausted too quickly and they won’t get bored along the way!
By this time in the day, the weather was starting to heat up, so naturally, we decided to save our longest trail for last. If you only have a short time to spend at Rocky Mountain, I would recommend this last hiking trail that we did because it takes you up past three different lakes and offers incredible views!
This trail took us up past Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake, which are all breathtaking! This hike was 2.2 miles roundtrip, but a lot of the trail is made up of stairs, so it was pretty strenuous. We also decided to complete this hike later in the afternoon after two other trails when it was beginning to get hotter, so we were worn out before we even started.
To avid hikers, our total mile count may not seem like much, but it definitely felt like a hard workout to us! We didn’t get to explore too much of the park, which spans over 415 acres, but what we did get to see blew me away. Also, after reading reviews of the park, I was afraid that the trails were going to be overcrowded and that we were going to want to leave early just to escape the chaos and the heat. That was not the case! There were a lot of people, but it never felt too crazy to the point that the trails were too packed full. In addition, the hikers that we met along the trails were very nice and respectful! This may not be the same for everybody when they go to Rocky Mountain, but in my experience, on a warm and sunny day in the mountains in Colorado, most people are in a better mood than they typically would be. I also wore one of my CSU shirts up there, and apparently it was the perfect choice of clothing because it was a wonderful conversation starter! I had people stopping me all day to chat with me about CSU, and I loved it.
Especially while I am on my quest to step out of my bubble and become more outgoing!
Although we had to leave earlier than I wanted, we had a great day at Rocky Mountain National Park! We got a lot of use out of the cheap selfie stick that I bought for $5, which allowed us to capture all of the memories that we made while hiking. It definitely served its purpose! I can only assume that one day, there are going to be a lot of pictures from this day at the park hanging up in my house.
I hope you enjoyed the views and the information on Rocky Mountain, and I can’t wait to share more adventures with you soon! If you would like, you should check out the park’s super easy to use website down below…
And Don’t Forget to Make It Meghan!