describes 33 of the best day hikes in the park. Author Jerome Malitz uses color photographs, and trails are cross-referenced with "Trails Illustrated" topographic maps.
|The Top 10 Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park|
"It has been said that great views create great thoughts, and great thoughts create great men."
- Roger Toll, superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park from 1921 to 1929, and charter member of the Colorado Mountain Club.
Many people who are unfamiliar, or are making their very first visit to Rocky Mountain National Park, want to know what the best day hikes are in the park. Below are my personal top ten hikes in the park. Hopefully this will be a helpful starting point as you try to decide where you want to hike during your visit.
Mt. Ida - Hands down this is the best hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. The views from the summit are simply epic. In fact, hikers will enjoy outstanding panoramic views along much of the route. Although the terrain becomes fairly rugged on the final leg to the summit, you'll have very little exposure to steep drop-offs. If this sounds like this might be a little bit out of your comfort zone, you ought to check out the much easier version of this hike which ends atop Peak 12,150.
Hallett Peak - For those that feel that Longs Peak is just a little too hard, or maybe too dangerous, Hallett Peak just might be the perfect mountain to satisfy your big mountain, "summit fever". Reaching a height of 12,713 feet, the mountain provides a great opportunity to feel like you're on top of the Rockies, without being exposed to dangerous drop-offs.
Chasm Lake - In my humble opinion this is the best lake hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. In addition to the outstanding panoramic views you'll have on the way up, you'll also have a front row view of the famous "Diamond", the east-facing wall of Longs Peak which rises more than 2,400 feet above this incredibly beautiful alpine lake.
Emerald Lake - The hike to Emerald Lake takes hikers deep into the Tyndall Gorge, and visits three other beautiful subalpine lakes along the way. Although Bear Lake and Dream Lake are very nice destinations, Emerald Lake is the true gem in this chain of lakes fed by the Tyndall Glacier.
Ute Trail - Want great panoramic views without having to climb a lot of altitude? The Ute Trail is the perfect choice. This relatively flat hike along Tombstone Ridge offers hikers the chance to explore the alpine tundra zone, while soaking in the outstanding views of Forest Canyon, Longs Peak, Moraine Park and Estes Park.
Sky Pond - Surrounded on three sides by sheer cliff walls, Sky Pond offers hikers a dramatic scene. What makes this hike a RMNP classic is that you'll visit two waterfalls and two other stunning lakes along the way. However, the scramble next to Timberline Falls to reach the basin may present a challenge for people with a fear of heights.
Bear Lake to Fern Lake TH - As a result of Rocky Mountain's excellent shuttle system, hikers have the option of taking the spectacular one-way hike from Bear Lake to the Fern Lake Trailhead in Moraine Park. Along the way you'll visit four magnificent lakes, a 60-foot waterfall, plus you'll make the spectacular descent into the Odessa Gorge.
Lake Helene - Although Lake Helene is denoted on the official park map, the side trail leading to its shore isn’t marked with a trail sign. Don't let this deter you - this is one of the most scenic lakes in the park.
Bluebird Lake - This is another hike that offers several attractions along the way, including three waterfalls. Bluebird Lake, which fills a deep cirque beneath Ouzel Peak along the Continental Divide, is the star attraction.
The Keyhole on Longs Peak - This hike should probably rank higher, but I had to take it down a few notches due to its level of difficulty. In terms of distance and elevation gain, this is a very difficult hike. The terrain - crossing the Boulder Field and then making the scramble up to the Keyhole - makes this an extremely difficult hike, and is likely the most difficult hike I've ever been on. However, the payoff is quite large. The views along the way, as well as from the Keyhole itself, are simply amazing.
If you think most of these hikes are too long, or maybe too strenuous, check out my list of the Best Easy Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
While planning your visit, be sure to visit our accommodations page for a variety of lodging options in the Rocky Mountain National Park area.