We often get asked for advice on navigating the many trails within Rocky Mountain National Park and surrounding Estes Park. We love sharing tips and tricks for visitors so we thought it’d be fun to write three blogs this month, each highlighting our favorite easy, medium, and hard difficulty-level hikes!
We’ll start off with easy trails for those that want to hike as soon as they’re in the park, but want some time to acclimate to the altitude and weather.
Gem Lake – You’ll find a common theme among our favorite easy hikes —all include lakes as the destination reward! Not only does this make for beautiful scenery, it helps you capture the best of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) in your photos from your vacation. Gem Lake is a wonderful easy hike that actually starts outside of the park, but winds its way into RMNP on the trail. You’ll gain almost 1,000 feet in elevation, starting at 7,882’ and ending at 8,830’.
You’ll start your trek at the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead and if arriving at Gem Lake wasn’t enough of a hike, you can add Bridal Veil Falls and Twin Owls Loop from this point. Gem Lake is a 3.3-mile hike.
Lake Haiyaha – Starting at the Bear Lake Trailhead, Lake Haiyaha is a 3.9-mile hike with 746’ in elevation gain. Haiyaha is in the lower Chaos Canyon and the name derives from the Native American word for rock, which suits the area wonderfully with its plethora of boulders. On the hike, you’ll have an opportunity to take a little outlet out to a viewing area of Dream Lake. At only .05 miles, it’s well worth the additional time for a wonderful view of the lake.
Mills Lake – From the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, Mills Lake is a 2.65-mile hike though if you’re prepared for some extra hiking, you can always couple it with Jewel Lake, making it 6.2 miles roundtrip. Jewel Lake has a very similar vista compared to Mills Lake, and most hikers won’t continue down to Jewel Lake so you’ll often find it’s less crowded than other sections of the park.
For all these hikes, please note that dogs are not allowed on the trails and it’s best to get an early start to the day so you can find parking and avoid afternoon mountain thunderstorms. You can also ask about our hiker shuttle so you don’t have to worry about parking within RMNP.
Be sure to prepare for rapidly changing weather. Though it’ll likely be nice and sunny in town, the weather on the mountains can change in an instant and it’s best to be prepared with extra layers, good hiking shoes, and water.
Be on the lookout for our next blog in the series covering moderate trails!