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Easy Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is a breathtaking destination with its jagged peaks, crystal-clear lakes, and abundant wildlife, and gorgeous hikes. While there are plenty of challenging trails for experienced hikers, there are also many easy hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park that showcase the park’s beauty without requiring a high level of fitness, hiking expertise, or hours of time.

We spent last summer exploring this gorgeous national park in the western US and completely fell in love! Our family loves to hike and explore but we tend to prefer shorter and easier hikes so that we can fit other things into our day. We sought out the best easy hikes in Rocky Mountain to experience and hope you enjoy adding some of them to your itinerary as well.

Tips for Hiking in Rocky Mountain NP

Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park can be an amazing experience, but it’s important to be well-prepared for the conditions you may encounter. Here are some tips to help you have a safe and enjoyable hike:

Obtain Timed Entry Permits: Due to the high volume of visitors, the park requires timed entry permits for all visitors between May and October. You can reserve your permit online the month prior to visiting on the first day of the month. Be sure to check the park’s website for the latest information on permits and entry requirements.

Enter Early + Secure Parking: The park’s parking lots can fill up quickly, especially during peak season. Arriving early in the morning can help you find a spot and avoid the crowds. Alternatively, consider taking the park’s shuttle service to the trailhead.

Stay Hydrated: The high altitude and dry climate can make it easy to become dehydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water and bring more water with you while hiking than you think you need. Consider bringing electrolyte tablets or powder to replenish lost salts and minerals. Salty, high fat snacks with natural sugars, like trail mix, are perfect for hikes.

Dress in Layers: The weather in the mountains can be unpredictable, with temperatures changing rapidly and without warning. Dressing in layers allows you to adjust to the conditions and also accomodate hiking as different elevation levels.

Watch for Afternoon Storms: Thunderstorms are common in the mountains, particularly in the afternoon summer. Last summer, we experienced rain about 50% of the time and clouds always rolled in around noon. It’s important to be aware of the weather conditions and avoid hiking above the tree line in the exposed tundra during a possible storm.

Best Easy Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park

Bear Lake

  • Trail Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Trailhead: Bear Lake Trailhead

Bear Lake is a must-see destination in Rocky Mountain National Park. This stunning alpine lake is the most visited area in the park, and for good reason!

While all hiking trails in this guide are classified as “easy,” the trail around Bear Lake should be called. “Very Easy.” Not only is it easily accessible from the parking lot, but it also offers gorgeous scenery and an easy hiking trail that is suitable for all visitors.

Bear Lake | Easy Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

The loop around the lake is a smooth 0.8-mile trail with little to no elevation change. Hikers are rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding glacier-formed Tyndall Gorge in return for little effort..

Because Bear Lake is so popular, visitors should plan ahead to ensure they can make the most of their visit. During the summer and on weekends, the parking lot can fill up really quickly, so arriving early is recommended.

We arrived at 7:45am on a summer weekday last year and snatched up one of the last spots, so before 7:30am is recommended. Visitors can also use the shuttle service from the Glacier Gorge and Bierstadt Lake Trailheads to reach the lake, but it takes extra time if you have a packed Rocky Mountain itinerary.

Bear Lake is open to visitors year-round, offering a fun and easy activity in any season. During the warmer months, visitors can explore the lake in sandals, while in the winter, snowshoeing around the lake is a popular activity.

Sprague Lake

  • Trail Distance: .5 mile loop
  • Trailhead: Sprague Lake Trailhead

Sprague Lake is the second very easy hiking trail in Rocky Mountain National Park that is well worth your time. Nestled in the breathtaking Rocky Mountains, Sprague Lake is a stunning alpine lake that is perfect for visitors of all ages and activity levels. With a flat trail that is only a half-mile long, this destination is easily accessible and suitable for hikers.

Sprague Lake, Rocky Mountain

The packed gravel trail around the lake makes for a smooth and easy hike that offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, including Hallett Peak and the Continental Divide.

For the best experience, we recommend visiting Sprague Lake either in the early morning or during the golden hour at sunset. This will not only give you a chance to avoid the busy crowds that can come later in the day, but also to take advantage of the best reflections on the lake. Along the trail, visitors will find lovely wooden benches where they can sit and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere while taking in the stunning views of the mountains and lake.

Visitors must book a timed permit with access to Bear Lake Road, where Sprague Lake is located, unless you plan to visit in the evening.

Alberta Falls

  • Trail Distance: 3.2 miles
  • Trailhead: Bear Lake Trailhead

Alberta Falls is a beautiful easy hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, and luckily it is easy to access from the Bear Lake parking lot. This means you can easily add it to your itinerary alongside hikes to Emerald Lake and around Bear Lake. Additionally, you can also access the falls from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead if you prefer to customize your route.

The round-trip hike to Alberta Falls is only about 1.7 miles, which makes it a perfect choice for hikers of all skill levels. The trail takes you through stunning landscapes, including dense pine forests and open meadows, and as you approach the falls, you will hear the sound of rushing water before seeing the stunning cascading falls.

The falls create a beautiful view and an excellent photo opportunity, especially as the water tumbles down a series of rocks. I typically would recommend doing this hike after Emerald Lake due to crowds and energy levels, but we completed this hike first in order to coordinate schedules with extended family. While our kids complained more hiking to Emerald Lake afterward, our reward was that the light was perfect on Alberta Falls around 9am!

Emerald Lake

  • Trail Distance: 3.2 miles
  • Trailhead: Bear Lake Trailhead

Emerald Lake is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. Of everything we experienced in the park on our family vacation, Emerald Lake was my absolute favorite! As one of the prettiest lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park, it deserves a spot on every itinerary.

Emerald Lake hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

While some hikes on this list are very easy, on a sliding scale, the hike to Emerald Lake slides a bit more toward moderate. Can we call it moderately easy? The path is wide and safe with plenty of spot to stop and rest, and many children were on the trail. But there is an incline to the trail, so combined with the altitude, it easy to get winded. The last stretch consisting of a series of stairs that are the most exhausting part.

When you reach Emerald Lake, you will be rewarded with some of the most stunning views that the park has to offer! The glittering like surrounded by the jagged peaks are positively stunning. We were luck to have a cloudy day when we hikes which kept the temperature down, but also provided a dramatic backdrop to the lake.

Bonus! On the way to Emerald Lake, you will pass Nymph Lake and Dream Lake (featured below) which are gorgeous as well. They are the perfect inspiration to keep going until you reach the end.

The trail’s relatively short distance of 3.5 miles, its easy accessibility from the Bear Lake parking lot, and its moderately easy difficulty level make it a popular destination. Expect plenty of company on the trail. We recommend starting first thing in the morning for a more peaceful experience.

Dream Lake

  • Trail Distance: 2.2 miles
  • Trailhead: Bear Lake Trailhead

Dream Lake is a true gem on the way to Emerald Lake and is on of the best easy hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. This stunning alpine lake offers some of the most breathtaking views in the area. With just 2.2 miles of fairly easy terrain (uphill, but nothing crazy), hikers will find themselves face-to-face with Dream Lake in no time.

Easy HIke: Dream Lake, Colorado

As the second of three lakes on the Emerald Lake hike, Dream Lake is a great option for hikers who find the stairs leading to Emerald Lake to be a bit too daunting, but want to see as much as they can. Dream Lake is properly named! If you aren’t able to hike all the way to Emerald Lake, you’ll find Dream Lake to be an excellent consolation!

Once you arrive at Dream Lake, take the time to walk along the path on the right side of the lake and turn around for some truly spectacular views. While some brave swimmers may be tempted to jump into the freezing water, we advise against it – brrr!

Nymph Lake

  • Trail Distance: 1.1 miles
  • Trailhead: Bear Lake Trailhead

Nymph Lake, located just 1.1 miles from the Bear Lake Trailhead, is the first lake you’ll encounter on the way to Emerald Lake. With a round-trip distance of just 1.1 miles, this hike is perfect for those who want a quick and easy break with a view.

Nymph Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park easy hike

The trail is uphill and has an elevation gain of 262 feet, but it is not too steep for most activity levels. The lily pads that decorate the lake give it a fairy tale-like appearance, making it a perfect spot for photos and if you need a snack already? We won’t judge.

If you’re visiting Rocky Mountain National Park during the winter season, Nymph Lake is a great addition to your itinerary. As long as Bear Lake Road is open, this short and easy hike can be explored with spiked boots that provide plenty of traction in snowy conditions.

Lake Haiyaha

  • Trail Distance: 3.9 miles (4.9 miles if you add Emerald Lake)
  • Trailhead: Bear Lake Trailhead

The hike to Lake Haiyaha is an easy but scenic trail in Rocky Mountain National Park and is a great detour on the way to Emerald Lake. Starting from the Bear Lake Trailhead, the round trip distance to the lake is approximately 4 miles, but closer to 5 miles if you hike to all four lakes.

Lake Haiyaha - Rocky Mountain National Park

The trail is well-maintained and features gentle elevation gain, making it a great option for hikers looking for an easy hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. Along the way, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, as well as possible wildlife sightings, such as deer, elk, and birds.

Lake Haiyaha itself is a beautiful sight to behold, with crystal clear water surrounded by rugged rocks and towering trees. There are several spots around the lake to sit and take in the stunning views, or even dip your toes in the chilly water. If you’re up for a bit more adventure, there are also boulders to climb on and explore around the lake.

Ute Trail

  • Trail Distance: up to 8 miles; out and back
  • Trailhead: Alpine Visitor Center or Milner Pass

The Ute Trail is a 4 mile one way trail that links the Alpine Visitor’s Center at the top of Trail Ridge Road to Milner Pass below along the Continental Divide. The trail is safe and pretty easy to hike, however, the elevation gain is significant so some hikers may find the route challenging.

The appeal of this hike is the dramatic changes in the landscape at different elevations. The Ute Trail takes hikers on a journey through the alpine tundra with unmatched, open views and unique plants and wildlife, through the flowered meadows and fields of green, and also through dense forests of evergreens and jagged rocks.

Gorgeous Rocky Mountain hike: Ute Trail

Our family had two cars between us, so we parked one car at the top and another at the bottom and only hiked the downhill path. If you do not have two cars, these are your two options:

Starting at Milner Pass, you can choose to hike uphill for 4 miles to the top and then hike back down, or you can stick with a shorter distance and turn around earlier if you prefer. Hiking at least 3 miles is recommended to experience the alpine tundra rather than only staying in the forest and meadows.

Ute Trail alpine tundra

Alternatively, you can park at the Alpine Visitor’s Center, which allows you to begin by experiencing the alpine tundra first as you hike downhill for 4 miles (or less). The landscape above the tree line is remarkable, and you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views. However, if you don’t hike down far enough, you’ll miss the dense forested area with charming streams and wildflowers. Keep in mind that you’ll have to hike uphill on the way back.

Lake Irene

  • Trail Distance: 0.9 miles
  • Trailhead: Lake Irene Picnic Area

This hidden gem is known as Lake Irene. This tranquil alpine lake is the perfect destination for hikers of all levels, with a well-maintained trail that winds through dense forests, sweet streams, and green, lush plant life. This easy hike in Rocky Mountain National Park offers stunning views of the surrounding peaks and the opportunity to spot a variety of wildlife, including elk, deer, and even the occasional moose.

Lake Irene at sunset

The trail to Lake Irene is less than one mile roundtrip and is considered an easy hike, with just a slight incline. The trail begins with a .1 mile stretch that leads to the tranquil lake and then loops around the lake. Just past the lake is a side trail that leads a a beautiful meadow overlook before wrapping up and ending back at the trailhead. Less popular than some other hikes in the park, this hike should be peaceful and beautiful with less crowds.

Alluvial Fan

  • Trail Distance: 0.1 miles
  • Trailhead: Alluvial Fan Parking Lot

So, to be totally honest, this is not a hike. BUT, it is a really great stop that I wouldn’t want you to miss! Just a few minutes from the parking lot on a wide, paved path over the foot bridge is the beautiful Alluvial Fan that was created after a huge flood decades ago. The result is a beautiful cascade down the mountain where you can stroll the short path, boulder hop around the streams, or hike up the mountain to the top of the falls.

Rocky Mountain National Park Easy Hikes

Rocky Mountain National Park offers a variety of easy hikes that are perfect for visitors of all ages and skill levels. From scenic trails with breathtaking views of the mountains to peaceful walks through the forest, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can have an unforgettable experience exploring this incredible national park! Which hiking trail are you going to tackle first?


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