Best Hikes Rocky Mountain National Park  by Kent Dannen

Best Hikes Rocky Mountain National Park Guide Book

by Kent Dannen (Falcon Guides)
Best Hikes Rocky Mountain National Park  by Kent Dannen
This guide describes 55 hikes ranging in distance from very short to my-feet-are killing-me. The hikes are scattered across one of America’s most popular national parks, averaging approximately 3 million visitors each year. (Do not despair; they do not all hike.) Each hike description begins with decision-making data to help you determine whether this hike is for you. Following a short overview, you’ll find where the hike starts, distance, average hiking time, difficulty, trail surface, elevation, the best season to make the hike, other trail users, whether you can bring your pet, whether a fee or permit is required, trail contacts for additional information, useful topo maps (in addition to the maps provided in this book), trail highlights, and wildlife you may encounter along the way.

© 2015 Kent Dannen/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Hikes Rocky Mountain National Park" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 55.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 55.

This is likely the most popular hike in the Grand Lake vicinity. East Inlet is at the West Portal, confusing to those uninitiated to water demands in Colorado. The inlet is where a creek enters the east side of Grand Lake; the West Portal of Adams Tunnel reverses the flow to east of the Continental Divide. You will not encounter this confusion again, so just ignore it. Adams Falls is an easy stroll along the initial stretch of the East Inlet Trail. Lucky coincidence oriented the falls so that the spray of falling water often refracts rainbows in sunny weather. To see a rainbow, orient yourself to view the falls with the sun at your back.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.6
The deservedly popular hike to Alberta Falls leads to one of the most frequently photographed waterfalls in Rocky Mountain National Park. No one turns off a faucet at Alberta Falls. Winter, however, does much reduce Glacier Creek’s glorious gush through a granite chute. Such is human fascination with moving water that easy access on a well-designed trail makes Alberta Falls one of the park’s most popular hiking goals. Do not romp from rock to rock around the falls, at least one fatality has occurred here.
Estes Park, CO - Cross-Country Skiing,Hiking,Horseback Riding,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 1.8
Lovely Calypso Cascades are named for the equally lovely calypso orchids that bloom nearby in July. According to ancient Greek legend as recorded in The Odyssey Calypso was a nymph who bewitched the voyager Odysseus into staying on her island for seven years while he was trying to get home from the Trojan War to his wife, Penelope. Modern travelers on Wild Basin trails likely do not face this hazard. If you are gone for seven years, something else is amiss.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.2
Balanced Rock does not convey an impression of stability; run to see it before it becomes unbalanced. Balanced Rock is one of the most remarkable of Lumpy Ridge lumps—an egg-shaped monolith perhaps 20 feet tall atop a relatively thin pillar of obviously less-substantial rock eroding from beneath it. Geologists describing time with numbers too long for anyone to really understand inform us that the balancing of Balanced Rock began some 40 million years ago when the top of Lumpy Ridge was a plain. Weather broke up rocks such as the base of Balanced Rock and decayed them into soil along deep fractures in the plain.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 7.8
This path perambulates along the perimeter of the park’s most popular lake.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.5
After a short climb, this walkway wanders through the woods to a uniquely formed lake. Bierstadt Lake sits atop Bierstadt Moraine. Actually, Bierstadt Moraine, a ridge more than 1 mile long between Hollowell Park and Glacier Basin, should be called Bierstadt Moraines, for two lateral moraines dumped along the sides of two glaciers of different ages are jammed parallel to each other. The older moraine is the northerly one, formed by glaciers that flowed from the high peaks from about 127,000 years ago until approximately 87,000 years ago (expert opinions vary). During this time of colder average annual temperature, the first half of Bierstadt Moraine formation began when prevailing east-blowing winds dumped snow to a depth of at least 250 feet on the east side of the Continental Divide.
Estes Park, CO - Cross-Country Skiing,Hiking,Horseback Riding,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 3
A lush trail passes the remains of historic structures while providing the variety of a loop hike.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 7
Black, Blue, and Green Lakes in the upper end of Glacier Gorge seem to imply that some unlucky nineteenth-century hiker was badly bruised from slipping on glaciersmoothed bedrock in the gorge before Enos Mills published an area map bearing these names in 1905. To me, Black does not appear noticeably darker than other lakes. Glacier Gorge is colorful far beyond some of its lakes’ names. Watered by Glacier Creek and its tributaries, meadows between Jewel and Black Lakes display abundant wildflowers with a much greater variety of hues than the surfaces of lakes set among spectacular cliffs. Where the trail branches 2.2 miles from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, the forest seems like a surviving remnant of the devastation of the 1900 forest fire that ravaged much of the area.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 10
Ouzels, chickadees, bluebirds—it’s a wonder that Wild Basin was not named Bird Basin.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 13
Meadows and aspen groves surround the way to a waterfall easy to imagine from its name. In spring, this may be the most interesting and spectacular waterfall in the national park. Waterfalls commonly have been named for a common item of wedding attire, so Rocky Mountain National Park also has its Bridal Veil Falls. It seems unfortunate that a name made mundane by overuse should label what may be the most unusual and interesting waterfall in the national park. No less dull would be The Falls or merely Waterfall. Bridal Veil Falls is doubly cursed by being formed by Cow Creek, a name saved from equal dullness only by alliteration. When bolstered by melting snow, Cow Creek bursts over a ledge and crashes into a basin whose form throws the water back into the air.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 6
The journey to Chasm Lake can be a life-changing experience, infecting national park visitors with a perpetual passion for hiking.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 8.4
Short and flat, this easy trail follows the Colorado River, allowing even wheelchairbound wilderness enthusiasts to enjoy trail experiences.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.6
This lake carved into the flank of Fairchild Mountain jostles musical ice crystals when surrounding snow and ice fields melt in summer. Standing on the shore of Crystal Lake, I have been delighted by the tinkling music of ice shards bumping against one another in the water, like crystals knocking together on a chandelier disturbed by wind through an open window. I do not know if something about the way glaciers plucked Crystal Lake’s deep basin from the flank of Fairchild Mountain causes its ice to melt into natural music. Perhaps this magic music occurs in other tarns on some days.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 15.4
A wildfire at the end of 2012 demonstrated nature’s ability to begin immediate recovery, which nonetheless requires centuries.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.3
Deer Mountain is aptly named, but hikers also enjoy expansive views of many higher mountains. Mule deer do seem to be unusually easy to spot on Deer Mountain, together with red deer, also called elk or wapiti. Red deer, however, is a European name, and elk were not so common on Deer Mountain in the 1880s, when the name appeared in Frederick Chapin’s book Mountaineering in Colorado. Doubtless, mule deer were the “red deer” named in Chapin’s book. Technically unimposing, Deer Mountain is fortuitously located for views of much higher peaks, from the Mummy Range around the Front Range to Longs Peak.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 6
It was not whim or hyperbole that caused a 1913 outing by the Colorado Mountain Club to select the name Dream Lake. Dream Lake exhibits unsurpassed spectacular beauty. It is the highlight of an easy but authentic hike, and the trip there is similarly beautiful. Of course this is the most popular hike in the national park. The Dream Lake Trail’s initial 0.5 mile of disintegrating asphalt ascends through lodgepole pine forest that grew after a devastating 1900 forest fire begun by picnickers who ignorantly believed that a campfire was an essential part of a visit to the wilds.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.2
Ascending past glacier-carved lakes, the track ends below dramatic cliffs encircling a timberline tarn.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.6
Estes Cone has several approaches. The shortest on public land begins at Longs Peak Trailhead. This approach also presents the most conical view of Estes Cone. Dating from at least as far back as the 1870s, the name Estes Cone has described the conical shape of the ninety-first highest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. The Arapaho lumped it with nearby prominences as Three Buttes. If it did not have such a distinctive shape (caused by erosion of an isolated mountain) when seen from the Tahosa Valley, Estes Cone, at only 11,006 feet, likely would have no name. But if well located, even the small can be important.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.6
If you manage to arrange transportation at both ends, this tundra/subalpine forest hike is a gentle, mostly downhill trail. If you place a car at Milner Pass along Trail Ridge Road and another 4 miles up the road at Fall River Pass, the hike between these two passes via Forest Canyon Pass is mostly downhill, one of the easiest and most pleasant in the national park. Beginning across the road from the Fall River Pass parking area, the grade is gentle on joints, with interesting beauty anywhere you look—at your feet, down to the Cache la Poudre River, or across to the Never Summer Range. Lacking a car at Milner Pass, you can turn back at Forest Canyon and enjoy the alpine tundra while returning to Fall River Pass, not an overwhelmingly steep ascent.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
This one-lane byway drops through three life zones and is closed to vehicles during much of the year, when it makes an excellent route for hikers.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 9