Photo Credit: Jared Gricoskie
11 Easy Estes Park Hikes for the Whole Family
Rocky Mountain National Park is a hiker’s park! To really experience it you have to head out on foot. It’s a place of stunning scenic beauty that is good for the soul.
Here are five easy hikes to get you started, plus a walk in town. Take time to stop, reflect, and enjoy the beauty that you’ll be surrounded with.
These first five hikes in the Park are gentle, close to flat, more accessible hikes for younger kids or adults getting used to the altitude.
Rocky Mountain National Park spans elevations from 7,650’ to the top of Longs Peak at 14,259’. If you’re a flatlander visiting from outside of the Rocky Mountains, you might find yourself a little short of breath as you start to hike. Why not start easy?
Hike .8 mi at elevation 8,690’ Iconic views across the lake of the Continental Divide peaks above Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Sprague Lake is peaceful and calm with sunrise light. Stop at the pier at the far end of the lake to take in the views.
Hike .6 mi at elevation 9,475’.
Very popular hike for spectacular views across this high mountain lake to the towering mountains above. Little elevation gain (71 ft), but several short steep spots on the Bear Lake trail that circles the lake.
Hike .8 mi at elevation 8,880’.
Stunning views of Longs Peak, Twin Sisters peaks, Estes Cone, and Mount Meeker.
Easy to access, just off Hwy 7, and doesn’t require going through an official park entrance.
Watch for birds in marshy areas.
Hike .3 mi at elevation 8,500’.
In Wild Basin, southeast section of RMNP.
Copeland Falls is not very tall or spectacular as waterfalls go, but is a short, easy hike along the North St. Vrain River that gets you out of the car.
The trail continues on to much more impressive Calypso Cascades (r/t 3.6 miles and 642 ft elevation gain).
Hike .8 mi at elevation 10,664’.
Great picnic spot during a day’s outing up Trail Ridge Road. Lake Irene trail is downhill, so remember that you’ll be climbing (115 ft) on the way out. Beautiful small lake and marshy meadow tucked into the forest.
In town, lakeside trail connects to downtown Estes Park via the Riverwalk. The 3.75 mile trail around the lake passes a bird sanctuary, wildflowers, elk on the golf course in the fall, fishing, boating, and bicycle rentals. Valley views and panoramas with benches for resting. Great spot for early morning and evening strolls. Leashed dogs welcome.
The next five hikes are a little harder because they are not flat, but they are relatively short and great for families with kids who are a little older:
Hike 1.6 mi at elevation 9,175’.
Very popular hike through the forest to a roaring waterfall. Elevation gain and gentle climb of 234 ft starting from the Glacier Gorge trailhead.
Kids – stay away from the edge!
Bierstadt Lake (from Bear Lake)
Hike 4 mi at elevation 9,475’.
Quiet forest hike to another beautiful lake with 290 ft elevation gain.
Continue downhill all the way to the Bear Lake Park and Ride (3.6 mi total) to make this a one-way hike if you’re using the RMNP Hikers Shuttle Bus.
Hike .5 mi at elevation 9,475’.
231 ft elevation gain to a tiny pond filled with Lily Pads and their big yellow flowers.
Turn around here, or continue up to Dream Lake and on to Emerald Lake.
Dream Lake and Emerald Lake
One of the most popular hikes in the Park for very good reason! 2.2 mi at elevation 9,475’ with uphill gain of 503 ft.
Views from the trail of Glacier Gorge and Glacier Basin and views from the lake of Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain.
Continuing on to Emerald Lake adds an additional 1.2 mi and 200 ft. elevation gain.
4.7 mi 802 ft gain at 8,080’ elevation.
Trail passes a series of ponds and marshy meadows where you can often spot wildlife. Turn around after the ponds, or continue up to the lake.
Locals Hiking Tips:
- Get a good hiking guidebook that explains the natural world you’ll be walking through.
- Sign your kids up for the Jr. Ranger Program. Great learning and keeps them busy.
- Start your hikes early to minimize crowds both on the trail and at the trailhead parking areas.
- Don’t be surprised by quickly changing mountain weather. Afternoon thundershowers with lightning are common in summer.