Best Hikes In Rocky Mountain National Park

The Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is an overnight hiker’s dream. However, not everybody has the time or the body for that. Thankfully, the Rocky Mountain National Park is also excellent for day hikes. They have so many that the choices can feel overwhelming. Thankfully, we’ve scouted out the best of the best for you to enjoy.

The best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park have stunning views, lakes, or even a waterfall to enjoy. They have routes for hard-core hikers, like Longs Peak. They also have wheelchair-accessible trails, such as Alluvial Fan Hike. Some trails are less than a mile, others over 10. 

Rocky Mountain National Park is incredibly popular, which means some trails are high traffic. The social buzz thrills some people, but for others, this is a downside to the park. Thankfully, there are some great options that attract fewer feet. They also provide a list of accessible hikes and areas for disabled visitors. But before you go, reserve your space in the park.  

11 Best Rocky Mountain National Park Day Hikes

Most day hikes in the Rocky Mountain National Park do not require reservations or special permits, unlike overnight adventures. However, due to the park’s overwhelming popularity, there is sometimes a need to book ahead to gain entrance. At present, the park is piloting a timed entry system during popular times of the year.

When booking, you will have to decide which permit fits your needs, as both choices have pros and cons. It’s really about which hikes you are most eager to do. For some, Bear Lake is a must-see. Others would rather give that up for the privilege of having access to most of the park.

Our top 11-day hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park have been selected from both permit areas. Once you have an idea of which hikes fit your skill level and scenic desires, it will be easier to know which reservation to make. Whatever you choose from our list, it will be breathtakingly beautiful and a day to remember.

1 – Alberta Falls: Rocky Mt. Day Hikes

  • Distance: 1.7 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Estimated Time: 1 – 1.5

Alberta Falls is the perfect choice for waterfall lovers who don’t want to hoof it all day. While you do have to hike uphill, it isn’t to the steep and taxing degree of others, such as the Alpine Ridge Trail. A very satisfying route.

2 – Alluvial Fan Hike: Rocky Mt. Day Hikes

  • Distance: .5 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy and wheelchair accessible
  • Estimated Time: 30 min.

Alluvial Fan may not be long, but it is stunning come autumn with all its glorious fall color. It is also well-positioned for some beautiful scenery.

3 – Bear Lake: Rocky Mt. Day Hikes

  • Distance: .7
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Estimated Time: 60 min.

Bear Lake is on some people’s bucket list of must-see sights due to the lake and its scenic views. This is also one of the park’s more accessible trails. Unfortunately, this does mean there will be a lot of people in this area. Thus, give yourself plenty of time, even if you are a fast and fit walker, as the crowds will slow you.

It is fully accessible .1 miles in either direction around the lake. It is most accessible for the entire stretch, but areas will be too steep for wheelchairs.

4 – Boulder Brook: Rocky Mt. Day Hikes

  • Distance: 4.6 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Estimated Time: 2-3 hours

Boulder Brook is an often-overlooked trail, making it perfect for those who prefer to avoid the crowds. The route follows a charming creek for most of the way. But this trail really comes into its own in autumn, when it bursts out the fall colors.

5 – Chasm: Rocky Mt. Day Hikes

  • Distance: 9 miles
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Estimated Time: 4 – 6

This incredible hike is tough, but most not only say it is worth it but one of their all-time favorites. It is also the perfect alternative to Longs Peak if you are an excellent hiker but lack the climbing experience required for the other. Nonetheless, you’ll still ascend 2,500 feet and be treated to breathtaking scenery.

6 – Continental Divide Trail To Mt. Ida: Rocky Mt. Day Hikes

  • Distance: 9.8
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Estimated Time: 4.5 – 6.5 hours

Being able to say you’ve walked along the continental divide is pretty special if you don’t live near it. But even if you do, this one is worth the effort because most of the hike is high above the tree line, so the views are constantly blowing you away. Do note you do need to do this one before the afternoon thunderstorms roll in, so start early.

7 – Longs Peak Hike – Rocky Mt. Day Hikes

  • Distance: 14.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Experienced Hikers with climbing experience only
  • Estimated Time: 7-12 hours

Longs Peak, via the Keyhole Route, takes people up to the highest peak in the park. Thus, hikers rise 5,000 feet to reach the top. To say this isn’t an easy hike and climb is an understatement. Half the people who attempt it fail, and many people have died.

You need to start around 2 am to safely do this one, as thunderstorms roll in come the afternoons, and you will be the tallest target for lightning to strike. So, while this is a bucket-list hike for some, with incredible views, don’t try it if this is your first outdoor climb.

8 – Nymph, Dream & Emerald Lake: Rocky Mt. Day Hikes

  • Distance: 3.2 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Estimated Time: 2-3 hours

This is family-friendly hike is incredibly popular as it takes you to Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake in just over three miles. However, you do gain about 700 feet in elevation, making it good practice for those adjusting to the altitude. Thanks to the lakes, it is incredibly pretty, and at Dream Lake, you’ll have a fantastic view of Flattop Mountain.

9 – Odessa Lake & Fern Lake: Rocky Mt. Day Hikes

  • Distance: 7.5 – 10 miles, route depending
  • Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult
  • Estimated Time: 3-7 hours

Odessa and Fern Lakes are pretty, although not as stunning as Sky Pond. But it is a nice low-traffic trail to take with plenty of scenery, taking you up a good 1,500 feet. This is especially a good one to include on your list if you are visiting for more than a few days and doing multiple hikes.

10 – Sky Pond: Rocky Mt. Day Hikes

  • Distance: 9.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Estimated Time: 4 – 6 hours

Sky Pond is one of the most beloved day hikes in the park. Sky Pond is gorgeous; the fabulous scenic views are ever-changing and has stream crossings along with a scramble up a waterfall. However, despite how much people rave about this hike, the time it takes and the level of difficulty does thin the crowd. For many, that is absolutely perfect.

11 – Ute Trail To Tombstone Ridge: Rocky Mt. Day Hikes

  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Estimated Time: 1.5 – 3 hours

This is a spectacular option if you have less than half the day to hike or want to fit in a second. The fantastic scenery and brilliant views pretty much start as soon as your boots begin to move. Consequently, if you are pushed for time, just start the hike and see as much as you can before having to turn around. It’s worth it.