Rocky Mountain National Park
Colorado is home to drastic landscapes, charming mountain towns, craft breweries, and ski resorts. Rocky Mountain National Park is a large national park dedicated to North America’s famous Rocky Mountains!
Rocky Mountain National Park was established in 1915 and now covers roughly 265,500 acres. It welcomes over four million visitors a year and is one of the highest national parks in altitude in the country!
There are a few great ways to see Rocky Mountain National Park. You can drive through the park along Trail Ridge Road. This scenic drive takes you from Estes Park to Grand Lake, through the mountains. The drive is roughly 50 miles and can take two hours, if you do not stop. However, there are plenty areas to stop and take in the scenery.
Another great way to see the park is by hiking. Some hikes are only a few miles, requiring a half day, other hikes require an overnight stay within the Rockies. One of the most popular hiking trials is the Emerald Lake Trail. Begin your hike at Bear Lake, an alpine lake resting at the lowest elevation of the walk. You will then hike 3.7 miles return at a moderate incline. The hike is moderately demanding, as there are generally areas of snow and a couple of small wooden bridges to cross. Your hike will take you past Nymph Lake, a small lake, and the only lake in the park where you’ll find lily pads. Continue onwards toward Dream Lake, where you can stop for a rest while you admire the nature and appreciate that you are over half way there! Then, continue onwards to Emerald Lake, a picturesque lake with the incredible Rocky Mountains in the background!
From Emerald Lake, you have a couple options. You can head straight back to Bear Lake or you can continue your hike through Glacier Creek to Storm Pass Trail, roughly four miles from Emerald Lake.
If you are visiting early in the morning, you may get lucky and find a parking spot at the Bear Lake Trailhead, however spaces are limited. When you enter the park from Estes Park, you will see many parking lots offering a free shuttle service. This shuttle will take you to Bear Lake and back. If you are visiting any later than opening, we would suggest parking at one of the parking lots along the way!
A fee is required to enter the park, but it is included in the National Parks and Federal Lands Pass.
Visit the National Parks Service official website to help plan your visit!