Ways to Make
Rocky Mountain National Park
Due to the worldwide pandemic, please check for destination travel restrictions prior to visiting/booking
The Alpine Visitor Center
A "Must Do" stop along the Trail Ridge Road at 12,000 feet of elevation. Here you will find the highest facility of its kind in the National Park System.
Also accessible from the Visitor Center Parking Lot is Milner Pass. Hike as far as you want and then turn around. The trail goes 4.1 miles from the Visitor Center to Poudre Lake. We hiked 1.5 miles down, saw wildlife, walked over snow and enjoyed the view before turning around and heading back up. Without the elevation this hike would be considered easy, but we weren't yet acclimated to the altitude so we were a little winded.
Mills Lake Hike
5.6 mi RT
This "Must Do" family favorite hike also starts at the very crowded Bear Lake parking area and includes a waterfall. The first picture is Bear Lake which is a slight detour from the starting point of the hike.
This hike starts downhill so it seems easy at first. You are treated to Alberta Falls less than a mile into the hike. It then continues steadily uphill with stunning views in the Glacier Gorge and surrounding Mountains. There are a few junctions on this trail, keep following the hike to Mills Lake. We did extend the hike to Jewel Lake but did not find that it offered better views so we went back to Mills Lake, found a beautiful rock outcropping and put our feet in the water. For one second. It was really cold.
There is an option to park at the Glacier Gorge parking area but it is very small and was packed, even early on a cool morning in the clouds and mist. On the return hike you can stop at Glacier Gorge and take the shuttle back to Bear Lake to avoid the final uphill climb but we didn't find it to be too difficult.
0.15 mile hike to a waterfall wash out caused by the eruption of the Lawn Lake Dam. There were plenty of places to get close to the water and stop for a snack or picnic.
Alpine Ridge Trail
Starting at the Alpine Visitor Center, hike up the 1/4 mile steep, windy and cold Alpine Ridge Trail for 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains. Take your time, it's called "Huffer's Hill" for a reason!
Emerald Lake Hike
3.0 mi RT
This starts at the very crowded Bear Lake parking area and includes three lakes. The first Lake is Nymph Lake, if you are there early you can see Hallet Peak reflected in the lake. Then you hike along Dream Lake before reaching Emerald Lake. This hike had snow scrambles and bridge crossings and quickly became a family favorite. The only technical parts were on the steep snow.
0.8 mi loop around the lake
This trail is flat and easy, offering views of Lily Lake from all angles. We did this as part of a ranger hike and learned about the wildlife of the surrounding area. The kids enjoyed seeing mud puppies in the lake, something none of us had seen before. They are a salamander species.
This trail has its own parking lot across from what used to be the Lily Lake Visitor Center.
Camp at Moraine Park Campground
We Stayed at Moraine Campground, Site D147. It had great views of Long's Peak and a large rock that the girls spent hours playing on and around. We actually liked the site next to us, site 149, better with the shared bear box right at their site and unobstructed views. Site 151 had a great site with beautiful views, particularly at sunset, however it had a little hike to get to their site. We thought site A66 was nice as well.
Sprague Lake was easily accessible although the parking lot was crowded. We were not overly impressed with the views, however this was in comparison to Emerald Lake and Mills Lake.
We spent one night in Steamboat Springs on our way to the Rockies. We ate at a great restaurant called Rootz Cafe - look for that if you are in the area!