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Best Tips for the Hiking Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park

Emerald Lake in cloudy weather

Let’s put Colorado’s Rockies in Rocky Mountain National Park on your bucket list! This place is full of magic with its majestic peaks, tranquil alpine meadows, and a vibrant array of wildlife.

All of these make Rocky Mountain National Park an outstanding place to visit for hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers. But if you want to experience the charm of the Rockies, you have to take time to prepare adequately. Our tips cover everything from choosing the perfect trail to assessing weather conditions and packing essential gear. By following these tips, you can embark on a safe and enjoyable hiking adventure amidst the awe-inspiring wilderness of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Before planning 

When planning your hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the trail system. Understand the trail lengths, elevations, and unique features they offer to make informed choices. Consider your fitness level, the trail’s difficulty, elevation gain, distance, and terrain when selecting the perfect trail. Stay updated on trail conditions, closures, and restrictions by checking official sources and weather forecasts.

Remember that permits or passes may be necessary, including timed entry permits, so be sure to check requirements beforehand to ensure a smooth experience. Check out the rules, regulations, permits, and entrance fees on Rocky Mountain National Park’s official page!

Bear Lake Trailhead view in the summer

Photo by Peter Pryharski on Unsplash

Most popular trails

Among the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, several are particularly popular among visitors; but let’s see which are the ones you can’t miss out on!

Bear Lake Trail

Known for its accessibility and stunning views, this trail loops around Bear Lake and connects to other trails, offering various options for exploration. This is a fantastic place to visit even with a toddler, because you basically just walk around the lake on flat terrain! The only difficulty here can be getting the tickets during the summer and parking.

Emerald Lake Trail

A favorite among hikers, this trail takes you to the picturesque Emerald Lake, passing by stunning waterfalls and offering breathtaking mountain views. To take the whole Emerald Lake Trail, you have to come prepared because it is longer than the walk around the lake and has some tricky spots!

Overall this will be a moderate hike with fairly steady climbing the majority of the way up but it is worth the work because you get to explore Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake as well.

There is also a shorter trail around Emerald Lake that is easy for everyone and has lots of look-out stops, but be aware that there can be muddy spots on the road. If you want to experience the lake on a whole level, rent a canoe and row around the water. In the summertime, there can be a lot of fellow nature lovers around the lake, so it can be more peaceful to go there before or after the main season. 

Alberta Falls Trail

This is a mesmerizing and relatively easy trail with running streams and falls which leads to the beautiful Alberta Falls. Crampons and poles are recommended during your visit, but you can easily do it without this equipment. Even in May, it still has lots of snow and ice so prepare yourself for slippery roads. Sometimes it can be crowded- I mean, who doesn’t want to experience the beauty of nature?

A woman standing in front of Chasm Lake and Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park
Photo by alyssa teboda on Unsplash

Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge Trail

Glacier Gorge Trail is a hit among outdoor enthusiasts with its incredible landscapes and access to several stunning lakes, including Mills Lake, Sky Pond, and Loch Vale. This trail rewards hikers with breathtaking views of waterfalls, and high peaks, and culminates at the serene and awe-inspiring Sky Pond.

This hike is tough, but it is undoubtedly worth the effort. While not technically difficult, the incline sometimes can be quite challenging. It is advisable to have microspikes for better traction. The descent on Timberline Falls can be more treacherous for those with poor balance.

It is highly recommended to download a map, as there are a few spots where having it proved beneficial. Arriving early is also a good idea to avoid melting snow (it will still be there in May) and secure a parking spot. Despite the challenges, the hike offers breathtaking beauty and a peaceful experience.

One more tip for these trails: dogs aren’t allowed on these trails so this time you need to leave them at home.

Hiking gear from above

Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse on Unsplash

Essential Gear and Packing

To ensure your hike in Rocky Mountain National Park is both safe and enjoyable, it’s important to pack the appropriate gear and essentials. Consider our following tips!

Dress appropriately for changing weather conditions: As the park experiences diverse weather patterns, layering your clothing is key. Pack moisture-wicking base layers, insulating mid-layers, and a waterproof and windproof outer layer. Remember to include essential accessories such as a hat, gloves, and extra socks.

As you set foot in the diverse terrain of Rocky Mountain National Park, it’s essential to equip yourself with reliable gear. Opt for robust hiking boots that provide exceptional ankle support and reliable traction. Take the time to properly break them in to ensure optimum comfort during your adventure over uneven surfaces.

Don’t forget to prioritize hydration by carrying an ample water supply. Since water sources can be scarce along the trail, it’s crucial to have enough to keep you refreshed throughout your hike.

Additionally, pack energizing snacks to fuel your journey, along with vital tools such as a map or compass, a GPS device or smartphone with offline maps, a well-stocked first aid kit, and sunscreen to protect your skin from the elements.

Consider adding trekking poles and crampons to your arsenal, as they offer additional stability and support, particularly when traversing challenging terrains. With these preparations, you’ll be fully equipped to embark on a memorable hike through Rocky Mountain National Park’s captivating landscapes.

Safety Precautions and Trail Etiquette

If you’re ready to go, stay still a little more and ensure a safe and enjoyable hike in Rocky Mountain National Park with these essential tips:

  • Stay hydrated and watch for altitude sickness symptoms.
  • Respect wildlife and maintain a safe distance.
  • Practice trail courtesy and yield to fellow hikers.
  • Be prepared with emergency protocols and communication devices.
  • Educate yourself on responsible hiking practices and minimize your impact on the environment.

By following these guidelines, you’ll contribute to the preservation of the park’s natural beauty while having a memorable hiking experience.

Tips for an Enjoyable Hiking Experience

For an enjoyable hiking experience, keep some tips in mind.

  1. Beat the crowds and make the most of daylight by starting your hike early.
  2. Take regular breaks and pace yourself to maintain your energy levels.
  3. Capture memorable moments with photography.
  4. Immerse yourself in nature, engaging with your surroundings and savoring the beauty around you.


With Rocky Mountain National Park’s stunning landscapes, it’s time to embrace the journey while prioritizing safety and preserving the park’s beauty. Practice responsible hiking, minimize your impact on the environment, and leave no trace behind. Get ready for an unforgettable hiking experience in Rocky Mountain National Park. To have time for more than one trail, we recommend planning a week-long stay and finding a nice comfy lodging for yourself with cozycozy.

So, gear up, venture into the wilderness, and embark on your hiking adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park with a safety-conscious and mindful approach. Enjoy every step of the journey!

Cover Photo by Rachel Claire

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