With over 350 miles of hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, you can’t go wrong with hiking in Estes Park. From nature loop strolls around Bear Lake, Sprague Lake and Lily Lake to the daylong effort of climbing Flattop Mountain or Longs Peak, there’s something for everyone.
Many of our guests at Alpine Trail Ridge Inn want to know "What is the best trail?" The answer to that question is, "The one that suits you the best." Some people love the cool rippling water of the many lakes in our area, others want to make sure they see a waterfall or spend time by the river, while others frown on any trail that does not lead to a summit.
If you arrive in Estes Park with some daylight left, test your mountain legs with a stroll around one of our "roadside" lakes. Bear Lake, Sprague Lake and Lily Lake all have fairly level 1 mile nature loops around each lake. They each have a parking lot within a short distance, Bear Lake and Sprague Lake being on Bear Lake Road and Lily Lake on Hwy 7. These are also great places for an evening stroll.
For the "lake hikers" the Emerald Lake trail is a good starter hike. It is 1.8 miles to the lake and then of course 1.8 miles back. On the way you will see Nymph Lake at .5 miles from the trailhead then Dream lake at .7 miles past Nymph Lake. For a less travelled trail take a turn at Dream Lake and venture up to Lake Haiyaha (meaning Lake of Many Rocks). The trail between these two lakes offers some panoramic views.
After the first day of hiking, your room at Alpine Trail Ridge Inn will welcome you with a piping hot shower and a little rest to revive you for a nice dinner and a stroll around town.
Now that you have acclimated a bit, venture out on a longer trail. Mills Lake, The Loch, Cub Lake and Fern Lake are all good options. Deer Mountain is a bit more strenuous but gives some panoramic views.
A drive to the top of Trail Ridge Road offers some short trails to lookout points as well as the longer Ute Trail. Walk a path that was taken for many generations by the Ute Indian Tribe as they migrated to the Estes Valley for the summer.
There are many resources to help plan your hikes in advance however, making choices after you arrive works just as well. An excellent resource is the Trail Tracks Hiking map. The maps are very visual so you can see which trails lead to lakes and which trails lead to a summit. The back of the maps are loaded with information regarding points-of-interest, distance, elevation gain, level of difficulty, as well as what to take in your day pack, the signs of altitude sickness, weather, safety and more.
Fran Grooters, yep that's the same Fran you see standing next to her husband Jay on the homepage of this website, co-authored Trail Tracks Hiking maps with her business partner and hiking buddy Joan Van Horn. Fran and Joan have hiked hundreds of miles and hundreds of hours together and continue to do so each week.
When planning your hiking trip, there are a few things to keep in mind. You will probably be able to cover a mile in about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Trails above 10,000 feet may still have snow through the middle of June or first of July. We often get an afternoon mountain shower so if possible get up and get started early. Most hikers are on the trail by 10am so if you start at 8am (or earlier), you'll be ahead of the crowd. Early morning is also a good time to view wildlife.
If you plan to hike some of the peaks, especially Long's Peak, start with a shorter hike and build to the "peak hikes". Coming from lower elevations you may be surprised at how your body reacts to the altitude (that includes you youngsters). If your plan is an all out week of hiking extravaganza, you may want to get your leg, lung and heart muscles used to the cardio fun before you arrive.
The need to acclimate to the mountain altitudes can affect your decision on where to hike. Always pay attention to your body. If you feel like you can't go further, don't!! The dry mountain air will evaporate the moisture from your body. You may not even sweat!! Dehydration and altitude sickness can ruin your vacation. Drink plenty of water, get plenty of rest, eat healthy, and get acclimated.
Don’t forget the sunscreen!!
To make reservations for your stay at Alpine Trail Ridge Inn call 1-800-233-5023 or book online. Come and stay with us, get information on the trails, then go have fun!