1.) Lily Lake – The Lily Lake Loop is a great hike for the entire family! A well-kept, flat trail winds .75 miles around Lily Lake, with several other trails leading off from the main path for those interested in a more challenging day. There are several places to stop along the loop for a picnic, and you might even be visited by some of the cutest little chipmunks as you get your lunch ready! Lily Lake is just over 6 miles south of Estes Park on Highway 7, with a well-marked parking lot conveniently located just off the highway… This trail is wheelchair accessible and offers some truly stunning views of Longs Peak and the surrounding mountains as you wander around the loop.
2.) Bear Lake – This is one of the most popular destinations in Rocky Mountain National Park, and for good reason: the views here are some of the best in the whole of the park! The trail around Bear Lake is .8 miles, and almost every turn of the path offers another chance to stop and take in some truly stunning views. From Bear Lake, you can also access trails that lead to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, and Lake Haiyaha. If you’re feeling ambitious, we recommend starting early and visiting all of the lakes; each is a wonder all its own. Due to the popularity of the Bear Lake Trail in the summertime, you might want to consider using the free park shuttle to save yourself the trouble of finding a parking spot.
3.) Gem Lake – A 3.5-mile round-trip perfect for those wanting a shorter, slightly more challenging hike, the Gem Lake trail begins and ends at the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead off of Devil’s Gulch Road. With beautiful views of Longs Peak and the Rockies all along your way to the lake itself, this hike is an Estes Park classic. If you want to make a full day of your hike, the Lumpy Ridge loop continues past Gem Lake, looping around the Cow Creek and the Black Canyon Trails. This option is 10.7 miles in all, so be prepared!
4.) Sprague Lake – The second wheelchair-accessible trail on the list is just as amazing as the first! It’s an easy walk, but it offers some of the best views of the continental divide anywhere in Rocky Mountain National Park!
5.) Andrews Tarn & Andrews Glacier – For those of you looking for a more challenging adventure, this is the one for you! Andrews Tarn sits just over 11,000 feet above sea level, fed by the runoff from the Andrews Glacier. On the 4.6 mile hike to the Tarn, you’ll be gaining over 2000 feet in elevation, so make sure to take your time and bring plenty of water! If you’re a more advanced hiker, you can continue past the southern edge of the lake and make your way to the Glacier itself! The trail starts at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead off of Bear Lake Road in the Park; follow the Loch Vale Trail past Alberta Falls and the Loch, and make sure to bring plenty of snacks for the journey!
Photos by Visual Poetry
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