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Jim OP | 04.27.2016

From its high glacial snow fields, rounded cirques, and jagged mountain peaks to its placid lakes and stunning montane forests, Rocky Mountain National Park is a territory of extraordinary beauty on a grand scale. The park encompasses over 400 square miles of Colorado’s Front Range, which juts up suddenly at the western edge of the Great Plains to create one of the most scenic and dramatic alpine areas in the country.

There are nearly 360 miles of hiking trails that range from very accessible to arduous and rewarding treks up to any number of incredible peaks within the park. It's hard to narrow it down, but here are a few ideal day hikes that will give you a great introduction to Rocky Mountain National Park. 

  1. Bear Lake Loop: Short 0.6-mile, family-friendly loop around Bear Lake in the heart of the park. Watch out for those sneaky tourists though. 
  2. The Pool + Cub Lake Loop: An easy 6.4-mile loop around Cub Lake and Fern Lake offering great views.
  3. Ute Trail to Timberline Pass: This 4-mile hike is not often crowded and offers great views of the alpine tundra.
  4. Chasm Lake Hike: An 11-mile there-and-back hike to an alpine gem, though the swimming holes are often crowded in the summer.
  5. Gem Lake via Lumpy Ridge: This 3.3-mile hike packs a punch, but it offers incredible views of the Front Range.
  6. Peak 12,150 Hike: Mount Ida's less-traveled neighbor offers 90% of the views with half the effort.
  7. The Loch Hike: The 4.5-mile round-trip hike to The Loch may be enough, but energetic hikers can continue another mile to Timberline Falls and a fairly steep climb further up to Glass Lake and Sky Pond. 
  8. Twin Sisters Peak Hike: Twin Sisters is a moderately difficult, 7.6-mile hike that provides exceptional views of Rocky Mountain National Park and the surrounding areas.
  9. Lily Lake Loop: A short family-friendly loop providing easy access to Jurassic Park.
  10. Lily Mountain: This hike is not within the park boundaries, but it offers expansive views of Rocky Mountain National Park.
  11. Lake Haiyaha Hike: This short 3.9 mile hike gets you just under the cliffs of the Continental Divide, with fewer crowds than at Dream and Emerald Lake.
  12. Sprague Lake Loop Hike: Oftern overlooked, the Sprague Lake Loop is an amazing place for kids, anglers, and those imagining the former setting of the park's original lodge.
  13. Nymph, Dream + Emerald Hike: By far the park's most popular hike!... and for good reason, the views are jaw-dropping, so too are the constant flow of tourists during the peak season.
  14. Alpine Ridge Trail Hike: A short 0.6 mile jaunt up from the Alpine Visitor Center, you'll never again have to put in so little effort to make it up to 12,000 feet.
  15. Ouzel Falls Hike: This 5.5 mile hike gets you into the often overlooked and serene backcountry of the Wild Basin southeastern portion of the park with countless waterfalls and cascades.

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