Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter is as rewarding as it is challenging. Road closures make many trails inaccessible during the winter (click here to check Rocky Mountain National Park road closures). But don’t worry, there’s still plenty to do and see along the maintained section of the park! Here are a few not-to-be-missed hikes to check out in Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter!
This 2.2-mile roundtrip hike leads you to the iconic Dream Lake. You know, that lake you picture when you think of Rocky Mountain National Park. The hike is Alltrails-rated as easy, but becomes more moderate to challenging in the winter (especially for those not used to the high altitude). Beginning at the Bear Lake parking lot, stay left at the trail entrance, towards the trail with the bridge, and follow the signs to Dream Lake.
You’ll follow a steady incline (425ft) up through the evergreens. During my visit in mid-February, the snow was packed enough that snowshoes weren’t needed, even after a recent snowstorm had passed through. I do however recommend using micro spikes for added traction, as it can be steep and slippery in parts (especially the last leg of the hike as you approach Dream Lake).
The 2.7-mile hike to Loch Lake (5.4-mi roundtrip, 1,072ft elevation gain) is definitely more of a challenge than Dream Lake, but the views and lack of crowds in the winter make this hike oh so worth it. It’s located off of the Glacier Gorge Trail, on the way to Sky Pond.
Adrenaline seekers, this one’s for you. Not for the faint of heart, this 9.4-mile hike has an elevation gain of 2,601ft! The rugged mountains that surround Chasm Lake and the solitude you’ll find here just add the the appeal. Make sure you bring your snowshoes for this one, as the snow can get deep and less packed down as you ascend.
We reached the frozen Alberta Falls on the Glacier Gorge Trail after deciding we didn’t have enough time before sunset to head all the way up to Loch Lake. We were pleasantly surprised by the lack of people in the winter and the ease of the hike. This is a great hike for children, as it’s a mere 1.6 miles long with only 252ft elevation gain. I brought my micro-spikes, but saw plenty of people hiking this one in just their snow boots in mid-February.
If you’re looking for an adventure and only have time to get one good, long hike in during your visit, I recommend this one. You pass Alberta Falls, The Loch, and the Lake of Glass. This 8.5 mile hike is just as strenuous as Chasm Lake. The elevation gain of the trail alone is 1,761ft, but expect to do more if you explore the numerous lakes and waterfalls along the way. You’ll also have to scramble up a waterfall at the end. It should be fully frozen by winter time, but can still be slippery so take it slow.
Upon reaching Sky Pond, you’ll be rewarded with some truly breathtaking views. The dramatic crags that surround the lake are out of this world! Definitely bring some micro-spikes or snowshoes for this one! The photo above is Sky Pond, whereas the photo below is of Lake of Glass, which you’ll pass just before arriving at Sky Pond and is just as breathtakingly beautiful.
The 3.6 mile hike up to Emerald Lake is filled with stunning views. On your way up, you’ll pass Nymph Lake (which will likely be covered with snow come mid-late winter), then Dream Lake, and finally up to Emerald Lake. The hike is moderate to challenging in the winter, with 698ft elevation gain. You’ll want to bring micro-spikes.
Other Notable Mentions: Bear Lake (0.6mi loop, flat), Nymph Lake (1.2-mi, 262ft), Sprague Lake (0.5-mi, flat), Bierstadt Lake (4.6 mi, 566ft)
Where To Stay
If you want a quiet, cozy place to retreat at night while hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter, look no further! I’ve compiled a list of hotels, condos, and airbnb’s in Estes Park to help you narrow down your search.
Estes Park Airbnb’s
I love how Airbnb’s feel like a home away from home. I much prefer them to hotels, and they have a variety of options, ranging from affordable private rooms, to luxury mansions. Here are a few adorable Airbnb’s near Estes Park to check out!
This adorable 1 bedroom cabin (pictured below) is located in downtown Estes Park. Rates range from $185-$340/night (depending on time of year).
We stayed in this beautiful Estes Park Condo below, and loved how it was located right on a river! We comfortably slept 6 people here. Rates start at $226/night.
If you’re looking for a more affordable option, this private room in Estes Park (below) will only run you about $60/night!
Hotels in Estes Park
If hotels are more your vibe, check these ones out!
Silver Moon Inn
The Silver Moon Inn is located right down town on a creek and has pretty affordable prices. You can get one of their basic rooms for about $145/night. Also, look at that waterfall by the pool!!
The Estes Park Resort
For a laid-back luxury feel, look no further than The Estes Park Resort. It’s located right on the water and has rooms from $160/night.
Della Terra Luxury Suites
For a luxury getaway, look no further than Della Terra. These beautiful luxury suites are touted as the creme de la creme of Estes Park lodging. Each of Della Terra’s fourteen suites are one of a kind. They feature luxuries such as see-through fireplaces, soaking tubs, balconies with private hot tubs, and walk-thru jetted showers. Prices range from $225-$495/night.
There you have it! I hope you found this post useful for planning your trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter!
Looking for more Colorado adventures? Check out these posts below:
- Great Sand Dunes National Park
- Top Three Sunset Hikes In Colorado Springs
- What To Do In Telluride In The Summer
- Maroon Bells: How To Avoid The Crowds At America’s Most Photographed Mountains
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Have you been to Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter? Have any other hiking recommendations? Drop a comment below!