Rocky Mountain National Park is one of my favorite Parks in the whole country! There’s just something about Colorado that fills my soul with peace. So, taking my boys to Rocky Mountain National Park was very high on my adventure list.
Before we visited RMNP, my boys had only done a few hikes here and there. This Park actually created a new love of hiking for our entire family. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I wanted to see picturesque scenery and I wanted some beautiful family photos of our adventures! We got all of that and more, so keep reading below to learn about the best hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park for kids!
Click here for my best tips for hiking for kids!
The Best Hiking Trails in RMNP
Most of our favorite trails are in the Bear Lake Corridor, I’ll touch on this more below.
If I only had one day in the Park, the next three hikes would be on my list!
Nymph Lake – To access this hike, the trailhead starts at Bear Lake. This trail is only about a one mile out & back hike and is generally considered a fairly easy route. The Lilly pads were our favorite feature at this lake! If you keep going along this trail around the lake, you will end up at Dream Lake, which is my next favorite stop in RMNP!
Dream Lake – Dream Lake truly is a dream! It’s close to a mile past Nymph Lake, so a total of 1.9 miles out & back from the trailhead at Bear Lake. There are a lot of flat rocks around the lake, so we found a spot and had some snacks and a quick rest before venturing on to Emerald Lake, which is breathtaking!
Emerald Lake – This trail is the absolute best! It’s about three miles out & back from the trailhead at Bear Lake. If you plan to make this hike, you will see Nymph Lake and Dream Lake along the way! We actually combined all three of these trails into one day of hiking and it only took us about 3.5 hours to complete! I would rate this entire three mile trail as moderate, but it was definitely easy enough for my boys to hike without complaining! The views along the entire way are absolutely amazing!
Alberta Falls – Alberta Falls is a beautiful hike to a beautiful waterfall! You definitely don’t want to miss this one. The trail to the falls is 1.6 miles out & back and only takes about an hour or so. It’s a little harder on the way back in than on the way out. My boys not only loved the waterfall, but they loved all the chipmunks in the area around the falls. This one also starts in the Bear Lake Corridor. We hiked the first three trails (Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes) on our first day in the Park and then hiked Alberta Falls on the second day. I’m not sure my boys could’ve combined all four trails into one day but it is an option if you have limited time here!
Lake Haiyaha – This is probably the most gorgeous lake I’ve ever seen in person, but the trail to get to it is super tough. It’s about two miles of walking up a mountain and then scrambling over large boulders to reach the water. The total trail is about 4 miles out & back and is considered a challenging hike. Currently, the water is this amazing shade of blue caused by a recent rock slide last summer! If your kids can handle getting to the top and like climbing on rocks, then you should go for it! The hike back down is very easy since it’s all downhill!
Easier Trails in RNMP
Sprague Lake Loop – If you want the chance to see a moose, then be sure to add a visit to Sprague Lake to your day! This is the easiest trail, it’s more of a loop around the lake. It’s on flat ground and is less than a mile. There’s even benches and different areas to sit down and take in the landscape! We arrived right around 4:30 and saw a moose and her baby within fifteen minutes! It was the highlight of the trip for sure! We hiked to Alberta Falls first and then ended our day at Sprague Lake. This area is also a great place to watch the sunrise or sunset!
Bear Lake – This is the first lake you will encounter on the trails at Bear Lake. It’s also an easy loop around the lake and is less than a mile around. We only spent about fifteen minutes here before hiking on to Emerald Lake. If you want to see beautiful scenery without much hiking, then this is the place to be!
Colorado River Trail – This is one of the only trails that we hiked that wasn’t in the Bear Lake Corridor. We definitely prefer the Bear Lake area, but if you’re unable to get a permit to enter (more info. below), then I suggest driving along Trail Ridge Road and then hiking this trail! The entire loop is about 4.2 miles, but we only hiked about half of that before turning around. The part we did was very easy and flat. The boys liked walking across the river on downed trees and we saw a lot of cool animal tracks in the mud here!
General Information About RMNP
- Rocky Mountain National Park Website
- Address: 1000 US Hwy 36, Estes Park, CO 80517
- Phone: (970) 586-1206
- Annual Visitors: 4.5 Million
Timed-Entry Permit Details
Rocky Mountain National Park now requires a timed-entry permit to enter the Park from May 26, 2023 through October 22, 2023. Always check out the NPS websites, which include valuable information, closures, webcams, etc. There are two separate areas of the Park, Bear Lake Corridor and “the rest of the Park”. Kind of confusing right, especially for first-timers! So, hopefully I can break this down for you in an easier way. Timed-entry permits are available on the first of the month for the following month, so I got our permits on June 1st for our July trip. They are $2 for each day that you want to enter, plus you have to pay the park entrance fee once at the gate & I believe this is $35 for the week. The Park only releases a certain amount of permits each day and hold a couple hundred that go live at 5:00 pm for the following day. So, for example, if I wanted tickets for July 15th I could go online (on the Park’s website) on July 14th at 5:00 pm and TRY to get tickets for the following day. But these tickets go fast, so you need to be online and logged in to your account for a quick purchase. Click here for the website to get your timed-entry permit! Bear Lake Corridor is the area of the Park that we enjoyed the most. I highly suggest getting your timed-entry reservations for this area as soon as they are released!
There are a couple of different entrances to get into the Park, we always used the Beaver Meadows entrance coming in from Estes Park, it is very close to the Bear Lake Corridor Entrance. You will need timed-entry permits for all entrances. When you enter here, you can drive along Trail Ridge Road from one end of the park to another, roughly 45 miles I believe. The views are stunning and there are several different areas to pull over and park to check out views or hike trails. You can get a Park map at the entrance and everything is nicely marked off with signs. I highly recommend driving this road at least once on your visit! We found so many neat places to stop for photos and some really great trails with short hikes! Make sure you have a full tank of gas if you plan to drive this road!
If you have any questions about visiting RMNP, please don’t hesitate to reach out! I am happy to help you plan an epic adventure, just leave a comment and I will get back to you!
Happy Trails, my friends!