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Colorado Backpacking Trails - RMNP

Backpacking Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park

Here's a list of the best backpacking trails for shorter backpacking trips in Rocky Mountain National Park.  See Multi-Day Hikes for longer trips, and Backcountry for wilderness backpacking.

Timber Lake
Timber Lake
4.8 miles
Elev. Gain 2060 ft
moderate
Trailhead

The hike to Timber Lake travels through dense forest and crosses several creeks, and uses the flank of Jackstraw Mountain. The rugged terrain of the lake hides the summit of Mount Ida. 5 backcountry sites along the Timber Lake trail.

Lawn Lake Trail
Lawn Lake Trail
6.2 miles
Elev. Gain 2447 ft
moderate
Trailhead
Horse Trail

The Lawn Lake trail climbs to a pair of beautiful alpine lakes (Lawn Lake and Crystal Lake) along the course of the Roaring River. The river shows the massive damage caused by a dam failure in 1982 that claimed the lives of three campers. A strenuous snowshoe in the winter. 5 backcountry sites along the trail before the Lake.

Fern Lake
Fern Lake
3.8 miles
Elev. Gain 1375 ft

Pass the famous Arch Rock formations, The Pool, and the cascading water of Fern Falls. A gorgeous lake with views of the Continental Divide (Little Matterhorn and Notchtop Mountain). It is a heavily used area. 2 backcountry sites near the Lake, and 2 closer to the trailhead. More on Fern Lake trail...

Finch Lake
Finch Lake
4.5 miles
Elev. Gain 1442 ft
moderate
Trailhead
Horse Trail

Great fall color hike through a variety of landscapes, including regrowth from a 1978 burn. Tranquil lake with Copeland Mountain as a backdrop. 2 backcountry sites.  More on Finch Lake trail...

Sandbeach Lake
Sandbeach Lake
4.2 miles
Elev. Gain 1971 ft
moderate
Trailhead
Horse Trail

From Copeland Lake, this trail is a steep hike through Copeland Moraine, requiring significant effort due to the steepness of the trail. The lake itself provides a pretty end to the trail. 6 backcountry sites.

Ouzel Lake
Ouzel Lake
4.9 miles
Elev. Gain 1510 ft
moderate
Trailhead
Horse Trail

Lightning strike started a large fire in 1978, unique landscape 1 backcountry site.

Thunder Lake
Thunder Lake
6.8 miles
Elev. Gain 2074 ft
moderate
Trailhead
Horse Trail

Great base area for exploring stunning scenery. 3 backcountry sites.

Allenspark Trailhead — Region 5 - South side, known for waterfalls & backcountry

Southern-most trailhead along Hwy 7.  Joins Finch Lake trails.  Parking area is too small for horse trailers - park on the east side of the road.

Horse Trails
Alpine Visitor Center Trailhead — Region 2 - Alpine, known for spectacular vistas

Near the top of Trail Ridge Road (Hwy 34) at the Alpine Visitor Center. Trailheads are located on the East side of Trail Ridge Road, across from the Visitor Center, and from the parking lot.

Ranger Station
Bear Lake Trailhead — Region 4 - Heart of the Park, known for easy access & great views

At the end of Bear Lake Road, 9.5 miles from the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center.  During summer, Shuttle Bus is highly recommended.  Although the parking lot at the trailhead is large, it fills up early in the day during summer.  Elevation: 9.475 ft.

Ranger Station
Picnic Area
Shuttle Bus Stop
Fishing Access
Bierstadt Lake — Region 4 - Heart of the Park, known for easy access & great views

Along Bear Lake Road after Sprague Lake, across from the Storm Pass trailhead.

Shuttle Bus Stop
Bowen/Baker Trailhead — Region 1 - West Side, known for moose & big meadows

About 6.5 miles north(east) of the Grand Lake entrance on Highway 34.

Picnic Area
Fishing Access
Chapin Pass Trailhead — Region 2 - Alpine, known for spectacular vistas

Near the top of Old Fall River Road. About 6.5 miles from Endovalley on the right side (open only in summer, limited parking).  Access to 2 backcountry sites.

Colorado River Trailhead — Region 1 - West Side, known for moose & big meadows

On the west side of Trail Ridge Road across from the Timber Lake Trailhead, about 9.6 mi north (east) of Grand Lake Entrance Station.  Hwy 34 closes here in winter.  Access to 9 backcountry sites.

Picnic Area
Fishing Access
Horse Trails
Cow Creek Trailhead — Region 3 - North side, known for wilderness escape

Cow Creek trailhead is near the historic McGraw Ranch, at the end of McGraw Ranch Road, which can be found north of Estes Park off Devils Gulch Road (Limited parking). R off US34 on MacGregor Ave. 3.5 mi. then L on McGraw Ranch Rd. 2.5 mi. to end. Access to 12 backcountry sites along the northern boundary of the Park, and 2 closer in along the Cow Creek trail.

Coyote Valley — Region 1 - West Side, known for moose & big meadows

South of Bowen/Baker and north of Onahu Creek trailheads on Hwy 34, about 5.6 mi. north(east) of the Grand Lake Entrance Station.

Cub Lake Trailhead — Region 4 - Heart of the Park, known for easy access & great views

From Bear Lake Road, turn R toward Moraine Park Campground; after .7 mi. turn L and follow signs to Cub Lake Trailhead .  Access to 1 backcountry site.

Shuttle Bus Stop
Horse Trails
Deer Ridge Trailhead — Region 3 - North side, known for wilderness escape

From Park Headquarters at Beaver Meadows, drive 4.5 miles on Highway 36 to roadside parking on the R at the Deer Ridge Trailhead, just before Junction with Highway 34. 

East Inlet Trailhead — Region 1 - West Side, known for moose & big meadows

Located at the east end of Grand Lake.  From Highway 34, head east on 278 towards Grand Lake for .3 mile, bearing left at all forks until you reach the East Inlet trailhead parking lot.  Access to 8 backcountry sites.

Fishing Access
Horse Trails
East Portal Trailhead — Region 4 - Heart of the Park, known for easy access & great views

Follow Highway 66 past the YMCA about 1 mi. to its end at East Portal.  Park in the small day use parking area about 100 yds before the road ends.  Access to 3 backcountry sites.  Easy turn-around for horse trailers, with space for 1-2 trailers.

Horse Trails
East Shore Trailhead — Region 1 - West Side, known for moose & big meadows

West of Grand Lake, L onto CO 66. After 1 mi., L into the campground.  Drive toward the lake and turn right into the next campground and park at the Shadow Mountain Dam. 

Picnic Area
Fishing Access
Horse Trails
Fern Lake Tailhead — Region 4 - Heart of the Park, known for easy access & great views

From Bear Lake Road, turn right toward Moraine Park Campground, then left after .7 mi. to the end of the road at Fern Lake parking.  Access to 6 backcountry sites.

Fishing Access
Finch Lake Trailhead — Region 5 - South side, known for waterfalls & backcountry

About 1,000 feet east of the bridge that crosses North St. Vrain Creek to Wild Basin Ranger Station. Wild Basin is about 12.5 miles south of Estes Park on Highway 7.  Access to 5 backcountry sites.

Glacier Gorge Trailhead — Region 4 - Heart of the Park, known for easy access & great views

Less than 1 mile before Bear Lake along Bear Lake Road. SMALL parking lot. Shuttle bus is highly recommended in summer.  Access to 2 backcountry sites.

Shuttle Bus Stop
Fishing Access
Green Mountain Trailhead — Region 1 - West Side, known for moose & big meadows

Located on the west side of the park on US 34, 2.8 mi. north (east) of the Grand Lake Entrance Station.  Northern access to the Continental Divide trail loop through the Park,

Horse Trails
Hollowell Park Trailhead — Region 1 - West Side, known for moose & big meadows

R at Hollowell Park turn-off, about 3.5 miles south on Bear Lake Road.  Shuttle Bus recommended. Access to 2 backcountry sites.  Parking is challenging for horse trailers.

Picnic Area
Shuttle Bus Stop
Horse Trails
Kawuneeche Trailhead — Region 1 - West Side, known for moose & big meadows

Located on the west side of the park on US 34,  Kawuneeche Visitor Center.

Ranger Station
Picnic Area
Lake Estes Trailhead — Region 3 - in Estes Park

Join the Lake Estes trail and the Downtown Riverwalk trail from behind the Visitor Center on Big Thompson Avenue.

Shuttle Bus Stop
Lawn Lake Trailhead — Region 3 - North side, known for wilderness escape

About .5 mile north of Highway 34 past the Endovalley picnic area along Old Fall River Road.  Access to 5 backcountry sites.

Lily Lake Trailhead — Region 5 - South side, known for waterfalls & backcountry

Six miles south of the town of Estes Park on Highway 7, past Mary's Lake.

Ranger Station
Picnic Area
Fishing Access
Longs Peak Trailhead — Region 5 - South side, known for waterfalls & backcountry

At Longs Peak Ranger Station, 7.5 miles south of Estes Park on Highway 7.  Access to 4 backcountry sites.

Ranger Station
Lumpy Ridge Trailhead — Region 3 - North side, known for wilderness escape

Drive north from downtown Estes Park on MacGregor Avenue. Cross Hwy. 34 bypass and continue on  MacGregor Avenue  past MacGregor Ranch to the trailhead parking lot on the left.  Access to 4 backcountry sites along Black Canyon trail.  Designated horse trailer parking spot for 2 trailers with easy pull-around. 

Horse Trails
Milner Pass Trailhead — Region 2 - Alpine, known for spectacular vistas

On Trail Ridge Road at the Continental Divide west of the Alpine Visitor Center and 16 mi. east of the Grand Lake Entrance Station.

North Inlet Trailhead — Region 1 - West Side, known for moose & big meadows

Drive east from Highway 34 on 278 towards Grand Lake, bearing left at the forks until you reach the parking lot. Trailhead at E. end of parking lot. Tonahutu accesses 4 backcountry sites before the Green Mountain trail; North Inlet and southern part of Continental Divide trail loop through the Park accesses 13 backcountry sites.

Horse Trails
Onahu Trailhead — Region 1 - West Side, known for moose & big meadows

Located on the west side of the park on US 34, .5 mile north(east) of the Green Mountain trailhead. Access to 3 backcountry sites.

Rock Cut Trailhead — Region 2 - Alpine, known for spectacular vistas

At the Continental Divide coming up Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park, before the Alpine Visitor Center.

Sandbeach — Region 5 - South side, known for waterfalls & backcountry

12.5 mi. south of Estes Park on Highway 7, R at Wild Basin Road.  Immediately to the R of the Ranger Station Kiosk.  Access to 5 backcountry sites.

Sprague Lake Trailhead — Region 4 - Heart of the Park, known for easy access & great views

On the south side of Bear Lake Road.  Moraine Park Shuttle Bus recommended, stops at Sprague Lake/Glacier Creek Livery.

Picnic Area
Shuttle Bus Stop
Fishing Access
Storm Pass Trailhead — Region 4 - Heart of the Park, known for easy access & great views

After Sprague Lake, on the south side of Bear Lake Road across from Bierstadt Lake trailhead.  Access to 2 backcountry sites along the Boulder Brook trail.

Timber Lake Trailhead — Region 1 - West Side, known for moose & big meadows

Grand Lake (west side) of the Park.  Trailhead is located on the east side of Hwy 34 across from the Colorado River trailhead.  Access to 4 backcountry sites.

Picnic Area
Horse Trails
Tonahutu Trailhead — Region 1 - West Side, known for moose & big meadows

Same as North Inlet Trailhead. 

Twin Sisters Trailhead — Region 5 - South side, known for waterfalls & backcountry

Across Highway 7 from Lily Lake.

Upper Beaver Meadows Trailhead — Region 4 - Heart of the Park, known for easy access & great views

From the Beaver Meadows entrance, pass Bear Lake Road and continue along Hwy 36 until just before the junction with Hwy 34. Left onto dirt road.  Go about 2 mi. to road end.

Horse Trails
Ute Crossing Trailhead — Region 2 - Alpine, known for spectacular vistas

At Fall River Pass along the east side of Trail Ridge Road about 2 mi. below Rock Cut. Limited parking.  Access to 1 backcountry site.

Wild Basin Trailhead — Region 5 - South side, known for waterfalls & backcountry

12.5 mi. south of Estes Park on Highway 7, right at Wild Basin Road.  Take right fork to Entrance station, then 3 mi. to Ranger Station.  Access to 6 backcountry sites.  2 Horse Trailer parking spaces.

Ranger Station
Horse Trails