Rocky Mountain National Park is the 5th most visited National Park in the US. With over 4.4 million visitors in 2021 alone, it’s no secret that people near and far flock to to see the beauty of Colorado firsthand. While June through September are the peak travel season for the Rockies, I’ve found the utmost beauty of this incredible national park in the winter months. Not only is it a great way to avoid the thick crowds, but it’s an incredible opportunity to see the prettiest landscapes blanketed in sparkling snow. So come wander with me as I walk you through the best winter hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park! Let’s get into it.
At the top of my list for winter hiking in the Rockies would be the Dream Lake Trail. This hike is relatively easy and has the sweetest reward. At just 2 miles out-and-back, you can complete the hike in about an hour. The beautiful thing about this hike in particular is that the alpine lake (Dream Lake) freezes over in the winter. You can ice skate or walk across the lake which is such a surreal experience. Disclaimer: It’s typically very windy, but the views make up for it.
Emerald Lake Trail is just over 3 miles out-and-back, and considered to be an easy route. If you’re not lallygagging, you can complete this hike in about an hour and 40 minutes. This trail is definitely a popular one both at peak season, and off-season. I recommend getting to the parking lot before 9:00 am – otherwise, you’ll be waiting for a spot!
Not only can you count on incredible views, but snow drifts and wind. (The common theme for hiking in the winter in Estes Park, Colorado).
Considered to be a moderately challenging route, Glacier Gorge Trail to the Loch is just under 5 1/2 miles out-and-back. This is definitely a tough trail in the winter if you don’t come prepared. My fiancé and I did both this hike and the next hike in the same day. I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless the weather is mild, and if you don’t mind getting an early start. The Glacier Gorge Trail is notorious for extreme wind and deep snow. I would suggest researching before embarking on any of these hikes, but especially this one. Snowshoes would definitely come in handy for this trail, but crampons will typically do just fine. I can’t wait to take this trail in the summer!
Like I mentioned above, we hiked to the both Mills Lake and The Loch in the same day. Mills Lake is another moderately challenging hike, but not quite as busy as The Loch. Be prepared for more wind, and deep snow (even with snowshoes!). Highly recommend, though.
Now you know we can’t talk about the best winter hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park and not chat about my best tips, right!? As a full-time Montana intimate wedding and elopement photographer who has a passion for the great outdoors, I’ve spent what feels like my whole life perfecting my best tips. Let’s get into those, shall we!?
There we have it, friends. Thanks for coming along to wander with me through the best winter hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. I’d love it if you checked out the other blogs in the Wander with Me series. You can view those HERE🏔 Head over to Instagram (@sydneybreannphoto) and let me know what you’d like to see next in this series. Until next time! Are you ready to wander?