3 of the Most Instagram-Worthy (and easy!) Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park!
You can not go wrong with ANY of the hikes at the Rockies, but here are 3 that can be easily done in one day, are super to complete, and SO INSTAGRAM-WORTHY:
1. Sprague Lake Loop (0.8 Miles Round Trip)
2. Alberta Falls (1.7 Miles Round Trip)
3. Dream Lake (2.2 Miles Round Trip)
Before I share more about each of the hikes, please read these 3 TIPS!
1) Download the “AllTrails” App! you will find all the hikes you’ve ever wanted, plus reviews, pictures, maps, how to get there and other important information. I went down a rabbit hole with that App and that is how I decided to hike these 3 amazing trails!
2) Most important tip ever: GET TO THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK EARLY! Preferably before 9am. We finished hiking Sprague Lake and Alberta Falls in the morning and left the Park on a Saturday at noon and there was a super long line going around the mountain to get into the park! As you drive into the trail heads, you might see signs stating that the parking lots are full. DO NOT PAY ATTENTION to those signs! These trails do not take that much time so people are constantly coming and leaving! Go to the designated trail head and if after a couple of minutes, no one is leaving, go to the next trail head and take the free shuttle.
3) You do not need to stay in Denver proper! We flew into Denver and stayed at The Westin Westminster because you cannot beat the price of non-Denver proper hotels! The Westin (about $110/night) is only 25 minutes from Denver airport and about 1 hour and 20 minutes from the Rocky Mountain National Park. For breathtaking views of the sunset, make sure you ask for a room that faces West. Or if you have no idea how to use a compass like myself, ask for a room that faces the pond.
If you like to snack during road trips, there are a ton of grocery stores within 5 miles from the Hotel, and a lot of restaurants right across the street: but first, COFFEE.
1. Sprague Lake Loop (round-trip: 0. 9 miles)
What you can expect: Panoramic views of the Continental Divide, including Half Mountain, Thatchtop Mountain, Taylor Peak, Otis Peak, Hallett Peak, Flattop Mountain and Notchtop Mountain. This is one of the easiest hikes because it is more of a walk around the loop of a 13 acres lake.
Trail head: Sprague Lake Trailhead. The trail itself is super easy and family friendly! We saw a lot of people with toddlers and babies! There are bathrooms at the trailhead as well as a looped parking lot. We arrived at the trail head on a Saturday around 9:30am and had no issues finding a parking spot.
The trail is super easy to follow, and it loops around the lake.
You can also venture off to the not to “beaten path” in order to get more greenery in your pictures.
TIP: Next time we come, we are totally hiking Sprague Lake way earlier because you can see the mountains reflected super clearly off the 13-acre lake!
2. Alberta Falls (round-trip: 1.7 miles)
What you can expect: This hike is exactly what you picture when you think about hiking in the Rockies! Alberta Falls is widely regarded as one of the best waterfall hikes in the park because you will get an amazing waterfall in less than 1 mile. The scenic 30-foot waterfall literally THUNDERS down a small gorge on Glacier Creek and it is so loud and majestic!
Trail head: Glacier Gorge. Just like the trail above, the parking is right at the trail head. When we arrived, there were a few spots open, but since these are shorter hikes, cars come and go. If it is full, head to Bear Trail parking (1.5 miles away) and take the free shuttle to Glacier Gorge.
You can totally hike to Alberta Falls from Bear Trail but the reviews of the scenery are not that great.
We went at the beginning of July and the weather was warm, but the breeze was cool. It was pretty comfortable for a hike!
Everywhere you turn is GORGEOUS. I found myself wanting to document every single turn because of the variety of the scenery you will see throughout the hike.
OK, I confess. There was a completely fine walkable path right by that little pod, but you know me, I like to live on the edge, LOL.
I repeat, PLEASE WEAR SUNSCREEN! You ARE closer to the sun and you will get sun-kissed!
This is NOT the path, I just went off the path for pictures! The actual path is super easy to follow.
Once you reach the big fall, you can keep hiking up, but this is as good as it gets! I recommend resting by the waterwall, hike down and head to Bear Trail if you have time. Otherwise, go get yourself some delicious pizza at Estes Park or take a tour of the Eerie Stanley Hotel (more about that at down below!)
I would love to come back in the Fall. Can you imagine the fall foliage!?
3. Dream Lake (round-trip: 2.2 miles)
What you can expect: Three enchanted looking lakes in the Summer and three magical frozen lakes in the late Winter/early Spring.
Trail head: Bear Lake. You can find the following lakes if you start at this trail head:
1. Nymph Lake – @ .5 miles
2. Dream Lake – @ 1.1 miles
3. Emerald Lake -@ 1.8 miles (In case you would like to venture in a bit more!)
If you go when there is still snow on the ground, you can rent hiking shoes at Estes Park, which is the closest town to the entrance of the Rockies. Even though these hikes are relatively short, do not forget to bring water! This is my favorite water bottle ever and it is super cute and affordable! (Click HERE for the link to purchase this water bottle! Comes in a ton of colors and sizes!)
I hope this post was helpful and thank you so much for spending time with me!