Rocky Mountain National Park in a Weekend
Rocky Mountain National Park is a gorgeous and magical place. For the record- you should spend more than a weekend there. But I know how life gets and if you're a weekend warrior like myself, you may be strapped for time. For a quick one-night trip to the park from Denver or another area of Colorado, this is your ideal game-plan to get the most for your time. If you’re visiting the park a while longer from out of state, I still recommend these hikes, but you’ll have time to see much more of the park. Here’s my itinerary for how my BFF and I spent a grand total of 26 hours in/around the park and still made the most of our time!
*Be sure to check with Rocky Mountain National Park opening information and guidelines due to COVID-19 before planning a trip*
A 2-day itinerary for Rocky Mountain National Park: Saturday: arrived in Estes Park (the town surrounding Rocky Mt Natl Park) around 2 PM and immediately entered the park. Be sure you have a park pass or you are prepared to purchase one! You are going to hike to a series of 3 stunning lakes on one trail! The trail starts at the Bear Lake trailhead and on weekends you will likely need to park in the Park & Ride lot to catch the shuttle. On the hike you’ll pass Nymph Lake, then onto Dream Lake, and finally Emerald Lake. It’s a gorgeous hike with so many great stops to soak in the beauty of the park and it’s only about 4 miles round trip ⇄ Perfect for a quick afternoon hike. Because we are fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants type of gals, we had headed to the park on a whim and didn't have a campsite booked in the park. In order to snag a campsite over the summer, you'll need to book as soon as the sites become available (6 months in advance). Camping season in the park runs from June 1-September 30th. You can book at one of their six available campsites here. That evening we were able to find camping at the Elk Meadows Campground outside of the park. The campground was $43 to tent camp and had a restaurant within walking distance so we had dinner there (The Rock Inn). This restaurant was so fun! It was a lodgy feel with comfort food, live music and a very cozy vibe. I have since been back! If you’re down to enjoy the real-life-snow-globe that is RMNP in the winter, I recommend the Silver Moon Inn for a low-key lodgy feel, or the historic and iconic Stanley Hotel for more of a fancy stay.
Sunday: The next morning we grabbed coffee & food at Coffee on the Rocks (also a fan of Inkwell & Brew Coffee shop) before heading into the park. We arrived at the Park & Ride around 8 AM to take the shuttle to Glacier Gorge where we would begin the trail to Sky Pond. This trail you’ll head towards Alberta Falls, then continue on to Loch Lake which is STUNNING. If you keep going up and you will reach Lake of Glass & Sky Pond for the best views! They don’t come easy though — the trail is rolling until you reach the incline taking you up to the final destination. There is a small waterfall area where you have to climb to continue on the trail and it was already icy mid September. If you don’t mind doing some climbing I think it’s worth it! For a more mild hike though, head back once you reach The Loch. In total, this out + back trail was 9 miles. It was my favorite Colorado hike I’ve done to date! A late lunch in Estes at the Wapiti Pub (also love Smokin’ Daves Barbeque) and we were on our way!
*Random notes: This is written for camping/hiking weather but trails can still be done on snowshoes in the winter with the exclusion of getting all the way to Sky Pond. You’ll also want to dress warmly even in spring/late summer (hats, coat, and gloves) for the early AM hiking/camping.
ENJOY YOUR TRIP MY FELLOW ADVENTURE JUNKEES!!!