Though it’s not far from the bustle of downtown Denver, at just over an hour’s drive, Rocky Mountain National Park only expands outward. The high-altitude park’s 415 square miles span the Continental Divide and sit between 7,860 and 14,259 feet in elevation. There’s a lot to explore across its three distinct ecosystems—alpine (above treeline), subalpine, and the most ecologically diverse montane—each hosting a vast range of flora and fauna which changes in activity throughout the seasons. Yes, there can be summer crowds. Fortunately, there are more than enough fantastic hiking options to help you quickly find some solitude on the trail. These recommended favorites range from a round-trip epic to the foot of Longs Peak (level up for a summit of the park’s only “14er”), to a gentle, kid-friendly walk around Sprague Lake.
Mills and Black Lake (10 miles)
Lakes are always worthy hiking destinations, and lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park never disappoint—their cold, alpine water surrounded by rocky shores with stunning jagged peaks as a backdrop. This hike starts at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, and passes by Alberta Falls (bonus waterfall!). Mills Lake is just 3 miles from your starting point. From there, it’s another 2 miles to Black Lake, and you’ll pass another waterfall (Ribbon Falls) along the way.
Sky Pond (9.5 miles)
Also starting at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, this trail takes you past multiple lakes, and a couple waterfalls en route to your destination. Sky Pond, which is often referred to as the most beautiful lake in the park, sits at 10,900 feet and is surrounded by sheer cliffs on three sides, with the jagged Sharkstooth spires adding to the beautifully dramatic scene.
Chasm Lake (9 miles)
Yes, another hike to another stunning lake. Starting at the Longs Peak Trailhead (9,405 feet), you’ll share the trail with hikers and alpinists heading to tackle the famed 14,259-foot summit of Longs Peak before veering left toward your destination, Chasm Lake. This hike gets you up close and personal with Longs Peak, Mount Lady Washington, and Mount Meeker, as well as Columbine Falls and Peacock Pond.