Trail Snapshot: Moraine Park Loop in Rocky Mountain National Park
- Hike Distance: 5.5 miles
- Difficulty: Easy
- Duration: Approx 3 hrs
- Trail Type: Loop
- Starting Elevation: 8128′
- Elevation Gain: +90′
- Seasons: Spring through Fall, Winter Snowshoeing
- Dogs: Dogs Prohibited in RMNP
- Hike Trail Map: Click for a Map of Moraine Park Loop RMNP
- Denver Drive Time: 1 hr 30 min
- Driving Directions to Moraine Park Discovery Center: Click for Google Map
- Town Nearest Hike: Estes Park, Colorado
- Beauty: Mountain views, meadows, river, wildlife: Abert’s squirrel, elk, deer, moose, duck, bear, mountain goat; wildflowers.
- Activities: Picnicking, hiking trails, snowshoeing, horseback riding, backcountry camping (with a permit)
- Fee: Park Pass Required
Waypoints Along the Moraine Park Loop
A. 0.0 miles : Moraine Park Discovery Center
B. 0.6 miles : Moraine Park Trailhead
C. 0.8 miles : Trail through the Lateral Moraine Trail
D. 1.7 miles : Lateral Moraine Trail and Moraine Service Road intersection
E. 2.1 miles : Head west through the Lateral Moraine Trail
F. 2.9 miles : Lateral Moraine Trail – Cub Lake intersection
G. 3.4 miles : Cub Lake Trailhead
H. 4.1 miles : Continue east through Fern Lake Road
I. 4.5 miles : To Moraine Park Road
J. 5.3 miles : Back at Moraine Park Discovery Center
Parking & Trailhead Information for Moraine Park Loop
The Moraine Park Loop can be accessed from several different small parking areas such as the Cub Lake Trailhead and the Fern Lake Bus Stop, but the largest parking lot in the area is found at the Moraine Park Discovery Center. It’s a great place to learn about the history and habitat of the area before or after your hike. Those staying at the Moraine Park Campground in RMNP can access this loop of trails by walking down the campground road, or via some short connector trails that come off the south end of the campground. Please only use well-worn trails, and don’t cut across the fields from the campground, as this causes a lot of disruption and damage to the landscape.
The Hike: Moraine Park Loop Trail in RMNP
This 5.3 mile loop begins at the Moraine Park Discovery Center and follows a clockwise route around the outer rim of Moraine Park. Though Moraine Park is a centerpiece of Rocky Mountain National Park, drawing thousands every year to watch the bull elk bugle and battle over rights to their harem of cows, the loop hike is not very well marked. However, much of this loop hike is an oft-used route for horseback rides guided by the local YMCA camp. Segments of this loop run along the dirt and asphalt roads at the rim of the meadows. Because of this, it’s recommended to 1) Be very aware of cars. While the speed limit is low, drivers are often distracted by the views and wildlife, and 2) Look for paths in the meadow alongside the road. These will be safer routes than walking the roads. 3) When walking along the roads, please walk against traffic and walk in single file along the roads.
After approximately 2 miles on the South Lateral Moraine Trail, hikers will encounter a junction with the Cub Lake Trail. To continue on the Moraine Park Loop, the correct direction is right/north on the Cub Lake Trail. After crossing the Big Thompson River, the stream that snakes it’s way through Moraine Park, the trail will come out at the Cub Lake Trailhead. Here, the loop continues right/east along Fern Lake road. Again, it’s best to travel on any well-worn paths alongside the road when possible.
Fern Lake Road will terminate at Moraine Park Road. Here, the loop continues right/east back to the Moraine Park Discovery Center. An alternative route that avoids walking along Moraine Park Road is to cut through Moraine Park on an established trail back down to the southeast corner of Moraine Park. Here, hikers can cross Bear Lake Road and take the same trail they used at the beginning and return to the Moraine Park Discovery Center.
Tips & Resources for Hiking to Moraine Park Loop in Rocky Mountain National Park
- Arrive Early for Parking: It is advisable to arrive early to avoid entry lines and to find suitable parking.
- Wildlife: Keep your distance from the Elk. While they are very used to humans, cows may be protecting calves, and bull elk can be aggressive during certain seasons. It’s always best to view wildlife at a distance in our National Parks.
- The Fences: You’ll notice fences along the route, and some gates you may pass through. These have been established because of the very high populations of elk in the park, which has in turn had a negative impact on the vegetation. These are here to help reestablish overbrowsed habitat.
- Trail Map: Trail Map for Moraine Park Loop in RMNP
- Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
- Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
- After the Hike: Mountain Home Café
Map & Driving Directions
Click for Driving Directions