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Continental Falls Hike Near Breckenridge

Continental Falls crashes through cracks in the granite sides of the mountains near Breckenridge Colorado. It's a moderate 2.5 mile uphill hike to the base of the waterfall. The 1000+ feet of elevation gain require some bodily exertion, but it's worth the effort. Located on the eastern slopes of the Mosquito Range, waterfall finds its source in the high mountain Mohawk Lakes as they spill out into Spruce Creek and make their way down the mountainside. The trail boasts spectacular mountain views, lakes, and the ruins of an old mining operation. Explore the full Continental Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this hike near Breckenridge.

Trail Snapshot: Continental Falls Trail near Breckenridge, Colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Continental Falls Hike

From Breckenridge, follow CO 9 South to The Spruce Creek Road. This is found on the right/west approximately 2.5 miles from the south end of town (junction of Main and South Park Ave). The trailhead for this hike to Continental Falls is located approximately 1.1 mile up Spruce Creek Road.

The Hike: Continental Falls Trail

The hike up to Continental Falls follows the Spruce Creek Trail. It's marked with blue diamond blazes making the trail easy to find and follow. Just shy of a 1/2 mile into the hike, the trail will cross Spruce Creek via a footbridge. At this point, the forest opens up a bit to views of my Helen in the distant west.
About 1.7 miles into the hike, the Spruce Creek trail will intersect with the Wheeler Trail. At this junction, continue straight on Spruce Creek Trail. At approximately 2 miles, the Spruce Creek trail will join up with the 4WD road, for a short jaunt past a small dam, then will connect back in with the Spruce Creek trail.

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At about 2.5 miles into the hike, the trails reaches another junction. The left-hand trail leads up to Continental Falls and beyond to Mohawk Lakes. This segment of the trail is one of my favorites, as it leads past the ruins of a mining operation complete with cabins, mine shaft, and old mining equipment. Be sure to exercise caution and read the warning signs around such areas. At approximately 2.6 miles into the hike, the trail will arrive at Continental Falls. After taking in the waterfall, hikers often opt to go further up to gain incredible mountain peak and mountain range views at Mohawk Lakes.

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Continental Falls Trail

  • TIP: There is a mine ruins off trail nearby. Be careful as there is a warning sign that it could collapse and may produce dangerous gases.
  • Trail Map for Continental Falls: Trail Map
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: The Crown

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Looking for more waterfalls near Denver? Explore our more than 50 Colorado Waterfall Hikes, our favorite Waterfall Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, or 7 Waterfalls within One Hour of Denver.


Lost Falls Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

The hike to Lost Falls is a demanding 15.6 mile trek into into a lesser traveled, northern reaches of Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail follows the North Fork of the Big Thompson River through stands of lodgepole, the pinch of a rugged canyon, and past aspen laden meadows before reaching this hidden waterfall. Explore the full Lost Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Lost Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Lost Falls

The Dunraven Trailhead is located in the northeast corner of Rocky Mountain National Park, just outside the town of Glen Haven. From Estes Park, drive north on MacGregor Avenue. The road eventually turns into Devils Gulch Road. The next road is Dunraven Glade, and will be on the left 1.7 miles past the small hamlet of Glen Haven. Follow Dunraven Glade Road for 2.2 miles to the Dunraven Trailhead.

The Hike: Lost Falls Trail in RMNP

This scenic hike to Lost Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park is a demanding 15.6 mile round-trip hike with over 2000' of elevation gain. Because the waterfall is located off the main trail and in a dense tangle of undergrowth and deadfall, hikes should possess a sufficient level of land navigation skills (map reading and proficiency with a compass and/or GPS unit) to negotiate the terrain. It is also advisable to have a Trails Illustrated map of RMNP or a USGS Pingree Park Quadrangle map of the area.

The Dunraven/North Fork Trail heads west out of the trailhead following the North Fork of the Big Thompson River through a segment of the Comanche Peak Wilderness. For a quarter mile, the trail will cross the private property of a summer camp (please be mindful to stay the trail). At 4.6 miles, the Dunraven Trail will cross the wilderness boundary and into Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail will continue to cross the river via several footbridges before arriving at the intersection with the North Boundary Trail at 5.5 miles. Here, hikers will stay on the Dunraven trail as it winds its way west, following the North Fork of the Big Thompson River up the valley. The established campsites are in this stretch. Several years back, I hiked in and stayed the weekend at Happily Lost, which has become one of my favorite sites in the park. While still near the trail, it's proximity to the Big Thompson gives you the sounds of water and access to some great fishing for brook trout in its pools.

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Happily Lost Campsite
After Happily Lost the trail becomes more steep. It passes the sign for Lost Falls Campsite around 7 miles--it's important to know that this is a sign for the campsite and not the waterfall. After passing the campsite, the trail continues about another half mile to its intersection with the Stormy Peaks Pass Trail. Staying to the Dunraven/North Fork Trail, the way to Lost Falls can be found just past the intersection and on the left. Keep an eye out for social trails on the left/south that lead down to the falls. Because this area sees fewer visitors, social trails may be well-hidden by the undergrowth.

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Lost Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park
Hikers should exercise a great deal of care navigating the area near the falls, as it can be steep, and the rock along the creek can be exceptionally slippery. While more of a creek than a river, during the Spring melt and after heavy rains, the North Fork of the Big Thompson can become quite treacherous. Because of the 15.6 mile round-trip distance and the demanding elevation gain, it may be a good idea to camp at one of the many sites along the trail. They are in order of East to West: Boundary Creek, Kettle Tarn, Halfway, Aspen Meadow Group, Happily Lost, Lost Falls, Sugarloaf, Lost Meadow, Lost Meadow Group, Lost Lake, and Lost Lake Group. These campsites must be reserved through the RMNP Backcountry Wilderness Camping Offices.

Lost Falls and Nearby Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park
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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Lost Falls in RMNP

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Granite Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Granite Falls takes a 5.1 mile journey from the Green Mountain Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. At Granite Falls, the waters of Tonahutu Creek drop fifty feet through a course of smooth granite slabs. The hike offers a diverse landscape: from tranquil forests, to expansive meadows, and verdant creeksides--all alive with wildflowers and wildlife. Explore the full Granite Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Granite Falls Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Granite Falls

The Green Mountain Trailhead is located on the western side area of Rocky Mountain National Park, north of Grand Lake, Colorado, along Trail Ridge Road. From the Kawuneeche Visitor Center in Grand Lake, drive 3 miles north on Trail Ridge Road. The Green Mountain Trailhead will be on the right/east side of the road, and has a capacity for around 25 vehicles.

The Hike: Granite Falls Trail in RMNP

The hike begins at the Green Mountain Trailhead and follows the Green Mountain Trail for 1.9 miles to Big Meadows, and encounters the first trail junction. The way to Granite Falls is to take the left-hand trail for 0.7 mile that skirts the western border of Big Meadows. There is a group campsite in Big Meadows that offers some of the most spectacular views of the night sky. Moose and elk frequent this area and brook trout can be found in nearby Tonahutu Creek.

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Big Meadows Courtesy of Michael Levine-Clark

At 2.6 miles, the trail meets a second trail junction. The way to Granite Falls is to go right/east on the Tonahutu trail towards Flattop Mountain. Because their is only a 1000' elevation gain over the course of the 5.1 miles to Granite Falls, the trail only has a mild and undulating slope. After crossing two creeks, a small sign will point the way down a spur trail that leads to Granite Falls. The waterfall is a series of slide cascades flowing over broad granite slabs into a pool of swirling waters. The hike back follows the same route, making this a 10.2 mile out-and-back hike.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Granite Falls in RMNP

  • Prepare: Bring lots of water and high-energy food for this longer 10.2 mile hike.
  • Trail Map for Kawuneeche Valley: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Will Currier for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Granite Falls in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Fat Cat Cafe It may be the best breakfast in Colorado!

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Horseshoe Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Horseshoe Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park is a favorite family hike near Estes Park, Colorado. It's a short and easy hike from the Alluvial Fan Trailhead, but the falls can also be viewed from the roadside. It's an extensive cascade waterfall, named for the way it bends its course through the rocky hillside. Explore the full Horseshoe Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Horseshoe Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Horseshoe Falls

Horseshoe Falls can be accessed just outside Estes Park, Colorado by taking Fall River Road to Old Fall River Road. The East Alluvial Fan Trailhead is approximately 1/2 mile up Old Fall River Road, and the West Alluvial Fan Trailhead is just about 1/4 of a mile further. Because Horseshoe Falls is popular destination in RMNP, the parking fills up fast. There is an additional parking area just before reaching the East Alluvial Fan Trailhead, see this link for driving directions and map.

The Hike: Horseshoe Falls Trail in RMNP

This short hike to Horseshoe Falls got even shorter because of the 2013 flooding in the Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park area. As of this writing (6/30/2016) both the East and West Alluvial Fan Trailhead parking areas have reopened. However, the trails are still buried under rock and debris, and the bridge--which used to be a great viewing platform for Horseshoe Falls--has not been replaced. This doesn't mean a short hike up to the base of the falls is impossible, but it does require a some care in navigating the terrain. The official RMNP communications ask hikers first consult posted signs or speak with a park ranger before making the trek. As with all off-trail hiking along rivers, it's important to exercise caution near fast moving water and on the surrounding slippery surfaces of rocks and logs.

When the trail is repaired (assuming that it will use the same route), the Alluvial Fan Trail can be hiked from either of the two lots to the bridge viewing area, which is just under 1/4 mile one-way.

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Alluvial Fan Area at Twilight - Photo Courtesy of David Kingham

Horseshoe Falls and the larger Alluvial Fan area have an interesting history. Before the establishment of Rocky Mountain National Park, a twenty-six foot high dam was built to enlarge Lawn Lake, which is located about 6.5 miles north of Horseshoe Falls and a major source of the Roaring River. On a perfectly normal day in the Summer of 1982, an almost 100 foot stretch of the dam collapsed and sent a 30-foot high wall of water careening down the valley. At Horseshoe Park, much of the wash settled into what is now known as the 42 acre Alluvial Fan, comprised of sorted gravel, boulders--some over 400 tons--and streams of sand. Three people lost their lives in the flood, one camper, and two folks who had ventured out to capture photos of the event. The river surged all the way into the downtown of Estes Park, carrying away trees and cars, and breaking through another dam before being contained by Lake Estes.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Horseshoe Falls in RMNP

  • For Closure Updates: See the Rocky Mountain National Park Flood Impact and Closure page for updates on the conditions of this trail.
  • TIP: The Alluvial Fan and larger Horseshoe Park area are popular spots for viewing Elk.
  • Get there early: Parking may be somewhat limited as with many hikes in RMNP area and can get full even early in the morning.
  • Trail Map for Fall River Area: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Joan Morris Holzer for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Horseshoe Falls in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Mountain Home Café

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Chasm Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Chasm Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park bursts through a chasm in Fall River where the rock funnels its waters into a narrow gorge. It's one of the more accessible waterfalls in RMNP, located about 100 yards off of Old Fall River Road. The only drawback is that parking fills fast. However, there are several parking and hike options that we detail in this trail profile. Explore the full Chasm Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Chasm Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Chasm Falls

Parking is tricky for Chasm Falls. Depending on where you are able to park, the hike will be a 0.1 mile, 2.8 mile, or 4.8 mile round-trip hike. It's also important to know that Old Fall River Road is closed during the winter months from Nov 30th until the end of March. However, the dirt road gets a lot of traffic and needs a lot of maintenance; so, there may be Spring and Summer closures for repairs. For example, Fall River Road will not open to vehicles in 2016 until early July. We recommend that you visit the Rocky Mountain National Park Road Status page to plan your trip to Chasm Falls and your drive up Old Fall River Road. Below, you'll find the three different parking options

Parking Options for Chasm Falls, Rocky Mountain National Park

#1 - Pulloff Near Chasm Falls - 0.1 Mile Jaunt - Driving Directions
#2 - Endovalley Picnic Area Parking - 2.8 Mile Round Trip Hike - Driving Directions
#3 - West Alluvial Fan Parking Area - 4.8 Mile Round Trip Hike - Driving Directions

During the busy summer months, all of these parking areas fill fast. Dogs are typically not allowed in RMNP, but on certain days, they are allowed along Old Fall River Road as long as they are leashed. See the Old Fall River Road status page for days when dogs are allowed. The scenic drive up Old Fall River Road is half the adventure--but not for the faint of heart. It's a steep dirt road with no guardrails and lots of switchbacks. When the road is open, park visitors can drive it all the way up to the Alpine Visitor Center, and take Trail Ridge Road back down into Estes Park, or take Trail Ridge Road over to the west side of the park in Grand Lake, Colorado.

The Hike: Chasm Falls Trail in RMNP

The hike from the pulloff along Old Fall River Road is well-marked with signs. The short trail of approx. 100 yards leads down stone steps and a steep dirt trail. The bottom of the trail opens to a viewing platform. Like the parking areas, the platform can get quite crowded during the busy summer months.

If hiking up Old Fall River Road from either Endovalley or West Alluvial Fall parking areas, be sure to be aware of vehicles as they make their way up and down the road. This this can be a great winter hike or snowshoe trip during the winter. Usually this means starting from the West Alluvial Fan parking area.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Chasm Falls in RMNP

  • Prepare: Bring water and high-energy food.
  • Winter Road Closure: The road is closed to cars during winter. You may opt to plan on a longer hike during this season - starting from the West Alluvial parking area.
  • Get there early: Parking may be limited at most of the trailheads in RMNP during the summer months. Go early to get a good spot. By early, we mean before 7:30 AM.
  • Trail Map of Fall River Area: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Tim Vo for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Chasm Falls in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Mountain Home Café

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Pulloff Near Chasm Falls

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Calypso Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park

Calypso Cascades is an easy 3.6 mile hike to one of several waterfall destinations along this section of trail. This waterfall in the Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park is gets its name from the purple Calypso Orchids that bloom along the banks of Cony Creek. Explore the full Calypso Cascades hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Calypso Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Calypso Cascades

The southeast corner of Rocky Mountain National Park boasts one of the loveliest portions in the park known as the Wild Basin. The Wild Basin Trailhead is located just 15 minutes outside of Allenspark, Colorado along Highway 115. There is a ranger station at at the Wild Basin Trailhead with toilets and drinking water available.

In the winter (October-May), Hwy 115 may not be plowed to the trailhead, and hikers will need to park their vehicles at a winter parking lot for Wild Basin hikes. Be aware that hikes from the winter parking lot add on another 3 miles of hiking (one-way). There are other small parking areas, like the Finch Lake Trailhead, that may be accessible and allow hikers to park closer to the Wild Basin Trailhead. It's important to know that Hwy 115, though titled a "highway", is a maintained dirt road, which means that it can be used by 2WD vehicles. However, after heavy rains and other severe weather, its quality may degrade until it is repaired. 4WD may be needed when snow is on the ground.

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Calypso Cascades From Below

The Hike: Calypso Cascades Trail in RMNP

The hike to Calypso Cascades begins at the Wild Basin Trailhead, and at just .3 mile into the trail, passes by both the lower and upper leaps of Copeland Falls. Read our full trail profile on Copeland Falls for details on how to access both sets of cascades.

After taking in the views at Copeland Falls, the trail follows the course of North St. Vrain Creek as it flows out of the rugged high country and snowfields in this wild corner of Rocky Mountain National Park. Soon the trail will split. The right-hand trail leads through a segment of trail with 5 different backcountry camping sites and on towards Thunder and Lion lakes. These backcountry camping sites can be reserved through the RMNP Backcountry Offices. The left-hand trail leads south towards Calypso Cascades and Finch Lake Trail system.

Taking the Finch Lake Trail, hikers will cross a large log bridge spanning North St. Vrain Creek. Near the bridge, you'll discover an unnamed set of cascades. After crossing the bridge, the trail follows Cony Creek for about 0.4 mile to the site of Calypso Cascades. Calypso Cascades are reminiscent of Fern Falls: the waters of Cony Creek tumble over boulders and fallen trees in a moss-covered landscape. What makes Calypso Cascades unique are the Calypso Orchids (also known as Pink Lady Slippers) that bloom in the late-spring and early-summer along the creek.

Hikers can return to the trailhead to make this a 3.6 mile hike, or can continue on the Finch Lake trail for approximately 1 mile to the site of Ouzel Falls.

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Pink Fairy Slipper Flower

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Calypso Cascades in RMNP

  • TIP: The area near the bridge over North St. Vrain Creek can be a great spot for a picnic.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • TIP: There are food storage lockers available at the Wild Basin, Finch Lake, and Sandbeach Lake Trailheads. These are required for visitors staying overnight.
  • Get there early: Parking lot might get full even early in the morning.
  • You're in Bear Country: Black Bears live in the Wild Basin area and are active on the months of April through November. Be aware, dispose of your food responsibly, and don't food or anything else with a strong scent in your vehicle.
  • Trail Map for Wild Basin Area: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Jeff Kramer for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Calypso Cascades in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Meadow Mountain Cafe

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Cub Lake Loop in Rocky Mountain National Park

The Cub Lake Loop Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park is a great alternative to the an out-and-back hike up to Cub Lake. Along the way, hikers will pass by Windy Gulch Cascades, travel alongside the Big Thompson River, cross over an area called The Pool, journey through wetlands, and will be surrounded by sights of a glacial-shaped landscape. Explore the full hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and all the details you need to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Cub Lake Loop in Rocky Mountain National Park

Cub Lake Loop Hike Waypoints

A: 0.0 miles : Cub Lake Trailhead
B: 0.2 miles : Parking Lot
C: 0.8 miles : Fern Lake Trailhead
D: 2.5 miles : The Pool
E: 3.5 miles : Cub Lake Trail - Hollowell Park Trail Intersection
F: 3.7 miles : Cub Lake
G: 5.7 miles : Cub Lake Trail - South Lateral Moraine Trail Intersection
H: 6.0 miles : Cub Lake Trailhead

Parking & Trailhead Information for Cub Lake Loop

The Cub Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park has a very small parking area where only 7 to 8 vehicles can park. Chances are, if you don't arrive early in the morning, you'll need to park just .3 mile further down the road at the Fern Lake Bus Stop parking area. If both lots are full, then your best bet is to park in the RMNP Park & Ride lot and use the shuttle service to get to the Cub Lake Trailhead. Please do not park alongside the road. This causes significant erosion and damage to roadside--and you might get a ticket.

The Hike to Cub Lake Loop in RMNP

This hike profile for the Cub Lake Loop in RMNP is hiked counter-clockwise from the Cub Lake parking area. However, it can be hiked the other direction--it's all a matter of preference. The hike can also be started at the Fern Lake Trailhead.

Beginning at the Trailhead, the first mile follows the dirt road past the Fern Lake bus stop, then through a grove of aspens to the Fern Lake trailhead. The first sight along the trail worth stopping to see are the Windy Gulch Cascades. They are about .4 mile into the Fern Lake Trail, tucked away in a gulch high above the valley. You'll hear them first, but a footbridge and water across the trail will key hikers into the location of the cascades. We've created a full hike profile on Windy Gulch Cascades, if you would like more detailed information on this hidden waterfall in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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The next sight along the trail is Arch Rocks, where the trail winds through a series of boulders, including two massive rocks that fell from the cliffs above into the valley many eons ago. Shortly after Arch Rocks, the sounds of the Big Thompson River, Spruce Creek, and Fern Creek will fill the air. At the confluence of these streams, a bridge crosses the area named "The Pool."

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The Pool - Courtesy of Steve Wallace

After crossing the bridge at The Pool, the trail splits. The right-hand trail makes its way up to Fern Falls and Fern Lake. The left-hand trail leads to the lake--this left-hand trail is the correct trail for completing the loop. The trail then bends south, then turns east and climbs up the South Lateral Moraine. This 1.2 mile segment from the Pool to Cub Lake is the most demanding part of the hike. The trail encounters a second trail junction with the Hollowell Park Trail which bears to the right. The trail to Hollowell Park is a beautiful detour, but leads away from Cub Lake. To stay on the Cub Lake loop, hikers will continue east on the Cub Lake Trail.

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A Sea of Lily Pads on Cub Lake - Courtesy of Steve Harbula

Soon after the junction, the trail descends to Cub Lake. Some of the best views of the Lake come from this segment of trail. The trail then runs along the shore of the Lake before it makes a steep descent through a strange and wild area scraped by an ancient glacier and riddled with boulders.

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Cub Lake in RMNP - Courtesy of Barbara Morgan

The final trail segment leads through forest and marshland, across bridges, and down into the western edges of Moraine Park. Here, hikers will likely see elk grazing, and hear and see an extensive variety of birds among the shrubs and aspens. Before crossing into Moraine Park, the trail will split again. The right-hand trail leading along the South Lateral Moraine. The trail back to the Cub Lake and Fern Lake Trailheads, continues North/Left for about 1/3 of a mile back to the Cub Lake Trailhead.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Cub Lake Loop in RMNP

  • TIP: It is advisable to arrive early as parking is limited. One may opt to ride a shuttle that drops you off at the trailhead.
  • TIP: Take advantage of the free park shuttle to get to the trailhead during peak seasons.
  • Bring A Picnic Lunch: The banks along the Big Thompson River can be a great place for picnics.
  • Bug Spray: Because of the amount of water along this hike, hikers will likely encounter a fair share of mosquitos; so, bring some bug spray.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Andrew Mace for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Mountain Home Café

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Flattop Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park

Hiking the Flattop Mountain Trail and reaching its summit offers 360 degrees of stunning panoramas in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail begins at the Bear Lake Trailhead and traces its way through a varied alpine landscape. The hike to Flattop Mountain also provides access to both Hallett Peak and Otis Peak. Explore the full Flattop Mountain hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more of the details and tips you need to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Flattop Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Flattop Mountain in RMNP

The hike up Flattop Mountain in RMNP begins at the Bear Lake Trailhead (driving directions) In the event that parking at Bear Lake is full, you'll then need to park at the Park & Ride near the Bierstadt Trailhead and take the bus into the trailhead. This service runs 7am to 7PM and more information on the RMNP shuttle bus routes can be found at this link.

The Hike: Flattop Mountain in RMNP

Beginning at the Bear Lake trailhead, a paved trail will run along the eastern shore of the lake. Look for signs for the trail leading towards Flattop Mountain. This .4 mile connector trail leads through stands of quaking aspens to the first trail junction. The right-hand trail leads to the Bierstadt Moraine and Lake Bierstadt. The left-hand trail leads toward Flattop Mountain and Odessa Gorge.

After hiking .5 mile on this second trail segment, the trail will fork again. The trail to the left, leads up to Flattop Mountain and the trail to the right leads down into the Odessa Gorge area. This third and final segment is the longest, 3.2 miles. Here, the Flattop Mountain trail begins a series of switchbacks through Spruce Forest. Soon, hikers will come to the Dream Lake overlook with breathtaking views of Hallett Peak and the sheer north face of Longs Peak. Further up the trail, a second overlook reveals Emerald Lake deep in the bottom of Tyndall Gorge.

Near the Emerald Lake overlook, the trees begin to change shape, into what's called Krummholz forest. It's a German term meaning "crooked" or "twisted wood". These windswept pines look like they've been sculpted by a master bonsai artist. The trail gets a bit more steep as it climbs above treeline, running through rock and tundra, with cairns (stacked-rock markers) noting the trail where it might become difficult to discern.

At the top, it will make sense how Flattop Mountain got it's name. It's less of a peak and more of a broad field of tundra and rock. But the effort to get to the top is worth the views. Hikers can see the Mummy Range to the North as well as Lumpy Ridge. To the Southeast lay peak after jagged peak, with Longs Peak's leaden north face set against the sky.

From the top of Flattop Mountain, hikers can follow a trail through the tundra to the true peak of Hallett, which is approximately .4 mile away to the south with another approximately 400' in elevation gain. Be sure to read the tips section below for making this hike up Flattop Mountain as there are a few important aspects to this more demanding hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Flattop Mountain in RMNP

  • Start early in the morning: Afternoon thunderstorms appear suddenly during the summer hiking season. For this reason, hikers are urged to start early enough to be down off the mountain by early afternoon. Many people have ignored this and been caught in really nasty, weather up on this trail. There have been weather-related fatalities here.
  • Take it Easy: It's a demanding walk up Flattop, and should not be approached as a sprint to the summit. Be sure to pace yourself and take breaks as needed.
  • Layer: It gets colder as you hike toward the top of Flattop. Be sure to have warm clothing. Hikers are also very exposed to the sunlight and risk sunburn, so be sure to wear sunscreen.
  • Food & Water: It probably goes without saying, but be sure to bring plenty of snacks and water to fuel your body for this demanding hike.
  • Trekking Poles & Traction Devices are Recommended in Spring and Winter: During this time of year, there can be patches and even longer segments of snow and ice on the trail. Because of this, we recommend Trekking Poles and/or Traction Devices for this trail.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Dick Rochester for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Flattop Mountain in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Baba's Burgers & Gyros

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Grace Falls Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

The hike to view Grace Falls, high in the rock cliffs and ledges of Odessa Gorge, is one of several waterfalls and scenic waypoints along the Fern Lake Trail. Grace Falls drops nearly a hundred feet from Notchtop Mountain, tumbling over a series of ledges, eventually making its way into Fern Creek. Explore the full Grace Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more of the details and tips you need to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Grace Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Grace Falls in RMNP

Parking is more limited in this area of Rocky Mountain National Park, and you'll likely have to park at the Park & Ride then take the shuttle to the Fern Lake Trailhead. You'll find driving directions above to The Fern Lake Trailhead (closest to this hike), the Fern Lake Bus Stop Parking area (very limited parking), and for the Park & Ride lot. See the RMNP Shuttle page for dates and times of service. Avoid parking along Fern Lake road as this damages the road side. If you park or are dropped off at the Fern Lake Bus Station, the hike from the station to the trailhead will add and additional .8 mile, one-way, to your hike.

The Hike: Grace Falls in RMNP

The journey up to view Grace in Falls Rocky Mountain National Park takes hikers past or near 5 different waterfalls and several other scenic sites. Refer to the sites and waypoints list below for the full set. Because the last stretch of trail from the western shore of Odessa lake to Grace Falls is unmaintained and difficult to discern, the falls are best viewed from the stretch of trail between Odessa and Lake Helene (more detailed directions are below).

Grace falls freezes over in the winter, attracting ice climbers to the area. The size of the falls and volume depends very much on the melting snowpack from Ptarmigan Glacier. The best time of year to view the falls is in the Spring-Early Summer. The area near the base of Grace Falls is prone to avalanches--especially during this time of year--which is another good reason to elect to view Grace Falls from the Fern Lake trail, rather than attempting the difficult hike and scramble to its base.

The best place to view Grace Falls is about .8 mile beyond the Odessa Lake junction where the trail begins to climb toward the top of Odessa Gorge making its way toward Lake Helene. This brings the journey to approximately the 6 mile point, or 12 miles round trip. An alternative and very scenic return route is to continue on the trail until it joins up with the Flattop Trail connector which leads east and down into the Bear Lake Trailhead. This makes for a 9.6 mile total hike. At the Bear Lake Trailhead, a shuttle system can transport hikers back to the Fern Lake bus stop. If you are considering this option, be sure to check the shuttle times and details. At the time of this writing, a shuttle transfer at the park-n-ride will be necessary to get back to the Fern Lake bus stop.

Sights & Waypoints Along the Fern Lake Trail:

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Grace Falls Viewpoint in RMNP

  • TIP: It is advisable to arrive early at the Fern Lake Trailhead as parking is limited. If the lot is full, the best option is to use the park-n-ride shuttle that drops you off at the bus stop near the Fern Lake trailhead.
  • Begin Early: As with all longer hikes in the Colorado Mountains, it's important to start very early in the morning to avoid the thunderstorms that form in the early afternoon.
  • Trekking Poles & Traction Devices or Snowshoes are Necessary in Spring and Winter: During this time of year, there can be patches and even longer segments of snow and ice on the trail. Because of this, we recommend Trekking Poles and/or Traction Devices for this trail. Snow it thick above Fern Lake until Mid-Summer, because of this snowshoes are also recommended.
  • Recommended Trail Map with Location of Grace Falls: National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Stacey Bender for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Grace Falls in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Baba's Burgers & Gyros

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Lake Helene Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

The hike to Lake Helene is a popular lake hike beginning at the Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. Lake Helene is situated in a bowl beneath Flattop Mountain, Ptarmigan Point, and Notchtop Mountain. The trail weaves through aspen groves and pine forests with scenic mountain views at almost every turn. Explore the full Lake Helene hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more of the details and tips you need to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Lake Helene in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Lake Helene in RMNP

The trail up to Lake Helene begins at the Bear Lake Trailhead (driving directions). In the event the parking lot at Bear Lake is full, you'll then need to park at the Park & Ride near the Bierstadt Trailhead and take the bus into the trailhead. This service runs 7am to 7PM and more information on the RMNP shuttle bus routes can be found at this link.

The Hike: Lake Helene in RMNP

The trail to the is located along the perimeter trail of Bear Lake, and on the northeastern end of the lake. This short .4 mile trail will connect up with the Flattop Mountain trail. After hiking .5 mile on the Flattop Mountain Trail, the trail will fork. The trail to the left, leads up to Flattop Mountain. The trail to the right leads to the lake, and then on to Odessa and Fern Lake.

It's a moderate ascent as the trail climbs approximately 2 more miles up to Odessa Gorge. At this point there is an unmaintained trail off to the left that leads hikers to Lake Helene. Because this spur trail travels over quite a bit of rock and becomes difficult to discern, the route is marked by a series of cairns (stacked rocks).

After enjoying time at the lake, hikers may want to go 1.1 mile further north on the main trail to Odessa Lake.

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Lake Helene in Rocky Mountain National Park

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