bear lake with hallett peak in background in rocky mountain national park along 4 lakes and waterfall loop hike

Four Lakes and Waterfall Loop in Rocky Mountain National Park

This loop hike in Rocky Mountain National Park takes you to four beautiful, subalpine lakes and Alberta Falls, one of the parks most visited and photographed waterfalls. It's a moderate, 6.4 mile hike that will give you a great taste for the breathtaking scenery found in this treasure of our National Parks system. Explore the full hiking trail profile below for trail map, driving directions, and all the details you need to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Alberta Falls + Lake Haiyaha Loop in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Alberta Falls - Lake Haiyaha Loop

This loop hike begins at the Bear Lake Trailhead (driving directions). In the event that 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.

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List and Waypoints on the Alberta Falls - Lake Haiyaha Loop Hike

As with any loop, this can be hiked clockwise or counter clockwise. We prefer hiking it clockwise with the following waypoints.

  1. Beginning at Bear Lake
  2. Alberta Falls - @ .8 miles
  3. Glacier Gorge Junction - @ 1.7 miles
  4. Loch Vale/Haiyaha Junction - @ 2.2 miles
  5. Lake Haiyaha - @ 4.3 miles
  6. Dream Lake - @ 5.4 miles
  7. Nymph Lake - @ 5.9 miles
  8. Back at Bear Lake - @ 6.4 miles

At less than one mile in, the first destination is Alberta Falls. For more information, visit our Alberta Falls Hike page.

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After Alberta Falls, hikers will continue towards Glacier Gorge/Loch Vale until they encounter the first significant trail junction. The correct trail, the Glacier Gorge/Loch Vale trail, bears right and ascends for about another .5 mile to a second trail junction. At this second junction, you will have traveled about 2.2 miles. One trail leads up into Loch Vale and to such destinations as Timberline Falls. However, this loop hikes takes a different path, and hikers will want to follow the trail leading to Lake Haiyaha. The journey to Lake Haiyaha (pictured below) is 2.1 miles from this junction. You can explore a more detailed trail profile on Lake Haiyaha here.

lake haiyaha rocky mountain national park header

When you near Haiyaha, a trail sign will point the way left, down a short spur to the lake. After visiting Lake Haiyaha, the spur trail will take you back down the to the main trail. The trail to Dream, Nymph, and Bear Lake goes to the left (north. The trail meanders for about 1 mile--mostly downhill--to the next trail junction (pictured below). On this segment hikers will gain views down into the valley that contains Nymph and Bear Lakes.

lake haiyaha trailhead

On the other side of the post pictured above, is a sign indicating that Dream lake is to the left (west), and only .1 mile away. Dream Lake won't disappoint (pictured below). See our full trail profile for Dream Lake.

dream lake rocky mountain national park header

After your trip to Dream Lake, double-back to head toward Nymph Lake by following signs to Bear Lake. In about .5 mile, hikers will arrive at their fourth destination, Nymph Lake. It's known for the pond lilies that bloom yellow in the summer months. You can explore more trail info on Nymph lake at here.
nymph-lake-in-rmnp

Finally, after almost six and a half miles of hiking, hikers will return to Bear lake and the Bear Lake Trailhead.

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Alberta Falls - Lake Haiyaha Loop, Colorado

  • TIP: Trekking Poles in Spring and Winter Because the trail is often in shade, the snow and ice can remain into the early summer months. Because of this, we recommend Trekking Poles and/or Traction Devices for this trail.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Poppy's Pizza
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to several fantastic photographers whose work is featured in this post: Ben Grey, Bear Lake; Miguel Vieira, Lake Haiyaha, Marco Becarra, Dream Lake; Pete Sheffield, Nymph Lake; Bert Cash, Alberta Falls.

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waterfall in canyon with bridge in foreground fish creek falls waterfall in colorado


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Timberline Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Timberline Falls is a demanding 8-mile round-trip waterfall hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail takes you past Alberta Falls up into beautiful Loch Vale. Beyond Timberline Falls hikers will find Lake of Glass, additional falls, and breathtaking Sky Pond.

Glacier Gorge is the home to some of the best hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, and this waterfall hike is one of the best. Be sure to read through the trailhead and parking information below, because, in the busy season, parking fills up fast. Explore our Timberline Falls trail profile below for trail details, driving directions, maps, and more.

Trail Snapshot: Timberline Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information

The trail up to Timberline Falls begins at either the Glacier Gorge Trailhead (see driving directions above), or at the Bear Lake Trailhead (driving directions). Because the Glacier Gorge Trailhead has a much smaller lot, you may need to drive further up to Bear Lake. There you'll find a short connector trail that will put you on the path down and over to the Glacier Gorge Trail system. 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 to Timberline Falls

The hike up into the Glacier Gorge/Loch Vale trail system takes you past one of Rocky Mountain National Parks' most accessible waterfalls, Alberta Falls.

alberta falls rocky mountain national park

After the waterfall, the trail begins to wind up a series of switchbacks for just shy of a mile until a trail junction with the NorthLong's Peak Trail. The trail into Glacier Gorge/Loch Vale then bears right and ascends for about another .5 mile to another trail junction. The trail to the left will take hikers to Glacier Gorge, and the trail to the right takes hikers on a jaunt to Lake Haiyaha (fun to say three times fast) but this trip to Timberline Falls takes the middle trail onto the Loch Vale Trail.
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The path follows the path of Icy Brook through a series of longer switchbacks. The brook can be heard gushing and pouring over the rocks below, and one particular switchback there is a great view of its waters casacading through a green canyon (pictured above). At approximately 1 mile after leaving the junction, the trail opens up to more level ground at The Loch. In the distance, beyond the Loch in the west, the cliff face of the Cathedral Wall calls technical climbers to its challenging routes.

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The trail continues along the right side of the Loch until another trail junction beyond its western shores and deep in the the lush forest surrounding Icy Brook. The trail up to Timberline Falls, Lake of Glass, and Sky Pond is on the left, and the path to the right will take hikers into the Andrew's Creek area, one of my favorite areas of the Park. Here the trail up to Timberline Falls gets more steep, working its way up through subalpine forest of fir and spruce, the ground bejeweled with Columbine flowers. Soon you'll gain views of the falls in the distance.

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A series of stone stairs takes you to the base of the waterfall. In the late Spring and Early Summer, the falls cut through the winter snowpack and creates fantastic shapes out of the snow. For hikers who want to see more, a very steep and slick trail can be found to far right side of the waterfall. This leads up to the Lake of Glass, it's own waterfall, and to Sky Pond.

Video of Timberline Falls in RMNP

ouzel falls waterfall in rocky mountain national park wild basin hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park

Tips & Resources for Hiking Timberline Falls :

  • More to Explore: Be sure to budget extra time to explore the lakes above Timberline Falls.
  • Parking: If the parking lot is full at Glacier Gorge Trailhead, there is a shuttle available to take you to the trailhead. See details at the the top of this trailprofile
  • Gear: Wear good boots with soles that are good for grabbing the rock if you plan to scramble up the steep trail to Lake of Glass and Sky Pond.
  • Pack a Lunch: This is a long hike and you'll certainly need water, but you'll also most likely need fuel for the journey back. Download our hiking guide for a list of great hiking food and snacks.
  • 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
  • After the Hike: Inkwell & Brew Coffee

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south platte river flowing through waterton canyon with foothills in background hikes near denver

Hiking Beautiful Waterton Canyon

The winding dirt road trail of Waterton Canyon takes you along the South Platte river and into a canyon where you might spy some Bighorn sheep or catch the sight of massive eagles soaring on the warm air currents rising from rock. It's an out-and-back hike, and you have a lot of options, from a short hike in to have a picnic, all to way to 12.4 mile round trip adventure to the Strontia Springs Dam. You can hike, bike, and fish on this hike near Denver. Explore the five different options we have detailed below. We'll describe the location of a few destinations, including the best places to rest and have a picnic, and some of the other trails that join up with this Colorado canyon hike.

Waterton Canyon is has reopened on June 15th.. See the Denver Water Waterton Canyon page for updates and details.

Trail Snapshot: Hiking Beautiful Waterton Canyon

When you set out to explore Waterton Canyon, there are plenty of things that you can expect. We've hiked this three times and have spotted Bighorns on two of those hikes. The trail is a wide dirt road that gives Denver Water access to the dam at the top end of the canyon. So, this makes for a great stroller hike, if your stroller has a way to give the kids some shade from the sun. It's also a really enjoyable mountain bike ride because it's not too steep--well, at least not until just past the dam--and the downhill ride back down is easy and fun. Here are are over five different ways you can hike this great hike near Denver, Colorado.

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Hike Options at Waterton Canyon Trail

1. The Shorter Hike in Waterton Canyon

The first mile or two of Waterton Canyon takes you to an old water conduit pipe that juts out over the trail, and your best chance to catch the site of Bighorn Sheep and Golden Eagles. The trail quickly goes from a paved road to a dirt fire road, then begins following the course of the South Platte river. The canyon itself starts low and shallow, and grows higher and more rugged the deeper you venture into Waterton.
waterton-canyon-stroller

After about 15 minutes of hiking, keep your eyes peeled on the green hillsides on your right (see photo above). This is where we most often spot bighorn sheep and their lambs. Scan the skies, too, for gigantic golden eagles that hover on the hot air that rises from the canyon walls in the afternoons. You'll find the first picnic area just about 1/2 of a mile into Waterton Canyon.

2. Waterton Canyon Picnic Area - 3 Miles Round Trip

This section of Waterton makes for a great evening picnic. You'll find it on your left just after the Highline Canal Diversion Dam. It's a great place to skip rocks with the kids and to watch the light soften on the canyon walls as the sun sets over the distant mountains. Continuing past this picnic area, the next feature you'll pass is the Marston Dam. There is another picnic area at approximately 3.75 miles into Waterton Canyon (see the pdf map), that's also a great little spot, but if you get in that far, you'll want to keep exploring.
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If you hike further up into Waterton Canyon, the river grows both wider and wilder. Cedars and pines grow along the banks and canyon sides, and the cliffsides become steep and jagged. It's here, around mile 4, that things start to get interesting.

baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes

3. Fishing Hole and Picnic Table at Mile 4.5

The next destination worth mentioning is a secluded spot on the river where you'll find a deep fishing hole on the right side of the road. There is a picnic table hidden down among the willows (it's hidden well enough that it doesn't show up in the photo below). There is a restroom just about 150 yards upriver from the spot.
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The trail just keeps getting better after you pass this fishing hole. At mile five, we saw a lot of big horn sheep sign, flowering bushes, and wildflowers. Hummingbirds were buzzing along the trail in a furious search for nectar. Folks who fish Waterton Canyon often ride their bikes in and start fishing at the dam, then work their way back downstream.
waterton-canyon-blooming

4. Hike the Entire Trail to the Strontia Springs Dam - 6.2 Miles

The Strontia Springs Dam is an imposing structure, looming over 200 feet high above the trail with water gushing from its release pipes into the river.Accessing the 7700 acre Strontia Springs Reservoir is extremely difficult, though not impossible. However, its banks drop straight off into the water making it a pretty inhospitable place, but it can be fished for perch, trout, and walleye. One fisherman on a Colorado fishing forum commented that you have to really "WANT to get there" because it's so tough to access.
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5. Hike the Colorado Trail

Most people turn around at Strontia Springs, but the trail doesn't end there. In fact, Waterton Canyon is the eastern gateway to the close to 500 mile Colorado Trail. The Colorado Trail starts here in Denver, then weaves it's way all the way to Durango. You can download a Trail Map of the Colorado Trail here. You really have several options at this point. You can continue onto segment one of the Colorado Trail on Trail #1776.
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Segment one of the Colorado Trail will take you out of the canyon and onto US Forest Service land where you can camp near Lenny's Rest. It's important to note that camping is prohibited in Waterton Canyon, so this area at Lenny's rest should be your goal if you plan to overnight. Another option is that you can hike down into Roxborough State Park on the Roxborough Connector section of the Indian Creek Trail #800. Yet another option--and this option is way more than a dayhike being well over 28 miles--would be to hike the full Indian Creek Trail loop, then to exit at either Roxborough or back down through Waterton Canyon. However, Indian Creek does have it's own campground, so you could make it a long weekend trip. Of course, your final option is to hike out the way you came through Waterton Canyon. Click here for a PDF map of the first segment of the Colorado Trail that shows the connections to both Roxborough and the Indian Creek Campsite.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Waterton Canyon :

  • No Dogs: Because of the bighorn sheep and other wildlife, dogs are not allowed in Waterton Canyon.
  • Fishing: If your goal is to go fishing in Waterton Canyon, then start early and ride your mountain bike the 6.2 miles up to the dam and fish your way down.
  • It Gets Hot: Don't hike this in the middle of the day. Waterton Canyon is close to 100% exposed to the sun, so it's best to start very early or to hike later when the sun is moving itself to end the day.
  • Did I Mention It Gets Hot? Bring sunscreen and a hat
  • Bring Water: Bring plenty of water. You can say this about every hike, but it's especially important because of the sun and heat.
  • Dusk: It gets dark quickly after sunset. Because you're in a canyon, once the sun sets beyond the foothills, the canyon becomes a land of shadows.
  • Watch for Bikes: Watch for mountain bikes, especially those headed down and out of the canyon. The road is wide enough to accommodate a lot of traffic in Waterton Canyon, but you want to be sure that you are staying to the right as you hike so that you can give a wide berth to the bikes that are letting it rip as they leave the canyon.
  • Trail Map for Waterton Canyon: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Spur Coffee in Littleton

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man painting red rocks at trading post trail in red rocks park near denver with red rocks in background hikes 30 minutes from denver


wildfowers in foreground on top of north table mountain in golden colorado

North Table Mountain Hike Near Golden, Colorado

When the sun rises over the North Table Mountain, you'll see this mesa rising above the town of Golden, Colorado. A vast network of trails awaits hikers, mountain bikers, and nature photographers. This is a perfect hike near Denver for when you don’t have much time on your hands but need some fresh air. While the trails on Table Mountain are accessible all year round, the best time to hike it is in the Spring and early Summer when wild flowers start to bloom. Check out our detailed description of the hike, the Table Mountain trail map, driving directions so that you can explore this unique Colorado hike.

Trail Snapshot: North Table Mountain Near Golden

Start your tour of North Table Mountain (really it's a mesa) a few hours after the daybreak by entering the main parking lot off of Highway 93, just north of Golden, Colorado. At the trailhead, you'll find a kiosk with trail maps, and a public restroom. There are three ways you can explore the North Table Mountain, so scroll down to read the details on all three options.

Hiking North Table Mountain

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#1 The (short) North Table Loop trail - 3.2 Miles

The first part of the trail starts with a wide path, a long ramp up to the top of the mesa. It's a bit of a challenge, but when you get to the top, the paths level off and are much easier. Leaving the parking lot, take the North Table Loop trail south for 0.7 miles until you reach a trail intersection. Take a left onto the Tilting Mesa trail. Follow Tilting Mesa trail for approximately 1 mile until the next trail junction. Take a left onto the Mesa Top Trail, hiking on it until it intersects with the North Table Loop trail again. Take a left onto the North Table loop trail which skirts the sides of North Table Mountain and takes you back to the trailhead.

north table mountain west side looking toward golden colorado

#2 The Longer North Table Loop Routes - 6-8 Miles

Shake it up a bit: This is a longer route that combines a tour of the top of Table Mountain and a hike around the perimeter. Start the same way you would start the short table loop trail by taking the North Table Loop for 0.7 miles until you reach the Tilting Mesa trail. Follow the trail to the first unmarked intersection and then turn right. On your next intersection turn right again onto the Mesa Top trail. After about .6 mile, you'll encounter a trail intersection with the Rim Rock Trail which is closed seasonally (March 1 through July 31). Continue on the Mesa Top trail until it intersects with the North Table Loop trail which will take you all the way back to the west side of the mountain and to the parking area. This is approximately a 6 mile loop.

Adapt to a Closure Route: At the time of this post, April 2014, a segment of the Mesa Top trail is closed due to flood damage. An alternate route adds some mileage and difficulty to this loop, but that just may be what you are looking for. Here's the route: Same as above, but when on the Mesa Top Trail, take the Cottonwood Canyon Trail (right) until it links you back up with the North Table Loop trail. Then take a left back on to the North Table Loop trail which will then take you on a tour of roughly 3/4 of the perimeter of North Table Mountain. Here's a link to the North Table Mountain Trail Closure map that should help you plan this route. This Route is approximately a 7.5 mile loop.

The Straighforward Approach: The final route is pretty straightforward, just take the North Table Mountain Loop all the way around the perimeter of the mountain. This results in an approximate 7.7 mile loop.

mountain biker on top of north table mountain with denver skyline in background
#3 The Golden Cliffs Trail - 2.7 miles RT

If you are a climber or just looking for a shorter hike, you can take North Table Mountain trail to the Golden Cliffs trail. The Golden Cliffs are very popular Colorado rock climbing attraction. This area is actually a preserve managed by the Access fund. For more information on rock climbing the Golden Cliffs, see the Golden Cliffs page on the Mountain Project and Access Fund Sites. This is a 2.7 mile (Round Trip) out-and-back trip.

Tips for Hiking North Table Mountain:

  • Wear sunscreen because there is no shade once you are atop Table Mountain.
  • Camping and open fires are not permitted at North Table Mountain Park.
  • Don’t forget to bring your camera. You can get some very interesting wildlife images.
  • Rattlesnakes: Jefferson County Open Space notes that North Table Mountain is a known Rattlesnake habitat. They recommend downloading their Snakebite Prevention and First Aid Guide to better understand this native reptile of Colorado.

whitetail deer trailside on north table mountainWeather

Map and Directions to North Table Mountain West Trailheaad

man painting red rocks at trading post trail in red rocks park near denver with red rocks in background hikes 30 minutes from denver


hiker and child on mt bierstadt trail with mountains in background hike near denver

Mt. Bierstadt Trail on Guanella Pass

Summit a Fourteener, Mount Bierstadt, or go for an easy hike with your family high in Colorado's Rocky Mountains. In short, you've got options on this trail near the top of Guanella Pass. You can choose an easy stroll or a difficult hike. Explore the trail snapshot and profile below for hiking, camping, and trail map info.

Trail Snapshot: Mr. Bierstadt Hike at Guanella Pass

You've got options with the Mount Bierstadt trail. First, we'll profile the hike to the summit. Below that, you'll find some information on how to just explore the area with your family or friends, making this an easy hike high in the Colorado mountain.

Climb Your First Colorado Fourteener

Mt. Bierstadt is popular, not just because it's so close to Denver, but it's also one of the easier and more accessible of Colorado's 54 fourteen thousand foot peaks. The Mount Bierstadt trail can be accessed on the south side of Guanella Pass from the Mt Bierstadt trailhead (click here for map and directions from Denver). It's important to be aware that the weather can change in an instant in the mountains, and that snow can come in fast even in the late Spring and early Fall. As with any Day Hike, be sure to (at least) pack the 10 Essentials.

The Bierstadt trail is well marked; you'll follow signs down to a boardwalk, then to Scott Gomer Creek. After crossing the creek, the trail will become more steep, and the steepness will increase as you make your way to the summit. The trail winds gently through the tundra until you are about three miles in when the green and brown gives way to rock. Follow the west ridge up to the summit of Mount Bierstadt. For a detailed trace and profile of the Mt.Bierstadt route, see this Route #1 Bierstadt profile on 14ers.com.

hiker crossing creek below mt bierstadt near guanella pass with child in backpack carrier

Make it an Easy Family Hike

Hiking Colorado's Bierstadt trail doesn't mean that you have to summit. In fact, the first mile of trail is really tame. It takes you over a creek, through willows, and by two small high mountain lakes. If you want to gain additional views, you can add another half mile of moderate hiking that will take you above the valley floor.

We took our 4 1/2 year old, 2 year old with us in the Fall and they loved it. Dog's on the Mount Bierstadt trail must be kept on a leash and need to be kept 100' from water sources (in short, they aren't allowed to play in the lakes and streams). In fact, because we'd recommend that you leave Fido at home because of the fragile alpine tundra ecosystem. In August of 2012, Missy, a German Shepherd, was rescued after being stranded on the peak for eight days. You can read more about her ordeal and the rescue in this Denver Post article.

lake along bierstadt trail on guanella pass colorado hike

Camping Near the Mt. Bierstadt Trail

There are a lot of campground sites along both sides of Guanella pass that are managed by the forest service (fee required) and dispersed camping is allowed on US Forest and wilderness areas. Below you'll find a few important links to camping information for the Mt. Bierstadt and Guanella Pass Area.

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Mt. Bierstadt Trail:

  • TIP: Go Early; the parking lot at the Mt. Bierstadt Trailhead fills fast.
  • TIP: If you've never summited a 14er before, be sure to read this great article by Lindsey Koehler of 5280 Magazine.
  • TIP: If you plan to summit Mount Bierstadt, start early so that you can be back at the trailhead before the almost daily summer thunderstorms role in. I'd recommend starting around 6am, so that you're back at your car around 11am.
  • TIP: Hiking times vary. Those who frequently make the assault on Mt. Bierstadt (even trail run it), can make it up and back in 3 hours. The average is 5hrs, but adjust for experience and how good of shape you're in
  • After the Hike: Tommy Knocker Brewery
  • TIP: The weather will be cooler at the trailhead than the posted Georgetown, Colorado temperature below. It will be even cooler at the summit of Mt. Beirstadt.
  • Trail Map for Guanella Pass: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions

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above bear lake in rmnp looking to glacier gorge hike finder