Monarch Lake Loop Hike

The Monarch Lake Loop is a perfect family hike that leads 4 miles through shaded forest, across creeks, and along the shore of the lake. It's one of the more diverse, but easy, hikes in the area. Monarch Lake is a popular destination for canoeing, kayaking, and access to the Indian Peaks Wilderness area. Explore the full Monarch Lake Loop hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and many of the details you need to enjoy this adventure in Grand County, Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Monarch Lake Loop, Colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Monarch Lake, Colorado

Following the driving directions in the above trail snapshot for Monarch Lake, the road will end at the Monarch Lake Trailhead. Here, you'll find parking spaces for about 40 vehicles. The parking area fills fast and cars and trucks often line both sides of the road to the trailhead. An Arapahoe National Recreation Area day use pass is required and can be purchased at the kiosk at the Arapahoe Bay Pay Station. This pay station is located shortly after you turn onto County Hwy 6 and before crossing over the dam. While Monarch lake is open in the winter, and Hwy 6 is plowed, the approximately 1 mile final segment of road that leads into the trailhead is closed from Nov. 15 to June 15. Because of this, hikers will have to park and snowshoe, cross-country ski, or hike in to the trailhead.

The Hike: Monarch Lake, CO

From the trailhead, a shaded tunnel of trees leads down a short gravel path to the Wilderness Information Cabin. Here you can pick up trail maps and information about hikes up into the Indian Peaks Wilderness area. The trail description here is of hiking the Monarch Lake Loop in a clockwise fashion. Begin on the Cascade Creek trail #N1. This will follow the shoreline of the lake and soon enter the forested area along the Northern end of the lake. After approximately 1 mile, the landscape changes and enters a wetland marsh. Keep your eyes peeled for moose and other wildlife here.

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Wilderness Info Cabin at Monarch Lake

After 1.5 miles on the Cascade Creek Trail, the loop will be continued by taking a right onto the Arapaho Pass Spur Trail. This will head south, crossing Buchanan Creek, then Arapaho Creek. Here, after .8 mile, the spur trail ends and the Arapaho Pass trail begins. This last segment on the Arapaho Pass trail #N6 is 1.7 miles long.

Because of the pine beetle kill, there are many dead trees throughout the Monarch Lake Loop hike. Be alert for falling trees, especially when gusts of wind blow through. Hikers may also encounter deadfall across the trail. Be careful going under any fallen trees as they are often unstable and may only be supported by a few small, dead branches.

The hike continues on the south shore of the lake, passing an old, rusty steam engine. These "steam donkeys" were used to pull logs down out of the mountains back in the logging camps of the 1800's. After the steam engine, the trail will cross two more creeks, and finally make its way across the dam at the northwestern end of the Lake.

Because this hike is so perfect as a family outing, or for visiting family and friends, we recommend the following day trip:
1) Leave early (take breakfast with you) and arrive at the trailhead at or before 8AM (better chance of seeing wildlife and better parking)
2) Hike Monarch Lake
3) Drive over Trail Ridge Road (fee required--but worth every penny)
4) Eat a late Lunch in Estes Park (so bring snacks)
5) Head back home or drive in to Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking the Monarch Lake Loop

  • Fishing: Monarch Lake is a popular fishing spot for trout. Colorado State fishing regulations apply.
  • Falling Trees: Because of the amount of dead trees in this area, hikers should be on alert for falling trees.
  • Trail Map for Monarch Lake 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
  • After the Hike: Mavericks Grill in Granby, CO

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baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes


adams falls waterfall on hike in grand lake colorado rocky mountain national park

Adams Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Adams Falls is a short .6 mile round-trip hike near Grand Lake, Colorado. The waterfall borders Rocky Mountain National Park and its trail begins at the same trailhead for the East Inlet Trail. Explore the full Adams Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and all the details you need for this short waterfall Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Adams Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Adams Falls is named after Jay E. Adams, an early settler of Grand Lake, Colorado. This hike is on the quieter western side of Rocky Mountain National Park. However, it's still a popular trail, so expect to encounter a lot of hikers. Go on a weekday or early morning for the experience of quiet and solitude. After hiking the .3 mile segment of trail, you'll arrive at Adams Falls. There is an observation area that grants the best and safest views of the falls.

waterfall tumbling over rock with mountain and trees in background rocky mountain national park adams falls

The hike to Adams Falls is perfect for families with young children who may not be able to hike as far. As with all streams and waterfalls, have children exercise caution. Rocks are slippery and the hydraulic force of the creek can be incredibly powerful. About 1/4 mile beyond Adams Falls, there are spectacular views of the East Meadows, making the short distance a worth addition to this easy waterfall hike.

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East Meadow - about .3 Mile Beyond Adams Falls

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Adams Falls, Grand Lake, CO

  • Wear Good Footwear: The trail has a lot of rocks and roots, so be sure to have shoes or boots that can handle slick surfaces.
  • Explore More: Hike about a quarter mile past the falls to where the meadows open up and East Inlet creek meanders through the tall grass. It's an amazing sight.
  • Trail Map for Rocky Mountain National Park: Trail 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
  • After the Hike: The Hub Coffee
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Kimon Berlin for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike.

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