Prepare to be amazed by the breathtaking views that make Rocky Mountain the 4th most-visited National Park in the United States, drawing in a whopping 4.3 million adventure-seekers in 2022. In this guide, I’m about to share several easy Rocky Mountain views and hikes, ensuring your future visit is unforgettable. And if you haven’t already planned a trip, don’t be surprised if you find yourself clicking ‘book now’ by the time you finish this post. Sit back and enjoy the views and be sure to leave a comment if you loved this post, or have any questions.
Know Before You Go
We did a good amount of research before visiting Rocky Mountain and there are a few important things to know, and some that are just good to keep in mind. Here are some tips and information before we get started with the easy Rocky Mountain views & hikes.
Practice Leave No Trace
It’s always good to practice the 7 principles of Leave No Trace when visiting a National Park, or any park system. Plan and prepare, Travel on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife, and Be Considerate of Others. Learn more here.
The weather can change quickly depending on your altitude and location, from snow to rain, lightning, and temperature changes. Be sure to check in with the park daily to see the weather conditions and listen to the Park Rangers. It also helps to have layers of clothing, and ideally water-repellant jacket and shoes.
Note: I am not a medical professional and this is not official medical advice. I am sharing this for awareness and with the understanding that you will research this subject on your own with a trusted medical source or your doctor.
Altitude Sickness is what happens when your body doesn’t have time to acclimate to the thinner amounts of oxygen at higher altitudes. The most common and mildest form is known as Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS. Please take this seriously as it will affect anyone regardless of how healthy or in shape you are and there are serious and deadly forms of Altitude Sickness.
It is said to not be common to get altitude sickness at 8000 feet above sea level or lower, however, keep in mind that everything that is featured in this post starts at above 8000 feet above sea level. Some symptoms to look out for are headache (most common), nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, malaise, trouble sleeping, dizziness or lightheadedness, and vision changes (severe cases).
I had a mild case of it in Denver before we headed to the park and it lingered at varying levels of intensity the rest of our trip. My symptoms were headache (so bad nothing would take it away), a pinch of nausea, fatigue, and lightheadedness.
Some tips I’ve learned on helping yourself ease into a new altitude:
- Make your first day an easy one, with no strenuous activities or hiking.
- Start making sure you are hydrated even before your travels.
- Your body will lose salt and water quickly, sometimes drinking lots of water isn’t enough. Consider a drink with electrolytes and carbohydrates.
- Limit, or eliminate alcohol and caffeine. Of course, I couldn’t give up my previous caffeine, but I didn’t have any alcohol while in higher altitudes.
Rocky Mountain National Park is moving to cashless payments at entrances and campgrounds for all fees. They will accept most credit and debit cards as well as digital forms of payment.
Only have cash? Visit the Rocky Mountain Conservancy Nature Store in Beaver Meadows, Fall River, or Kawuneeche Visitor Centers.
Private vehicles are $30, click here for other vehicle types, passes, etc.
Depending on when you visit, you may be required to participate in timed entry, to learn more and see. if timed entry is activated visit the NPS page here.
Driving Trail Ridge Road
One of my favorite things on this list of easy Rocky Mountain views & hikes is the Trail Ridge Road drive. Connecting Estes Park on the east and Grand Lake on the west, this road will take you on a spectacular journey through 48 miles of winding, scenic landscapes. The highest point of the road takes you well above the tree line at 12,183 feet of elevation. Enjoy thrilling views, wildlife, and the beautiful landscape from the comfort of your car. With many turnout points, you can get out and stretch your legs for even more epic views. Trail Ridge Road is considered one of 10 America’s Byways in Colorado and a national designated All American Road.
How far you can travel on this road depends on the season. We visited in mid-May and the road was only open to Rainbow Curve from the Estes Park entrance. As we drove to higher and higher altitudes we noticed the snow was piled up on each side of the road. Be prepared to stop at several different turnout points, many of our favorites are listed below. This is also a great way to see animal life in the Rocky Mountains. We came across wild turkeys, elk, deer, and even a juvenile moose along the road! We almost missed the moose, but did a double-take and turned around to park in a random lot to get pictures of it. So cool to see.
This drive was breathtaking and should be on every visitor’s list. It’s also perfect if you don’t have a lot of time but want to take in a lot of views.
Helpful Info about Trail Ridge Road
Is Trail Ride Road open?
The road is not maintained during the winter which can span from late September/ early October to late May/ early June. When we visited in mid-May, the road was only partially open to Rainbow Curve Overlook coming from Estes Park. Be sure to check their official page for up-to-date details.
Do I need a reservation to drive on Trail Ridge Road?
The answer depends on when you visit. In 2023, timed entry begins May 26 and runs through October 22 and you will need to reserve your ticket within 30 days of your visit at the Recreation.gov website. If you visit the park before 9 am or after 2 pm to drive Trail Ridge Road you will not need a timed entry permit. Please note that timed entries apply to other areas of the park, too.
How much time do I need to drive Trail Ridge Road?
If you are doing the drive and not stopping, you should be able to do the drive in about 2 hours. However, you’re going to want to consider stopping at turnout points, wildlife potentially obstructing the road, traffic during peak season, and if you decide to go on any hikes. We estimated it would take 15-30 minutes at each turnout we stopped at to take in the scenery. The longest time we spent on a hike listed on this post was roughly 1.5 hours.
Beaver Ponds Boardwalk
Location Elevation: 9,144 feet above sea level
Distance: 0.2 round trip
Elevation Gain: 0
Type of Trail: Out & back
Surface: A well-maintained wooden plank boardwalk
We stopped at this spot on the way back down Trail Ridge Road and were delighted with the views. It was a quiet and serene viewpoint with a very short walk on a wooden boardwalk to a pond. We got to witness some drama between 3 ducks which was entertaining and strange, and just enjoyed the peaceful and quiet mountainous landscape. This is a perfect place to get incredible views with minimal effort.
Many Parks Curves Overlook
Location Elevation: 9,691 feet above sea level
Parking: 2 paved lots on each side of the curve
Viewing Area: A long, boardwalk-planked, railing-lined walkway that follows the curve of the street and connects both lots. One parking lot requires you to cross the street so be sure to use caution.
Capture breathtaking views of several parks within Rocky Mountain National Park at Many Parks Curves Overlook. See views of Moraine Park, Horseshoe Park meadows, and Upper Beaver Meadows with views of Deer Mountain, and Longs Peak in the distance. In the smaller lot that is along the path, there is a small pile of rocks many people would climb to get an epic view, including myself (see above). There were two people who just sat in the good spot for a long time so I had to climb up off to the side but the view was breathtaking.
Rainbow Curve Overlook
Location Elevation: 10,829 feet above sea level
Parking: Large, paved lot connected to the viewing area
Viewing Area: A sidewalk-lined edge of the parking lot with a stacked-rock border that one can sit on to enjoy the views.
Getting its name from the rainbows that often form after a rainstorm, Rainbow Curve Overlook rests along a tree line that marks the passing between alpine and sub-alpine ecosystems. From this viewpoint, you can see expansive views of Alluvial Fan, Horseshoe Park, Deer Mountain, and Mummy Mountain ranges. This was as far along the Trail Ridge Road as we were able to drive in mid-May due to the snow pile, it was also the busiest destination we encountered on our entire trip. On the way up, you could see snow piled as high as 6 feet, sometimes deeper, along the sides of the road. The parking lot is lined with a low baricade perfect to sit on and admire and take in the expansive views.
Alluvial Fan Trail Hike
Location Elevation: 8,610 feet above sea level
Distance: 0.7 miles
Elevation Gain During Hike: 82 feet
Type of Trail: Out & back, easy, somewhat accessible with help
Surface: Paved, dirt, wood plank bridge
An alluvial fan is a geological term for a delta-shaped area of sediment deposits that usually take a long period of time to be created, however, the Alluvial Fan in Rocky Mountain was created almost overnight. In 1982, the Lawn Lake Dam, situated above the area, burst and flooded parts of Rocky Mountain and Estes Park. What you see today is the result of this burst, with giant boulders strewn all over.
This was a beautiful and easy trail to hike that can be accessed from paved parking lots on the east and west sides. Many chose to climb up the rocks to get a closer view of the falls, but you can see it all perfectly from the designated viewpoint. Be sure to check out the interpretive signage that elaborates on how the Alluvial Fan was formed.
I really enjoyed sitting and listening to the water rush through the Roaring River and taking in the views. We walked along the rushing river water and over to the cascading falls and observed from that area while many others continued to get closer to the falls.
Sprague Lake Loop Hike
Location Elevation: 8,700 feet above sea level
Distance: 0.5 miles round trip
Elevation Gain During Hike: 10 feet
Type of Trail: loop, easy, accessible
Surface: gravel, wood boardwalk, dirt
This simple but beautiful lake is a popular destination to view moose (often bathing), and sunrises. Its easy-to-walk trail makes this a perfect spot for just about every visitor to take in incredible views with low effort making it a perfect combination of easy Rocky Mountain views & hikes.
What is extra unique about this destination is that it’s probably going to look different every time you visit. On our handful of visits to the lake, we experienced foggy skies that blocked the mountain views, purple and gold skies as the sun rose, and crystal clear blue skies with incredible mountain views. It’s also easy to access being only roughly 30 minutes drive from entering the park from the Estes Park side.
Why did we visit so often? We joined a Facebook group where people talked about their visits and there were rumors of a moose and its calf hanging out in the area and we really wanted to see it! We never did catch views of the moose and calf, but we did see a few elk, turkeys, and geese.
Bear Lake to Nymph Lake Hike
Location Elevation: 9,475
Trailhead: Bear Lake
Distance: 1 mile, round trip
Elevation Gain During Hike: 236 feet
Type of Trail: Out and back, easy to moderate
Surface: Dirt, snow, rocks
This is the “big hike” that we did during our visit.
Mind you, earlier on the trip I experienced some mild altitude sickness so I definitely took it easy along this trail. I stopped often to take a breather, rest, and drink some water. I also wore layers so I could easily take some off if I got overheated… and I did about halfway up.
We visited in mid-May and the trail was half-covered in snow. We had rented snow spikes and hiking poles from Estes Park Mountain Shop which helped give us a little extra grip along the way.
Many people continue along this trail to reach Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, or Lake Haiyaha, but after taking it easy we decided to keep it simple to hike to the closest lake.
The day we chose to take this hike was also extremely hazy due to Canadian wildfires that were blowing down to the states. We didn’t get the far, expansive views some might have on this hike, but it was still a beautiful trail.
Drive through Moraine Park
Location Elevation: Roughly 8140
Carved by glaciers thousands of years ago, Moraine Park offers expansive views of a beautiful valley. There are a handful of trails within Moraine Park, but this might be the destination with the least effort needed on my list of easy Rocky Mountain views & hikes.
Cub Lake Trail Hike
Location Elevation: About 8400, varies along the trail
Trailhead: Cub Lake Trailhead
Distance: 5.2 miles, round trip
Elevation Gain During Hike: 705 feet
Type of Trail: Out & back, moderate
Surface: dirt, wood bridge
I’ll be honest, we didn’t finish this trail, we maybe did about .4 miles out and back. We were tired, we just wanted one last view for the day and we came across Cub Lake Trail while driving through Moraine Park. However, in the short time we did hike this path, we were inundated with absolutely stunning views. When we visit again, I’d definitely add this hike to our list.
Lily Lake Loop Hike
Location Elevation: 8,940
Trailhead: Lily Lake Trailhead
Distance: 0.8 miles round trip
Elevation Gain During Hike: 10 feet
Type of Trail: loop, easy
Surface: dirt, boardwalk
Circling Lily Lake, this easy trail gives great views of snow-capped mountains in the distance. See beautiful wildflowers along the trail and enjoy the scenery. Admittedly, we did not do the full loop. We visited this view twice, and both times were quite busy. There is an overflow parking lot across the street if it gets too full which we had to use on our second visit.
The drive to Lily Lake was breathtaking as it winds you through mountains and at times drives between them. The drive back down toward Estes Park felt a bit thrilling as you feel quite close to the edge and there wasn’t always a border along the road making it feel like you could easily fall off. The views, though? Beautiful.
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