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Five Best Lake Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park

by Danielle Maxey
Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado

Tourist near Dream Lake at autumn in Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado, USA. Stock Photo by @haveseen via Envato Elements

Editor’s Note: Rocky Mountain National Park is currently requiring reservations to enter the park, so plan ahead. Per the official RMNP website, “A timed entry permit or camping reservation is required to enter ALL areas of Rocky Mountain National Park—including Trail Ridge Road (US Hwy 34)—when arriving by vehicle between the hours of 6 am and 5 pm.”

Rocky Mountain National Park is known for its stunning views of jagged mountains and clear, blue lakes. It’s also the third most visited National Park in the nation so be sure to arrive early to avoid the crowds. Parking lots fill up early in the morning, so plan on taking a shuttle if you come mid-day. But once you get there, don’t miss the five best lake hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Besides the majestic peaks, the lakes are what everyone comes to see. For those looking to explore the best lakes the park has to offer, here are the five best Rocky Mountain National Park lakes everyone should hike to while visiting the park.

The best part? Some of these locations can be combined with others, so you can be sure to see the top places while on your trip.

For those who are looking for a short hike to get a glimpse of Rocky Mountain National Park, Dream Lake is the biggest bang for your buck. At two miles round trip, this hike is perfect for families or those on a bit of a time crunch.

Dream Lake is one of the most photographed areas in the park too, and for good reason. The stunning views of Hallet Peak will be sure to delight any photographer.

If you find yourself wanting some more, add on Lake Haiyaha for less than four miles round trip.

The Loch Lake, Rocky Mountain National Parkl

For those looking for a slightly longer hike, the Loch Lake Trail provides beautiful views of the park. At 5.4 miles round trip, you’ll get to pass by another Rocky Mountain National Park Treasure: Alberta Falls.

This trail begins at the Glacier Gorge Trail System (one of the most popular, so plan to get here early). You’ll also get great views of the surrounding valleys in the park.

Since it still is a shorter hike, why not add on Emerald Lake? You’ll pass by the Emerald Lake trail en route to Loch Lake.

Jewel Lake is one of the best introductions to hiking the Rocky Mountain National Park lakes. This is another hike that begins at the Glacier Gorge trail system, so it can be crowded at the beginning.

However, once you get past the Alberta Falls, you will see significantly fewer people. It is 5.9 miles round trip and has some pretty amazing places to set up a hammock or eat lunch while enjoying some of the best scenery the park has to offer.

For those interested in climbing, Chasm Lake trail is the must-do hike of Rocky Mountain National Park lakes, though the trail actually starts outside of the park entrance. This hike is one of the hardest on this list, clocking in at just under 9.5 miles.

That said, it provides an amazing view of Chasm Lake underneath the infamous ‘Diamond’, Long Peak’s prominent 900 foot-tall, east face and one of America’s most iconic walls in the alpine. The last section of the trail can be a bit tricky to find and requires some scrambling to get up to the lake, but it is well worth it.

Get up early to watch the sunrise hit the Diamond for an amazing adventure.

This classic Rocky Mountain National Park lake hike isn’t for the faint of heart. This one also starts at Glacier Gorge as well. It requires a pretty steep hike up with a good bit of elevation gain and covers almost 10 miles. But the views are definitely worth the effort.

To get to Sky Pond, there is a short scramble up a waterfall. This can look tricky at first, but the climb is doable for people of all ages. Once at the top of Sky Pond, you can continue to follow the small trail around the basin to the Lake of Glass.

There are even more adventures to find in Rocky Mountain National Park. After you’ve done these top lake hikes, drive above the mountains and through an alpine tundra on Trail Ridge Road.

You can also finish the day by exploring the haunted Stanley Hotel that inspired the hit book “The Shining” and explore the mountain town of Estes Park.

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