Rocky Mountain National Park Trails
Glaciation has left its indelible imprint here like nowhere else in Colorado. The park contains valley after valley of glacial lakes placed one after another like beads on a string. In excavating their trademark U-shaped valleys, the glaciers of Rocky Mountain National Park carved abrupt stone faces, left pirouetting peaks and rocky horns, and hid glacial lakes known as tarns high above valley floors. Longs Peak, one of Colorado’s most dominating fourteeners, commands the skyline—its massive block summit, seemingly the size of an aircraft carrier flight deck, stands as a beacon from anywhere within the park. Unlike national forest wilderness areas, hunting is prohibited within national parks. As a consequence, big game animals are less wary of humans, and visitors frequently see elk, deer, and bighorn sheep. The park is particularly renowned for its elk herds; in September, crowds of tourists clog the road at Horseshoe Park in early evening for the chance to hear rutting bull elk bugle their challenges to one another. Elk are commonly encountered throughout the forested valleys and glades on the northern and eastern edges of the park. Rocky Mountain National Park contains ecosystems ranging from montane to alpine. Forests of ponderosa pine and aspen cloak the vicinity of Estes Park. Thickets of lodgepole pine, including sticklike stands referred to as “dog hair” lodgepole because of their impenetrable growth, define the low forests of the northeast, southeast, and southwest park quadrants. Above these, subalpine forests populated with Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir take hold. As elevation increases and the environment grows more extreme, the spruce-fir forests give way to scraggly timberline survivors such as creeping krummholz, which finally yield to tiny but hardy tundra plants. Fully one-third of the park’s area lies above timberline, but despite its desolate appearance, the tundra supports more than 150 species of flowering plants. This trail guide includes descriptions of Lulu City, Sky Pond, Emerald Lake, Onahu Creek/Green Mountain, Twin Sisters Peaks, Lawn Lake, Longs Peak, Thunder Lake, Fern Lake/Bear Lake/Mill Creek Basin, Tonahutu/North Inlet, Milner Pass to CO 14 via Cache La Poudre River, and Bear Lake to Tonahutu Creek or North Inlet.
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Directions to: Rocky Mountain National Park Trailsprint directions
Trail Statistics & Information
|Nearby City||Estes Park|
|Skill Level||Easy to Strenuous|
|Season||Best Spring through Fall|
|Trailhead Elevation||7,800 ft|
|Top Elevation||14,259 ft|
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