National Parks

Rocky Mountain National Park

Gray Line

Park Map

Rocky Mountain National Park is located in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, in Colorado. It features majestic mountain views, mountain lakes, a variety of wildlife, varied climates and environments — from wooded forests to mountain tundra. The park is located about 1 hour northwest of Denver, CO and includes the Continental Divide and the headwaters of the Colorado River. The park has five visitor centers and may be accessed by three roads: U.S. Highway 34, 36, and State Highway 7.

Whatever run you choose to take here. make sure you cool-down with a drive along Trail Ridge Road (US 34). Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the US, runs through the park, from Estes Park on the east to Grand Lake on the southwest. As you drive the 48 miles, you will enjoy sunning panoramic views of the Colorado scenery. The road reaches an elevation of 12,183 feet, and is closed by snow in winter. Our recommended routes:

  1. Cub Lake
  2. Lily Lake
  3. Upper Beaver Meadow
  4. Emerald Lake
  5. Mill Creek Basin Trail

Cub Lake
4.6 mile out-and-back Start: Cub Lake Trailhead, Moraine Park Area

This route is a moderately difficult trail runs through meadows, wetlands, and woods of ponderosa pine and aspen where wildlife and wildflowers flourish. As your run progresses, your will pass through willow thickets and along the Big Thompson River. After 0.5 miles bear right to stay on Cub Lake Trail. This dirt trail is relatively flat and well packed until the 1.9 mile marker. Here, the trail begins climbing through mature aspen groves and the path becomes fairly rocky. Ultimately, the trail will round large rock outcrops and lead you to the Cub Creek. To reach the trailhead from Bear Lake Road, follow Moraine Park Road for a half-mile to an unmarked junction — just before reaching the campground. At the junction, turn left and drive roughly 1.2 miles to the Cub Lake Trailhead. Parking space is fairly limited here, however, you will have the option of taking the free hiker shuttle from the Moraine Park Visitor Center.

Lily Lake
1.2 mile loop Start: Lily Lake parking area

Lily Lake is an excellent loop with beautiful scenery featuring a view of Longs Peak (the highest point in Rocky Mountain National Park). The path is hard packed gravel and may be a bit busy with visitors during peak visiting hours. After running clockwise on the path for 0.4 miles, you’ll reach the western Lily Ridge Trail junction. Although this path is not as well established and will add a bit of elevation (100 feet), it provides stunning views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. To increase mileage, complete the route as many times as desired. To reach the trailhead from Estes Park, drive 6.3 miles south on Colorado Highway 7 to the Lily Lake parking area.

Lily Lake is an excellent loop with beautiful scenery featuring a view of Longs Peak (the highest point in Rocky Mountain National Park). The path is hard packed gravel and may be a bit busy with visitors during peak visiting hours. After running clockwise on the path for 0.4 miles, you’ll reach the western Lily Ridge Trail junction. Although this path is not as well established and will add a bit of elevation (100 feet), it provides stunning views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. To increase mileage, complete the route as many times as desired. To reach the trailhead from Estes Park, drive 6.3 miles south on Colorado Highway 7 to the Lily Lake parking area.

Upper Beaver Meadows
~3 mile loop. Start: Turnoff for Upper Beaver Meadows

The road to Upper Beaver Meadows Trailhead makes for a great place to run. This route is inspired by the Rocky Mountain National Park’s Firemen, who regularly run a longer (more difficult) version. From the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station, drive 0.7 miles to the turnoff for Upper Beaver Meadows. Begin your run by turning left onto this rough paved road. This road does not have a defined shoulder but cars have plenty of space to pass safely. The road continues for 1.4 miles until you reach the Upper Beaver Meadow’s Trailhead. From here, continue just beyond the trailhead and turn onto an unmarked social trail spurring off to the right. This well maintained trail will lead you along a relatively flat route that loops back to the road.

Emerald Lake
3.5 mile out-and-back Start: Bear Lake Trailhead

This trail is very popular but for a good reason; it is beautiful! Begin your run at Bear Lake Trailhead. Although beautiful, this trail does require a bit of hard work. The path is a well maintained dirt path that gains about 650 feet of elevation. Along the route you will enjoy views of Nymph Lake (ringed by pond lilies), Longs Peak, and Hallett Peak. At your final destination, you will be greeted by Emerald Lake, 12,713-foot Hallett Peak and 12,324-foot Flattop Mountain to the right. For the most enjoyable running experience, it is recommended that you hit this trail early in the morning to avoid crowds.

Mill Creek Basin Trail
3.2 miles out-and-back. Elev. Gain 600 Ft. Start: Near Hallowel Trailhead, not far from Estes

A relatively flat 1.6 mile trail along Mill Creek in the eastern part of the park, featuring wildflower fields and aspens.

Comment on this Route/Share a Photo!

Share your feedback on this route and see that of other Great Runs users. Click on the image icon to upload a photo. And please let us know if there are notes or changes we should incorporate!

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments