Winter Hike to Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Flying out of Northwest Arkansas regional airport (xna) to Denver

Last week we took a spontaneous trip out to Rocky Mountain National Park to play in the snow. It was the first time that I flew out of the airport in Northwest Arkansas. I was impressed with the ease of the small airport. We were able to walk from our parking spot right into the airport. Parking was less than $10/day. We easily found our gate and there were several places to grab a meal or purchase a magazine.

Family amenities at XNA include a giant chess board
Family amenities at XNA include a giant chess board.

It was also the first time I attempted to fly with both girls without my husband. Since we were flying out of a small airport, the plane we traveled in had two seats on each side. The girls (ages 5 and 2) sat on one side of the aisle, and I sat on the other. Loaded with Kindles and Halloween leftovers, we happily made it through the two-hour flight to Denver.

Ready for take off from Northwest Arkansas Airport to Denver Colorado
Ready for take off!

The contrast between the airport in Northwest Arkansas and the busy Denver International Airport was huge. Luckily, I have some experience navigating the Denver airport. We were happy when we spotted my husband waiting for us at arrivals after getting off the train between concourses. With work visits scheduled along the way, he drove out to Colorado on his own, bringing our luggage and vehicle with him.

Hiking in the snow – alberta falls

Once in Colorado, we were ready to get out in the snow. We bundled up our family and headed into Rocky Mountain National Park. We decided to hike to Alberta Falls beginning at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead which sits at 9,180 ft. in elevation.

Glacier Gorge trailhead to Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

At this altitude, there was a lot of snow and ice on the trail, so my husband and I both wore Yaktrax on our shoes to help with traction.

Yaktraxs help with traction in the snow
Yaktraks on hiking boots help with traction in snow.

The hike gains 220 ft of elevation and is a little under 1 mile each way. Our oldest daughter was able to hike most of it on her own. She did some slipping and sliding, so we were careful to hold her hand in spots we thought might be precarious.

winter hiking in rocky mountain national park

The weather was cold, but since we bundled up and kept moving, we felt pretty comfortable with the trees protecting us from the wind and the sun shining above.

kid friendly hiking in rocky mountain national park

The trail to Alberta Falls is well maintained, even in the snow. This is a very popular trail during the peak summer months. Many times when the Glacier Gorge parking lot is full, we have started this hike from Bear Lake.

trail signage to alberta falls and bear lake in rocky mountain national park.

We think Alberta Falls is one of the Best Waterfall Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. This was my first time hiking to Alberta Falls during the late fall/winter season. The snow and ice looked like a layer of sparkling white icing on the cliffs and boulders.

ice and snow in rocky mountain national park.

Alberta Falls is a powerful waterfall, but on this visit there was little visual evidence. Buried under the snow and ice, we could still hear water rushing underneath.

alberta falls covered in snow

The trip back down to the trailhead was equally as beautiful as the journey up. I didn’t mind when my daughter frequently stopped to practice writing her name in the snow with a stick ‘wand’ she found, because I could look up and see snow dusted mountains towering in the distance.

snow covered mountains in rocky mountain national park

The highlight of the trail for the girls was when their Dad slid down the final steep hill with them.

sliding down snow covered hill in rocky mountain national park

I highly recommend hiking to Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park anytime of year. If you want a quiet hike and a front-row seat to see this landmark, winter is a great time to visit.

If you plan to hike during the winter, make sure to keep an eye on the weather and talk to the helpful park rangers about trail and road conditions. I got the trail stats for this post from one of our favorite guide books, Rocky Mountain National Park: The Complete Hiking Guide by Lisa Foster.

More snowy hikes in rocky mountain national park

A Winter Walk in Moraine Park That’s Worth Freezing For

Frozen river in Moraine Park
We chose Moraine Park because at 8,080 ft of elevation there is substantially less snow compared to areas of the park with higher altitude.

Lily Lake Loop on a Snowy Spring Morning

Winter hike around Lily Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
Snow covered hike around Lily Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Hike Envy: The Awesome Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park That I Did Not Go On, But You Should

Kids make trips to the mountains fun in so many ways. However, with two young girls, the number of long distance hikes my husband and I can go on are limited. One of the keys to our vacation happiness, is giving each other time to go on adventures while the other person stays back and plays with our kids. On a recent trip, I was excited that my husband could take my brother on one of our favorite hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

I was pretty jealous of their adventure, but not jealous about their alarm clock. They woke up before dawn and started the hike up to Hallett Peak in the dark with head lamps on. Since they arrived so early (5:25am), they were able to find a parking spot near Bear Lake which can be difficult to do on holiday weekends. (we went on Labor Day weekend)

Early start to hike up Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park
Early start to hike up Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park

Hallett reaches 12,713 ft in elevation. The hike is 10 miles round-trip and involves a bit of class 2 scramble to reach the final destination. From the Bear Lake trailhead, the route follows the easy to follow trail to the summit of Flattop mountain for the first 4.4 miles, passing scenic overlooks of Dream Lake and Emerald Lake (link) along the way.

Sunrise view of Longs Peak from Flattop Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park
Sunrise view of Longs Peak from Flattop Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park
Sunrise view of Bierstadt Lake and Sprague Lake in the distance from Flattop trail
Sunrise view of Bierstadt Lake and Sprague Lake in the distance from Flattop trail
Emerald Lake Overlook

To reach Hallet from the aptly named summit of Flattop, hikers must do a bit of route finding, following cairns off-trail (trying to stay on hard surfaces to avoid damaging the fragile tundra flowers and plants). The route is relatively flat as it skirts around Tyndall Glacier on the left, but then gains nearly 400 feet of elevation in the last quarter-mile scramble to the summit. Its a fun challenge, with minimal exposure to steep drop-offs, though a turned ankle this far away from the car would still be miserable.

My brother hiking to Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park
My brother hiking to Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park
Approaching summit of Hallett Peak
Approaching summit of Hallett Peak

The views from the top are amazing in all directions, from the Estes Valley, to Longs Peak, and even over to Grand Lake and the Never Summer Mountains to the west.

Eric on the summit of Hallett Peak
My husband on the summit of Hallett Peak

After snapping a few photos and taking a brief rest, they headed back down the mountain to Bear Lake with a round-trip time of just under 5 hours. I was very impressed that they were back in time for us all to go out to lunch together!

Eldora Ski Weekend

This week Estes Park, Colorado had its first snow of the season. Which means it’s time to start planning our winter trip(s) out to Colorado. There are a lot of fun things to do in Estes Park during the colder winter months. We’ve written about sledding, snow shoeing, winter hiking and shopping in downtown Estes Park.

For all that Estes Park has to offer, it does not have a traditional ski resort. However, there are day-trip destinations close by including Eldora which is located in Nederland, Colorado. Nederland is located an hour from Denver, an hour from Estes Park, and 35 minutes from Boulder, Colorado. There is a bus service from downtown Boulder to Eldora.

Ski lift at Eldora

Eldora is smaller in size compared to other popular skiing destinations in Colorado. We didn’t grow up going skiing, so we appreciate that there are slopes available for different skill levels. Lessons are offered for adults and children starting at age 4.

Eldora is scheduled to open for the season on November 15, 2019. You can find more information about ticket prices online at eldora.com.

My husband has enjoyed a couple winter ‘guy trips’ to Eldora and Estes Park. He helped me put together a sample itinerary based on his trips.

Itinerary for Estes Park and Eldora Winter Adventure Weekend

Winter Hike Rocky Mountain National Park

Thursday: Fly into Denver International Airport in the evening and rent car. Drive to Estes Park to stay in cabin. Stop by grocery store on the way into town to stock up on essentials.

Friday: Wake up and eat breakfast at the cabin before heading to Eldora for a day of skiing. Try to leave before 8am to beat the crowd. Parking is limited. Some in the group can take ski lessons, others might choose to immediately hit the slopes. After a full morning of skiing, take a break by eating lunch at one of Eldora’s restaurants.

Get in a couple more runs. After leaving Eldora, stop by Very Nice Brewing Company in Nederland, CO for a pint of beer. (Thank sober driver by promising to pick up his dinner tab.) Drive back to Estes Park and grab take-out pizza at Antonio’s Pizza, Poppy’s Pizza, or Sweet Basilico.

Saturday: Wake up and go to breakfast at Notchtop Café. Head to The Warming House which opens at 9am to rent gear such as snowshoes and hiking poles. Head into Rocky Mountain National Park to snowshoe or hike (depending on weather and trail conditions). It’s important to talk to national park rangers to check on conditions before heading out in the winter. Two hikes you can ask about are Bierstadt Lake and Mills Lake.

Frozen Mills Lake

After hiking, warm up at a local brewery. We enjoy Rockcut where you can play games in their laid back tasting room. Walk to nearby Café de Pho Thai for late lunch.

Downtown Estes Park has some great places to shop for a souvenir for kids or significant others. Trendz boutique and Mary Janes have a lot of great gift options.

Return to cabin to barbecue or make some chili. Stay up late playing ‘nerdy’ board games.

Sunday: Head back towards Denver. If there is time, stop at Snooze for brunch before dropping off the rental car and taking off at the airport.

Family Hike to Bierstadt Lake Plus An Unexpected Moose Sighting

Bierstadt Lake hike in rocky mountain national park. hike under 3 miles. features mountain views, wildlife spot in rocky mountain national park, moose

The hike to Bierstadt Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park is one of our family’s favorite hikes. On our most recent trip, we parked at the Bierstadt Lake trailhead at 8,850 ft. in elevation.

Bierstadt Lake hike in rocky mountain national park. hike under 3 miles. features mountain views, wildlife spot in rocky mountain national park, moose

The trail to Bierstadt Lake is 1.4 miles each way. You can add on extra mileage by walking around the lake, which we recommend to get the best views of Flattop Mountain and Hallett Peak.

Bierstadt Lake hike in rocky mountain national park. hike under 3 miles. features mountain views, wildlife spot in rocky mountain national park, moose, wildflowers

One of the benefits of walking at a toddler’s pace is the chance to notice extra details I might miss when walking on my own – like these berries and pretty wildflowers.

Bierstadt Lake hike in rocky mountain national park. hike under 3 miles. features mountain views, wildlife spot in rocky mountain national park, moose, aspen

You could see the first signs of autumn. These aspens will turn golden yellow in just a few weeks.

Bierstadt Lake hike in rocky mountain national park. hike under 3 miles. features mountain views, wildlife spot in rocky mountain national park, moose, elevation gain

The trail up to the lake gains 566 ft. of elevation along several switchbacks.

Bierstadt Lake hike in rocky mountain national park. hike under 3 miles. features mountain views, wildlife spot in rocky mountain national park, moose

Wide open views of the surrounding mountains make the climb worth the effort.

Bierstadt Lake hike in rocky mountain national park. hike under 3 miles. features mountain views, wildlife spot in rocky mountain national park, moose

We could also see Sprague Lake in the distance. It appeared to be glowing in the morning sunlight.

Bierstadt Lake hike in rocky mountain national park. hike under 3 miles. features mountain views, wildlife spot in rocky mountain national park, moose

At just over a mile, the trail levels out and heads back into the forest.

Bierstadt Lake hike in rocky mountain national park. hike under 3 miles. features mountain views, wildlife spot in rocky mountain national park, moose

Trail signage points out that there are several paths to get to Bierstadt Lake. Alternative routes include the Park & Ride (1.9 miles/way) and Bear Lake (1.9 miles/way). If you decide to walk around the lake, make note of the direction you came from. With so many trails, it can get confusing.

Bierstadt Lake hike in rocky mountain national park. hike under 3 miles. features mountain views, wildlife spot in rocky mountain national park, moose

Bierstadt Lake is beautiful and peaceful. It’s an ideal spot to take a moment to enjoy the mountain views.

Bierstadt Lake hike in rocky mountain national park. hike under 3 miles. features mountain views, wildlife spot in rocky mountain national park, moose

In a former post I ‘complained’ about the ducks, but they weren’t as pesky this time.

Bierstadt Lake hike in rocky mountain national park. hike under 3 miles. features mountain views, wildlife spot in rocky mountain national park, moose

After we enjoyed a snack at the lake, we headed back down the mountain the way we came. I was very proud of both girls for walking a majority of the trail on their own. I was also proud of myself and my husband for having patience when they wanted to stop and draw pictures in the dirt.

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At the very end of the hike, we saw an enormous moose walking through the forest. We were surprised, excited, and a little nervous. We picked up the girls and backed away so the moose didn’t feel threated by our presence. He eventually crossed the parking lot and street. I guessed he might be headed towards Sprague Lake, which is a spot we’ve spotted moose on a prior trip.

more articles about Bierstadt lake

Our Rocky Mountain Tot goes to Bierstadt Lake

Don’t Feed the Ducks!

New Year, New Outdoor Adventures

more articles about moose in rocky mountain national park

Moose Spotting Makes for a Memerable Morning Hike Around Sprague Lake

Peaceful Hike to East Meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park

Cub Lake Trail – a Wildlife Hotspot in Rocky Mountain National Park