Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park

My husband and I just got back from a romantic getaway in Estes Park, Colorado. We stayed at our cabin at Solitude Cabins where we enjoyed the warm fireplace, views of Longs Peak, and cozy kitchen where we cooked several of our meals.

restaurants in estes park

Besides eating at the cabin, we also enjoyed several meals at local restaurants. Himalayan Curry & Kebob’s spicy cuisine warmed us up as we looked out the window at falling snow. We also enjoyed a warm bowl of soup at Claire’s on the Park for a post-hike lunch.

We selected Bird & Jim’s for our anniversary dinner. Described as, ‘Modern mountain dining from an ingredient-driven kitchen’, dining at this restaurant has been on our Estes Park bucket-list for a long time. We opted to sit in the bar area where we sat on a blue velvety coach. The lounge furniture paired well with our smoked whiskey drinks and hummus appetizer. We enjoyed our meals of roast chicken and steak. The whole experience was perfect!

Estes Park Winter

Our evening walk in downtown Estes Park felt like strolling through a scene in a classic Christmas movie with festive holiday lights and fresh snow.

Estes Park Winter

To warm up from the frosty weather, we enjoyed sampling wine at Snowy Peaks Winery and drinking seasonal pints at our favorite Estes Park brewery, Rock Cut. We sipped Kind Coffee as we strolled down the Estes Park Riverwalk.

Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park

Estes Park is located near the East entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. In the summer, this is a hikers dream-spot. In the winter months you can hike with traction, or snowshoe depending on trail conditions. When we arrived, the area had just received fresh snow, so we rented snowshoes from Estes Park Mountain Shop along with poles with snow baskets on them.

Snowshoe Rental Estes Park colorado

Winter is considered off-peak season in Rocky Mountain National Park, so there are no timed-entry permits to worry about. Finding a parking spot is quite a lot easier, although we were surprised to see a long line at the entrance around noon (holiday week).

Winter Hikes Rocky Mountain National Park

Winter Hike to The Loch

We went on two snowshoeing excursions during our trip. The first day we attempted to make it to The Loch. We parked at the Glacier Gorge trailhead which is in the Bear Lake corridor. As we stepped out of the car, we were hit with brutal winds. The winds calmed down significantly once we got deeper into the woods. However, my gloves were no match for the 10-degree temperatures, so I was fairly miserable. I was proud of myself for making it past Alberta Falls to the North Longs Peak Trail junction before giving up when a blast of icy wind blew away our snowshoe tracks and scared me to go beyond that point. We gained about 800 feet of elevation and hiked 3.7 roundtrip.

Romantic vacation Estes Park

There is a winter trail that we missed that skips Alberta Falls but offers a more direct route to The Loch.

shopping in downtown estes park

That afternoon, we enjoyed shopping in downtown Estes Park. We bought adorable Smokey the Bear beanies at Trendz boutique for our little girls. We also bought nice ski gloves for me at Hyk.

Winter Hike to Chasm Lake junction

Wind conditions Rocky Mountain National Park

Bolstered by my new glove purchase, we decided to attempt snowshoeing again the next morning. This time, we headed to the Longs Peak trailhead in hopes of hiking to the Chasm Lake trail junction. My husband enjoyed this hike last January which he wrote about here.

snowshoeing rocky mountain natinoal park

The winds were much more tolerable. I had moments where I felt warm as we gained 1,800 feet of elevation. This hike was beautiful in the snow. Some spots were challenging where the snow was deep.

winter gear hiking

Once we approached the tree line, a gush of what felt like hurricane-force wind came down the mountain and we immediately turned around. It was intense!

I enjoyed the hike back down because it was much easier than the way up and went pretty fast. Our total hike was 4.5 miles. I tried to take in the beauty of the forest in the snow while also looking forward to our awaiting seat-warmers.

Layer upon layer – What I Wore hiking in cold weather

pants: Under Armour cold-weather tights and hiking pants

shirt: base layer turtleneck, fleece, winter coat

feet: wool socks, waterproof hiking boots, snowshoes and poles with snow baskets

extras: sunscreen, sunglasses, beanie, neck gaiter, ski gloves, hiking backpack. *our pack’s straw froze, so pack a separate water bottle

COTREX – location tracker and digital topo maps that don’t require cell signal. Keep in mind that cell phones can freeze up in extremely cold temperatures. I found this article about how to prevent loss of use.

Hike Hollowell Park in Rocky Mountain National Park

Don’t you love a great backup plan? Our original plan for the day was to hike to Dream Lake, but when we arrived at the Bear Lake parking lot at 7:45 am it was already full. We started driving back down the mountain and found that Glacier Gorge parking was also full and so was Bierdstand Lake. We pulled into the Hollowell Park area hoping we could find a spot. We were relieved to find several parking spaces available.

Hollwell Park in Rocky Mountain National Park

On a previous trip, we hiked to the Mill Creek Basin and turned around to return the way we came. On this occation, we hiked a loop around Mill Creek Basin and then connected back up with the trail to return to the Hollowell Park trailhead.

Hollowell Park map
Photo of National Park Service map taken at trailhead. I highlighted over to show our route.
Mountain Views. Hollowell Park in Rocky Mountain National Park. To Mill Creek Basin. Loop trail
Longs Peak views

Hike to Mill Creek Basin

The first section of the trail takes you through an open valley with views of Longs Peak. This could be a hot section of the trail during summer afternoons, but soon the path wraps around into a wooded area and follows along side Mill Creek.

We enjoyed the solitude this hike offered. Over the course of four miles, we passed less than a dozen fellow hikers.

Towering aspens. Hollowell Park in Rocky Mountain National Park. To Mill Creek Basin. Loop trail

Besides some minor complaints during a couple of the uphill sections on the trail, our 5-year-old walked the trail on her own with a great attitude. Our 3-year-old rode in her kid carrier.

Wildflowers blooming by Mill Creek. Hollowell Park in Rocky Mountain National Park. To Mill Creek Basin. Loop trail

A variety of wildflowers bloomed near Mill Creek and in the open fields.

Crossing Mill Creek. Hollowell Park in Rocky Mountain National Park. To Mill Creek Basin. Loop trail

Wilderness Camping at Mill Creek Basin

Half way through the hike (or 2 miles from the trailhead) we crossed into the Mill Creek Basin. There are two wilderness camping spots available in the Mill Creek Basin. The National Park Service offers a map of all the wilderness campsites in the Bear Lake area including Mill Creek Basin. Additional information about permits and regulations can be found on the national park service’s website.

Hollowell Park in Rocky Mountain National Park. To Mill Creek Basin. Loop trail
Mill Creeek Basin
Hollowell Park in Rocky Mountain National Park. To Mill Creek Basin. Loop trail
Uphill section with narrow trail
Hollowell Park in Rocky Mountain National Park. To Mill Creek Basin. Loop trail
Mountain views
This section of the trail was steep going downhill (if following the direction we came).
Hollowell Park in Rocky Mountain National Park. To Mill Creek Basin. Loop trail

If you are looking for a backup plan hike, a hike that’s less crowded, or a hike with gorgeous wildflowers, I highly recommend giving this loop around Mill Creek Basin a shot. Let me know if you do and what you think!

Want a bigger challenge? This trail connects to several popular destinations in the park including Cub Lake, Bear Lake, and Bierstadt Lake.

Our original post about Hollowell Park is called A Trail Less Traveled: Hollowell Park to Mill Creek Basin in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Featured Hiking gear – Trekking poles

Trekking poles – I wish we would have brought trekking poles for the steep downhill section of this trail through the elm trees. I typically don’t have knee issues, but sometimes hiking downhill is hard on my joints and I think the poles help absorb the extra pressure. Trekking poles also come in handy if there are any snowy patches along the trail.

*contains affiliate link.

Waterfalls Galore in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Wild Basin

Calypso Cascades is a short hike in Rocky Mountain National Park's Wild Basin. Calypso Cascades hike features waterfalls and wild flowers.

We just got back from an amazing week in the mountains. I can’t wait to share all about our experience with the new timed-entry reservation system, how we chose which hikes to go on, and a few tips sprinkled in. This post also features trail details and pictures of Calypso Cascades, one of our favorite spots in Rocky Mountain National Park.

rocky mountain national park timed-entry

Rocky Mountain National Park has a new reservation system. We chose the 6:00 am to 8:00 am entry time for each day of our trip. People can go into the park before 6:00 am and after 5:00 pm without a reservation, so parking can still be limited in popular areas. Overall, the experience was easy and we appreciated that there was less traffic in the park.

wild basin is less crowded

We chose to hike in the Wild Basin for our first hike of the trip because we expected it to be less busy given it’s more remote location. The Wild Basin is located approximately 19 miles south of Estes Park on Highway 7. Once you turn off the highway, the drive turns into a bumpy, narrow dirt road leading towards the Wild Basin trail head. There is no shuttle service in this area of the park. Even though it is typically less busy, the parking lot still filled up around 8:00 am (on a Sunday in July). Luckily, we found a parking space around the corner from the main parking area.

If you are having a hard time deciding which hikes to try in Rocky Mountain National Park, I created a fun chart to help you decide.

wild basin is lower in elevation (8,500 ft)

The elevation is lower in the Wild Basin than other areas of the national park which was helpful for our first day on the trails as we acclimated to the higher altitude.

Waterfalls in the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park

wild basin waterfalls

There are several destinations you can reach from the Wild Basin trail head. We decided to hike to Calypso Cascades because it is relatively short at 1.8 miles each way. The trail begins flat and wide with towering pine trees. At .3 miles into the hike, you will pass Copeland Falls. There is signage pointing to the upper and lower falls. There have been several occasions that we stopped right at this point because of weather or tired kids.

Calypso Cascades is a top hike  located in Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Calypso Cascades

But we were having a good day so we continued the hike which begins to steadily gain in elevation. (You climb 780 ft total). There is a picturesque wooden bridge over the cascades which is a wonderful place to take in the scenery or get a family photo. For hikers who want more of a challenge, you can continue on to Ouzel Falls. This time we stopped for a snack after the bridge and headed back down the trail the way we came.

kid carrier for hiking

Our 5-year-old hiked to Calypso Cascades on her own without much trouble or complaints. Our 3-year-old rode in a kid-carrier. We own a Deuter kid carrier like this one which we purchased when our oldest child turned one and a half years old. My husband is the parent who takes on the challenge of carrying our daughter on his shoulders. Carrying an extra 30 pounds up a mountain is tough, but at least the carrier helps distribute the child’s weight so he is more comfortable. My daughter enjoys sitting up high to see the views. A carrier feels safer than carrying a child when they are too tired to walk on their own because it frees up adult hands to catch yourself in case you trip or stumble. Buying our own kid carrier has been a good investment because we have used it for both girls and also shared it with friends and family. However, if you don’t want to buy a kid carrier, you can rent them at Estes Park Mountain Shop.

Kid Carrier for hiking
Make sure to get a kid carrier with a rain roof for unexpected mountain rain storms

pack layers (And Masks) when hiking in the mountains

We enjoyed the cooler mountain temperatures. Many days we started off in sweatshirts or jackets in the morning and took off layers by afternoon when temperatures rose into the 80’s.

We also started our hikes with face masks by the trail head and parking lot, but took them off when we could keep a minimum of six foot distance from fellow hikers. The state of Colorado currently has a face mask mandate for COVID-19.

Wildflowers bloom in the summer months in Rocky Mountain National Park's Wild Basin area

The forest, summer wildflowers, wooden bridges, and waterfalls all make the hike to Calypso Cascades a unique experience.

related posts you might enjoy

Best Waterfall Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park

Sweeping Mountain Views and Waterfalls – Our Favorite New Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Wild Basin

Family Friendly Waterfall Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Wild Basin

Into the Wild Basin (featuring Ouzel Falls)

*This post contains an affiliate link for kid carrier. Thank you for your support!

Father’s Day Gift Ideas for the Active and Outdoorsy Dads in Your Life

Father’s Day is coming up on June 21, 2020. We love the opportunity to celebrate my husband, dad, father-in-law, and grandpa.

Dad’s can be difficult to shop for sometimes. That’s why I put together this list of ideas for the men in our life who enjoy staying active in the outdoors in their own back yard grilling or hiking up mountains. Our favorite men often say they don’t need anything, but I bet they’d love to get one of these fun gifts!

You can click the links below to go directly to Amazon to shop for similar items.

Schwinn Children’s Bike Trailer

Deuter kid carrier

CamelBak Hydration pack – for staying hydrated on long hikes.

Coleman Lantern – camping lantern.

Rocky Mountain National Park, The Complete Hiking Guide by Lisa Foster

adidas slide sandal – classic

Reef’s leather sandal

Coleman portable camping chair

Therm-a-Rest foam camping ground pad – light weight insulation

Foam roller – good for stretching out tight muscles

Weber gas grille

Canon Digital SLR camera

Field & Stream magazine

The River, a novel by Peter Heller

Floor pump – for airing up bike tires

New Era Kansas City Chiefs Superbowl Champions hat

Baseball Prospectus Guide

*This post contains affiliate links.

Thank you for following our adventures!