8 Must-See Attractions in Rocky Mountain National Park

May 3 – 9, 2020 is National Travel and Tourism week. Given our current travel restrictions in the United States, the U.S. Travel Association decided on the theme of ‘the Spirit of Travel cannot be broken.’

Since I heard the theme, I’ve been contemplating what the ‘spirit of travel’ means to me. I ran across this quote from novelist Anita Desai.

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”

Anita Desai

That’s it. I feel that a part of me is missing right now. The part of me that likes to travel, explore, find adventure, and plan trips. In a world where I can’t go to the grocery store without a face mask on, it seems silly to miss travel as much as I do. But, I do!

Must-See Attractions in Rocky Mountain National Park

It’s comforting to think the places you love become a part of who you are. In honor of travel week, I put together a list of must-see attractions in Rocky Mountain National Park.

This list includes the places I feel best represent the diverse landscapes of Rocky Mountain National Park. I chose spots that are accessible to most travelers (you don’t have to walk 10 miles to see them). Together, they showcase the dynamic spirit of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a popular destination in Rocky Mountain National Park. The lake sits at 9,475 ft in elevation. Behind the lake, you can see an open view of Hallett Peak. Our kids love walking the half mile loop around Bear Lake. Starting from the Bear Lake trail head, hikers can access destinations like Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, and Hallett Peak.

Bear Lake

Alberta Falls

You can hike to Alberta Falls from Bear Lake, but the shortest route starts from the Glacier Gorge trail head. The hike to the waterfall is less than a mile. After enjoying the magnificent waterfall, you can continue on to Mills Lake, The Loch, or even Sky Pond.

Alberta Falls

Moraine Park

Moraine Park is one of our favorite places in RMNP to spot herds of elk. The Big Thompson River winds through the valley. Compared to other areas of the park, Moraine Valley is lower in elevation, so we typically choose hikes in this area when we are acclimating to high altitude. I recommend a hike to The Pool which leaves from the Fern Lake trail head or a hike to Cub Lake which starts at the Cub Lake trail head.

Hike to Cub Lake in RMNP
Moraine Park

Gem Lake Trail

The Gem Lake trail begins at the Lumpy Ridge trail head. This area has unique rock formations that attract skilled rock climbers. This trail offers views of the Estes Valley and Rocky Mountains that are stunning. Another hike we enjoy in the Lumpy Ridge area is the Black Canyon trail.

Views from Gem Lake trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

Wild Basin

The Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park feels a bit more rugged. You will find towering trees, vibrant wildflowers, and waterfalls. From the Wild Basin trail head, you can hike to Copeland Falls, Calypso Cascades, and Ouzel Falls.

Calypso Cascades

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road is a scenic highway that connects Estes Park, Colorado to Grand Lake, Colorado. Along the way, there are several places to pull off to take in the sweeping views of the tundra. On this road trip, you will reach over 12,000 ft in elevation! The Alpine Visitor Center is a great place to stop for a restroom break, snack, souvenir shopping, and to learn more about the unique landscape.

Ute Trail – from Trail Ridge Road

Adams Falls

Adams Falls is located on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park near the town of Grand Lake, Colorado. The hike to Adams Falls is only .3 miles each way. There is a viewing deck for visitors to see the falls from. From this spot, you can continue on to beautiful destinations like the East Meadow.

Adams Falls

Longs Peak Viewpoint

Take a drive down Highway 7, and you will come to a vantage point of Longs Peak that is worth stopping to appreciate. At 14,259 feet in elevation, Longs Peak is the highest summit in Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Learn more about Travel and Tourism week here.

Learn more about the destinations mentioned in this article

Bear Lake: Bear Lake, Dream Lake, Hallett Peak

Alberta Falls: Alberta Falls, Mills Lake, Sky Pond

Moraine Park: Moraine Park, Cub Lake, The Pool, Fern Falls

Gem Lake: Gem Lake, Black Canyon Trail

Wild Basin: Copeland Falls, Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls, Finch Lake TH

Trail Ridge Road: Alpine Ridge Trail, Ute Trail

Adams Falls: Adams Falls and East Meadow, (video)

Longs Peak: The Keyhole

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the places I am missing most. It is a part of me. Ocean views, mountain town, bustling city, desert landscape… what destination are you missing most? I hope you share in the comments.

Peaceful Hike to East Meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park

On our most recent visit to Rocky Mountain National Park, we did something that we’ve wanted to do for a long time – we staid a night on the West side of the park near Grandby and Grand Lake, Colorado. (Up until now, we’ve always staid in Estes Park, which is on the East side of RMNP.)

We spent our time in Grand Lake splashing in the largest natural lake in Colorado, eating pizza at White Buffalo, and hiking to East Meadow where we spotted a moose.

East Meadow and Adams Fall hike in Rocky Mountain National Park's West side.

The hike to East Meadow begins at the East Inlet trailhead at 8,390 ft in elevation. From here you can see Grand Lake in the distance.

Adams Falls and East Meadow Hike is near Grand Lake, Colorado

One of the reasons we chose this destination is because our daughters (ages 4 and 2) can hike most of it on their own. The total distance is close to 3 miles round trip.

Adams Falls hike in Rocky mountain national park is a kid-friendly, family-friendly hike

We followed the East Inlet trail for .3 miles to Adams Falls where there is a viewing deck. The waterfall is a popular destination for park visitors, but once we passed the falls, the trail became much less crowded.

Adams Falls is a top destination on the West Side of Rocky Mountain National Park
Click here to watch more of the waterfall.

After enjoying the waterfall, we climbed the path to the side of the falls to meet back up to the East Inlet trail. This is a steeper section of the trail where we held on tight to our children’s hands.

Adams Falls hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

We followed trail signage towards Lone Pine Lake. The trail levels as you walk through a pine forest.

Adams Falls and East Meadow hike is an easy hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Soon we arrived at an open meadow where families were fishing and playing in the stream.

East Meadow is a good spot for fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park

One of my favorite things about hiking in July are the colorful wildflowers. My least favorite are the mosquitoes. I always forget to bring bug spray.

Wildflowers bloom off the trail leading to East Meadow

Even pesky mosquitoes didn’t stop us. We continued on to East Meadow which was beautiful – the contrast between the wide open blue skies and the lush, green meadow was striking.

A river snakes through the East Meadow. East Meadow is a great place to spot wildlife including moose in Rocky Mountain National Park
Click here to see a full view of the meadow. Did you see the moose?

We spotted a mother deer and her twin fawns several times on our hike.

Deer are seen on the way to East Meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park

Perhaps they were curious what our two girls were singing as they walked along the trail.

East Meadow is a family friendly hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

The hike to the East Meadow featured waterfalls, mountain streams, moose, deer, wildflowers, and boulders for our girls to climb. This was the perfect hike to start our family vacation.

Additional Articles about Rocky Mountain’s West Side:

Crossing the Divide—Bear Lake to Grand Lake Traverse

4 Great Reasons to Visit Grand Lake, Colorado with Kids

A Perfect Picnic at Coyote Valley