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!

Book Lovers Guide to Estes Park, Colorado

Reading is one of my favorite things to do on vacation. It’s a treat to dive into one of the books from my always growing to-be-read list. I’m excited to share some of my favorite book stores in Estes Park, Colorado and suggestions for ideal spots to sit back and enjoy a good book.

MacDonald Bookshop in Estes Park, Colorado

cliffhanger used books

I’m pretty obsessed with Cliffhanger Used Books. Shopping here feels like a treasure hunt for great books at bargain prices. This shop is run by volunteers and proceeds go to the Estes Valley Library Services. You can follow the store on facebook.

Reading Spot: Baldwin park

Baldwin Park is a quiet space located right by the Big Thompson River. When you step out of Cliffhanger Used Books, walk south towards Ivy Street. You will find several park benches and a playground.

macdonald bookshop

Macdonald Bookshop is family owned. They have been serving the Estes Park community with great literature for 90 years. The staff is welcoming and helpful with book suggestions. This is a good place to go if you are looking for regional material. They also have kids books and best sellers. If you are looking for a thoughtful souvenir, this is a great place to go.

Inkwell & Brew

Located behind MacDonald Bookshop, step into Inkwell & Brew where you can order a cup of coffee and shop for a new journal or the perfect fountain pen. I’m confident you will leave inspired to write, whether it’s your next novel or simply a hand-written note to a friend.

Reading Spot: George Hix Riverside Plaza

George Hix Riverside Plaza has flowers, benches, art, and a peaceful river running through. It is lined with restaurants and shops (including Inkwell & Brew). Don’t miss the new sensory garden.

The little free library

The Little Free Library is a community project led locally by the Estes Valley Library. There is a Little Free Library at the Glacier Basin Campground meant to serve the summer guests of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Reading spot: picnic spots in Rocky MOuntain National Park

I recently wrote a post about our favorite picnic spots in Rocky Mountain National Park. All of the places we mentioned would be wonderful spots to read a couple chapters. You could also bring a few children’s books along to read out in nature with your kids. Some of our favorite outdoor themed books include:

  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
  • Brown Bear Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr./Eric Carle
  • The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland
  • Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle

New! I tried to gather my suggestions for you on Google Maps as a resource for finding my book loving spots in Estes Park. If you have any additional suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

New Family – Favorite Hike: Black Canyon Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

Just when I think we’ve hiked every kid-friendly trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, we find a new one and I get so very excited to try it out. Our recent hike on the Black Canyon trail exceeded our expectations. Our young girls enjoyed themselves because of the short distance and rocks to climb on, while I appreciated the unique rock formations and the mountain views.

Lumpy Ridge Trailhead

The Black Canyon trail leaves from the Lumpy Ridge trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. The Lumpy Ridge is located off of Devils Gulch road in Estes Park, Colorado.

Raptors

This area is known for unique rock formations which are natural habitats for raptors. When raptors make nests in the rocks, the National Park Service shuts down the trail to protect these birds of prey. When planning a trip, just be aware that the trail might be closed from spring through mid-summer.

rock climbing and trail running

The Lumpy Ridge is a popular technical rock climbing destination. You can see Twin Owls perched above the trail. We saw several rock climbers heading up with their ropes and climbing gear. This trail also seems to be a popular spot for trail running.

Twin Owls
Rock climbing for little rock climbers
Walk through aspen grove with Twin Owls in background

Views of the Rocky Mountains

This area offers expansive views of the peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Views of the Rocky Mountains from Black Canyon Trail
Rocks along the trail
‘Tree house’

There was a huge rock and tree right off the trail that my girls LOVED. They pretended that it was their tree house. This was a great spot to enjoy a water break.

We continued our hike, but soon the trail divided. The left leads to climber access trails for Batman Rock as well as The Book, The Pear, and Sundance Buttress. We were surprised to see that the trail continues all the way to Lawn Lake (9 miles).

Towards the right, there is a trail up to Lower Twin Owls and Upper Twin Owls. We decided to head back the way we came, making the total distance 1.2 miles round-trip.

National Park Service map at trail head – I added yellow highlight to show trail section we hiked on.

More hikes from lumpy ridge Trailhead

On prior trips, we’ve enjoyed hiking up to Gem Lake. Seeing our young kids, a park ranger urged us to go on the Black Canyon trail and I appreciate the suggestion. Gem Lake is a great hike, but a good portion of that hike is straight up the mountain.

Links to our posts about Gem Lake:

Rocky Mountain Tot Goes to Gem Lake

Riding High in New Kid Carrier

Fall in Rocky Mountain National Park

I’ve gathered some of my favorite pictures taken during the beautiful autumn months in Rocky Mountain National Park. Fall is one of the best times to visit Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park to witness the golden aspens, enjoy the crisp-cool weather, and experience the elk rut.

Fall Festivals

The city of Estes Park has events taking place throughout the fall including the Elk Fest and the Pumpkins & Pilsners Festival. (more)

Haunted tours

The Halloween season is the perfect time to visit one of Estes Park’s most famous landmarks, the historic Stanley Hotel. The hotel offers a variety of tours, including a guided night tour where you can explore the setting that inspired Steven King’s book, The Shining. (kids must be 8+)

Crowds in Rocky mountain National park

I’m not alone in my love for fall in Rocky Mountain National Park. I recently saw a statistic from the National Park Service that said 7 of the top 10 busiest days last year occurred on September weekends.

Fall weather and road conditions

Going back through our fall pictures, I remembered that we have seen quite a lot of snow even in early October. The contrast of the bright yellow aspens with the pure white snow is striking, but snow can affect road conditions. If you are planning to drive up Trail Ridge Road, you can find information on road conditions and closures here.

Aspen lined tree leading to Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park
Trail leading to Alberta Falls
October snow - walking along Estes Park Riverwalk
October snow – walking along Estes Park Riverwalk
Golden aspens in Rocky Mountain National Park
Golden aspens
Fall in Rocky Mountain National Park looking towards Hallett Peak
Views looking towards Hallett Peak
Elk in Estes Park, Colorado
Elk in downtown Estes Park
Elk Rut season in Rocky Mountain National Park
Elk Rut Season
Fall Hike to Gem Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
Hike to Gem Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
View of Longs Peak on a crisp October morning
View of Longs Peak
Autumn views in Rocky Mountain National Park
Autumn views in Rocky Mountain National Park
Sprague Lake
Sprague Lake
Sunrise from Mary's Lake resort in Estes Park, CO
Autumn sunrise from Mary’s Lake resort in Estes Park, CO
Historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado
Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado