9 Wintry Hikes in Estes Park, Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park

I am not a fan of the cold, so it’s surprising how much I enjoy hiking in the snow. From snowshoeing to a mountain lake with my husband to kick off a New Year, to pulling on yaktraxs for extra traction on a hike to a frozen waterfall with our kids, some of the most memorable hikes we’ve done in Rocky Mountain National Park have been in the snow.

I’ve listed nine of our favorite wintry hikes in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park along with links to articles that provide additional information. I also recommend checking out the National Park Service’s website for weather conditions, safety tips, and activities you can enjoy during colder months in the park.

Moraine Park

At 8,080 ft of elevation there is substantially less snow in Moraine Park compared to areas of the park with higher altitude. The first stretch of the hike is in a valley where there is little protection from blasts of freezing wind, but the scenery is worth bundling up and getting out of your cozy cabin for.

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

Frozen river in Moraine Park
The Big Thompson River frozen in the Moraine Valley

Lily Lake And Lily Ridge

Lily Lake is located 6 miles south of Estes Park on Highway 7, right across the street from Twin Sisters trail head. The elevation is 8,930 ft. The loop trail around the lake is flat with benches available for rest. The Lily Ridge trail takes you up 100 ft in elevation and adds .4 miles to hike. The slight elevation gain is rewarded with wide open views of Twin Sisters, Estes Cone, and Longs Peak

Read more: Walking in a Windy Winter Wonderland

Lily Ridge Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park
Views of Longs Peak from Lily Ridge

Did you know that spring can be the snowiest season in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Read more: 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

Centennial Open Space at Knoll-Willows

The Centennial Open Space at Knoll-Willows is located across the street from the historic Stanley Hotel. The open space is home to two historic structures. This is a great spot for a quick evening stroll to watch the sunset over downtown Estes Park.

Read more: Top Spot for a Sunset Stroll Overlooking Estes Park, Colorado

Views of downtown Estes Park from Centennial Open Space at Knoll-Willows
Views of Downtown Estes Park from Centennial Open Space at Knoll-Willows

Sprague Lake

This half mile loop is one of our favorite toddler-friendly spots. The path around the lake has magnificent views of the Continental Divide.

Read more: Our Magical Snow Vacation in Estes Park, Colorado

sprague lake half frozen
Icy Sprague Lake

Bierstadt Lake

Start out at the Bierstadt Lake trail head in Rocky Mountain National Park and climb uphill 1.3 miles to the frozen lake.  The vast mountain views are gorgeous the whole way.

Read more: Snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park

Snowshoe hike up to Bierstadt Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
Snowshoe up to Bierstadt Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Alberta Falls

The hike to Alberta Falls begins at the Glacier Gorge trail head which sits at 9,180 ft. in elevation. At this altitude, there can be a lot of snow and ice on the trail. The hike gains 220 ft of elevation and is a little under 1 mile each way.

Read more: Winter Hike to Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Alberta Falls in the snow, RMNP. Rocky Mountain National Park
Alberta Falls in the snow

Bear Lake

The seasons in the mountains don’t go along with our calendar. One of the most enjoyable hikes we took last year was around Bear Lake on June 1st. The loop around Bear Lake is a half mile. Bear Lake sits at 9,475 ft of elevation which can take your breathe away if you aren’t acclimated. There are benches placed around the path to enjoy a moment of rest and take in the scenery.

Read more: Bear Lake in the Snow

Bear Lake half frozen. RMNP. Rocky Mountain National Park
Views of Hallett Peak from Bear Lake

Mills Lake

Mills Lake is serene and breathtaking. The hike begins at Bear Lake trail head. Continue on the trail past Alberta Falls.  This hike is 5.6 miles round trip.

Read more: Itinerary for Estes Park and Eldora Winter Adventure Weekend

Winter hike up to Mills Lake in RMNP. Rocky Mountain National Park
Winter hike up to Mills Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Deer Mountain

The hike up Deer Mountain is 6.2 miles round-trip. The trail gains just over 1,200 feet of elevation. Along with having great views and being one of the more moderate summit hikes in the park, Deer Mountain is also one of the best year-round options due to it’s proximity to the park entrance (less icy roads to contend with) and the fact that the snow tends to blow off/melt out earlier here than in some of the other popular trail head areas, such as Bear Lake and Glacier Gorge.

Read more: A Winter Hike up Deer Mountain

Views from Deer Mountain in RMNP. Rocky Mountain National Park.
Views from Deer Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park

Estes Park Winter Bucket List

The temperatures are dropping, the days are getting shorter, and the first few holiday decorations are going up. Winter is on it’s way, so I’m getting in the spirit by making a winter bucket list for our trip to Estes Park, Colorado.

Go Sledding

Santa is bringing us new sleds! Where is the best place to take them?

Our family is excited to go on an epic sledding excursion at Hidden Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park. Hidden Valley is the only place in Rocky Mountaion National Park where sledding is allowed. ‘Sleds and tubes are the most popular, but skis and snowboards without bindings also are allowed.’ according to visitestespark.com.

We wrote more about sledding in Hidden Valley in this post.

Snowshoe

According to Colorado.com, snowshoeing is one of the easiest sports to learn – even for kids. The snowshoes help make hiking easier by distributing your weight so that you are walking more on top of the snow instead of sinking into it.

Need snowshoeing gear? Last year we rented poles and snowshoes from Estes Park Mountain Shop.

Ranger-led snowshoe walks start mid-January 2023. Participants must be 8-years-old or older and reservations are required. The park’s website contains additional information.

Winter Hike

It’s important to be knowledgeable about the avalanche warnings and trail conditions before setting out on a winter hike so that you bring along the right gear. Sometimes we’ve hiked with waterproof boots and other times strapped on micro spikes for extra traction.

9 Wintry Hikes in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park

Planning for a Winter Visit – Rocky Mountain National Park

Frozen river in Moraine Park

Drink Hot Chocolate

Sipping a steamy cup of hot chocolate is the best way to warm up during the winter months. Our favorite places to get a hot chocolate are Kind Coffee and Trailhead Restaurant. For more ideas, we wrote a fun post about the Best Places to ‘Have a Cup of Cheer’.

hot chocolate at trailhead restaurant

Shopping in downtown estes park

One of our favorite holiday traditions is visiting one of the Christmas shops in downtown Estes Park and letting each of our girls pick out a special ornament to hang on our tree. The town has several Christmas shops including The Spruce House and The Christmas Shoppe.

Looking for unique gifts? Some of my favorite shops in Estes Park are Trendz boutique, Mary Janes, and Hyk.

Sit by the fireplace with a good book

Our cabin has a great fireplace in the living room and I love to sit next to it and read books while the snow falls outside our window. I wrote a post for fellow book lovers here.

Dine Out and enjoy downtown holiday lights

Last winter my husband and I enjoyed a romantic meal at Bird and Jims. We sipped on hand-crafted cocktails while the snow fell outside. It was so cozy! The restaurant offers a 12 Days of Christmas 3 Course prix fixe menu from December 21 – January 1 from 5-8pm.

HIMALAYAN CURRY & KEBOB is another Estes Park restaurant on the top of our list to visit this winter. The warm spices offer the perfect complement to the cold weather outside. Himalayan Curry & Kebob is located in downtown Estes Park which is always decorated with festive holiday lights. It feels like a magical winter wonderland!

Indoor Rock Climbing

Estes Park Mountain Shop has an indoor rock climbing gym for ages 5 and older. A variety of packages are available including a 3 CLIMBS FOR $20 option which includes belaying. Reservations are recommended. We haven’t gone yet, but this activity is at the top of my daughter’s list.

float down the lazy river

The Estes Valley Community Center has a pool with a lazy river, slides and water play area. There are resident and non-resident fees to use the facility. 

Enjoy a quiet moment of reflection

This time of year can be hectic with events and shopping. My natural inclination is to have a to-do list running through my head. Seeking out quiet places to reflect on the year will help me maintain a sense of peace and appreciation.

St. Catherine of Siena Chapel (Chapel on the Rock)

Whether you are traveling to Estes Park on a romantic getaway, a friends trip, or a family vacation, there is a lot to do in the winter. I can’t wait until our trip!

7 Romantic Things To Do in Estes Park, Colorado

I hope everyone had a great Valentine’s Day! Inspired by all the LOVE, this week I’m sharing the most romantic things to do in Estes Park, Colorado.

  1. Linger over breakfast. Typically I eat toast for breakfast, that’s the opposite of romantic! Sitting down to a full service breakfast with a couple cups of coffee is a luxury. There are a lot of places to eat breakfast in Estes Park. A couple of my favorites are Notchtop Bakery & Cafe and Trailhead Restaurant.
  2. Play Outside. There is something very romantic about activities that are playful or adventurous. During the winter months you can grab a sled and ride in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Hidden Valley. Or, you can rent snowshoes and explore the trails you love all covered in bright, white snow. If you are planning a romantic trip in the summer, you could rent a boat at Lake Estes marina or go on a horseback ride with your favorite partner.
  3. Browse Unique Shops. Downtown Estes Park has plenty of shopping. Date-worthy destinations include historic Macdonald Bookshop – I think the fireplace adds to the charm. There are also several art galleries in downtown Estes Park. My favorite is Images of Rocky Mountain National Park.
  4. Wine Tasting. Estes Park is home to Snowy Peaks Winery. They offer tastings of local wine and often host live music.
  5. Sunset. When the sun goes down over the mountains, the sky turns brilliant shades of pink and yellow. Savor these magical moments with a romantic drive through Rocky Mountain National Park.
  6. Romantic Night on the Town. The Dunraven Inn in Estes Park offers home-made Italian food and a cozy atmosphere. It’s a unique, locally owned restaurant. There is a tradition to hang $1 bills on the walls in the bar area and a collection of Mona Lisa themed art work is displayed throughout the restaurant.
  7. Get Cozy. Estes Park has a lot of wonderful places to stay while you visit. If you choose to stay at Solitude Cabins, we hope you take time to relax by the stone fireplace and watch the snow falling down outside. We would love for you to visit our cabin and enjoy a memorable weekend with your loved ones. If you would like more suggestions for your itinerary while in Estes Park, I would love to help!

Snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park

On New Year’s Day, my husband and I decided to try something new and rented snowshoes in Estes Park, Colorado.  

We started out at the Bierstadt Lake trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park and climbed uphill 1.3 miles to the frozen lake and back down.  The views were gorgeous the whole way!

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The snow was pretty packed in, so I don’t know if snowshoes were 100% necessary. We saw several people in them and several people with micro-spikes like these.

winter hiking gear

I’m a total novice and thought I would be very cold because the temperature was only 22 degrees.  I started with long sleeve Under Armour shirt (similar), a long sleeve t-shirt, a Northface fleece jacket, a waterproof winter jacket, Under Armour cold weather leggings, athletic pants, two pairs of wool socks, a hat, gloves and waterproof hiking boots..  Once we got moving, I took off several layers.

Speaking of heating up – sunglasses are essential because the snow makes the sun even brighter and for me it’s easy to forget drinking water when it’s cold, so I had to remind myself to drink up. We didn’t bring sunscreen, but I think it would be a good idea next time along with chapstick.

snowshoeing 

This past summer, we went to the same beautiful lake via Bear Lake trailhead with our daughter Cecilia. Since this was our first time snowshoeing, we decided to be extra cautious and get a babysitter (my amazing sister). We saw a couple on the trail with a baby, and learned snowshoeing isn’t much different than walking, so I would definitely consider taking her on future snowshoe adventures.

Even though I love hiking with our little one, I have to admit it was fun going on a snow day date with my husband! Here are 7 more Romantic Things to do in Estes Park.

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