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

Sledding at Hidden Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park is our favorite winter activity.

Snowshoe

Snowshoeing is a fun way to explore Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter. You can rent snowshoes locally at retailers who rent out gear in Estes Park.

Winter Hike

Some of our favorite winter hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park include Alberta Falls, Moraine Park, and Lily Lake.

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 last winter about the Best Places to ‘Have a Cup of Cheer’.

Shop for a Christmas ornament

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.

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.

Star Gaze

Fascinated by outer space? The Estes Park Memorial Observatory schedules private viewing sessions for groups who enjoy learning about astronomy.

go to a Movie theater

Estes Park has two movie theaters, Reel Mountain and the Historic Park Theatre & Cafe. Both venues are showing Frozen II this winter – a movie that our daughters want to watch again and again.

float down the lazy river

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

Attend a local festival

The winter is full of exciting events in Estes Park including:

  • Estes Park Tree Lighting Ceremony – 3:30-5:30 pm on November 23, 2019
  • Catch the Glow Parade – 5:30 pm on November 29, 2019
  • Estes Park Holiday Wine Fest – November 30 – December 1, 2019
  • Estes Park Winter Festival – January 19 – 20, 2020
  • Wine and Chocolate Festival – February 8, 2020

Check out the Estes Park Event Complex’s website for more information.

art groove

The First Friday Art Groove events in Estes Park celebrate local artists. A Winter Trolley will run between the galleries. Art Groove events are from 5pm to 8pm on December 6, January 3, and February 7. The event is free to the public.

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) is open Tuesday – Sunday, 10 AM – 4 PM, except on national holidays. There is a weekly Catholic Mass every Tuesday at 11:45 AM.

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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