Ute Trail from Alpine Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park

Last week I was feeling sentimental and decided to print pictures from our summer adventures. I was surprised when a package of 143 prints came in the mail. I need to buy a new photo album to fit them all in! I think that is a good problem to have. The summer of 2020 has been challenging, so I am thankful we’ve been able to capture 143 fun moments.

This hike along the Ute Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park contains several of these exceptional summer memories.

Rocky Mountain National Park Ute Trail near Alpine Visitor Center
Hiking on the Ute Trail

Our family entered in Rocky Mountain National Park from the east side of the park near Estes Park during our reserved timed entry window. We drove up Old Fall River Road to the Alpine Visitor Center then parked and walked around to take in the landscape from the viewing deck.

My cousin and his high school age sons came in from the west side of the park near Grand Lake. We were thrilled to meet them for a morning hike.

elk in rocky mountain national park off of trail ridge road
Elk on the mountain side

The trail begins right across from the visitor center (11,796 ft of elevation). Trail Ridge Road can get terribly busy, so we held our kids’ hands while crossing.

This section of the Ute Trail leads down to Poudre Lake and Milner Pass. The hike to Poudre Lake is four miles each way. If you have two cars, you can park one at the Alpine Visitor Center and the other by Poudre Lake to avoid the return trip back up.

wildflowers and mountain views along ute trail in rocky mountain national park. colorado hikes
Mountain Views from the Ute Trail

Instead of juggling cars, we decided to cut the hike short. We followed the trail for approximately one and a half miles until we reached a couple of tarns off the path. We returned the way we came. The return trip was uphill, but it felt doable even with young kids.

I loved every second of this hike. It was fun catching up with my cousin and his kids, the views were unbelievable, the weather was perfect, the wildlife was exciting, and the flowers were beautiful. We even got a rare family photo of all four of us mostly looking at the camera.

similar hikes in Rocky mountain National Park

The Most Underrated Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. Following the Historic Ute Trail.

This post covers another section of the Ute Trail

A Land of Extremes: Tundra Communities Trail in Rocky Mountain Natonal Park


Alpine Ridge Trail

Rocky Mountain National Park Entrance Fee and Other Helpful Things to Know Before You Go

Save the Date! August 25th is the National Park Service’s birthday and that means entrance fees are waived in all U.S. national parks including Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park Entrance Fee

rocky mountain national park entrance fee

Typically, the daily entrance fee for one vehicle is $25. You can buy an annual RMNP pass for $70. Our family buys an ‘America the Beautiful’ annual National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands pass which is $80. This is a great deal for us because we go to Rocky Mountain National Park often, and we also like visiting nearby Indian Peaks Wilderness Area which is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Seniors, members of the military, and 4th grade students may be eligible for discounts. You can learn more about these and other pass options online on the national park service’s website.

rocky mountain National park timed entry permit

Starting summer 2020, a timed-entry permit is also required to enter Rocky Mountain National Park between the hours of 6:00 am and 5:00 pm. Permits are typically $2 per day and can be obtained on recreation.gov.

rocky mountain national park hours

The national park is open 24 hours per day every day of the year. Some facilities such as the park’s visitor centers have more limited hours. Current hours are 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Some roads such as Fall River Road and Trail Ridge Road are open seasonally based on weather conditions.

rocky mountain national park trail conditions

Park rangers at the park’s visitors centers and professional local tour guides/rental companies are helpful resources to get an idea of what to expect out on the trails. You can also review trail condition reports on the national park’s website or on alltrails.com.

rocky mountain national park things to do

Our favorite activity in Rocky Mountain National Park is hiking. I wrote a post about how to decide the best hike for you called Where Should I Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Best Day Hikes Rocky Mountain Natrional Park

We also enjoy going on picnics which I wrote about in Lunch with a View: 5 Great Spots to Enjoy a Picnic in Rocky Mountain National Park This Fall.

Keep an eye out for wildlife like moose, deer, bighorn sheep, and elk. Make sure to bring a good camera.

If you are visiting Rocky Mountain National Park during the winter, you can go sledding or snow-shoeing.

Additional activities include fishing, camping, rock climbing, and more! (additional fees, reservations, or permits may be required) No matter how many times we visit, we never run out of things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park.

A Trail Less Traveled – The Glacier Creek Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular vacation destination. The month of July is especially busy. According to an article in the Coloradoan, a record 912,507 people visited the park in July 2016.

In my last post I mentioned that crowds were one of my least favorite parts of our July trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. One of the solutions for us was finding less popular trails. One morning we woke up a little late and couldn’t find parking at Bear Lake, Glacier Gorge, Bierstadt or even the Park and Ride. I’m glad we didn’t give up looking, because we eventually found a spot near Sprague Lake.

We decided to give it a go and hike from Sprague Lake to the Glacier Gorge trailhead via the Glacier Creek Trail. If you are in the parking lot and looking towards the lake, you will find the trailhead to your right. From here, head uphill and follow signs leading to Bear Lake.

The further we hiked, the prettier this trail became. Two miles in we discovered a little lake covered in lily pads blooming with yellow flowers. My daughter nicknamed it Minnie Mouse Lake.

Lake on Glacier Creek Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

We also passed over a wooden bridge with a roaring mountain stream classified as a ‘loud waterfall’ by our toddler.

Roaring Mountain Stream in Rocky Mountain National Park

We turned around 2.8 miles into our hike. If we continued we would have made it to Bear Lake or Alberta Falls in less than a mile. The return hike was even more enjoyable because it was a downhill slope.

Trail Signs Rocky Mountain National Park

We really enjoyed our hike and will keep this less trafficked trail in mind for days when the park is busy!

If you are looking for another less crowded hike, I also recommend checking out Hollowell Park.

Hiking with Kids Rocky Mountain National Park

Hiking Gear Highlight – Hiking Boots: The dusty first section of this hike inspired me to ditch my running shoes and buy new hiking boots with good wool hiking socks. In downtown Estes Park I noticed a sale sign on the window of Plum Creek Shoe Station. The selection of boots and customer service was amazing. I was given options in my price range that fit the hikes we go on. I’m so glad I bought from a local shop so I could ask questions rather than buying online. Having good hiking boots and socks that fit makes a world of difference!