The hike to Dream Lake begins at the Bear Lake trail head in Rocky Mountain National Park. The total hike is 1.1 miles each way starting at 9,450 ft in elevation and gaining 450ft. You will cross by Nymph Lake halfway into the hike. In late October, we could see lily pads at Nymph Lake as well as a layer of ice beginning to frost the mountain lake. The pairing made a unique and beautiful combination.
We continued up towards Dream Lake.
dream lake rocky mountain national park
The hike to Dream Lake is one of the most popular hikes in the park. Even though there were quite a few people on the trail, we felt lucky that we could experience it off-peak. October is late in the season for this hike.
We were thankful to the fellow hikers who took a family photo for us with Hallett Peak in the background.
As we headed back down the trail, I overheard a group of young, fit-looking hikers marvel at how much better our girls were hiking in the high elevation compared to them. I smiled to myself because it was true. Our 4-year-old and 6-year-old made the hike look easy with their abundant energy.
In one of our favorite hiking guides by Erik Stensland, this hike is rated easy unless ‘you are not acclimatized’ – in which case it can be challenging, and it is a good idea to take it slow.
The truth is our girls were motivated by snow, and specifically throwing snowballs (otherwise known as ice pellets) at their parents.
You can see in their smiles that this hike was a lot of fun, but the Mom/teacher in me was excited to sneak in a little education as well. For example, because this hike is so popular, you can see areas along the trail that have been impacted by erosion. We looked at exposed tree roots and talked about how the dirt is needed to keep the trees from falling over. We also talked about snow melt and asked why the waterfall which we had passed in the spring was now a trickle of water in comparison. How do the changing seasons impact the landscape and the animals?
If you have little science and nature lovers in your life, I think a gift from the Rocky Mountain Conservancy would be a meaningful present this holiday season. Purchases support ‘the research and educational missions of 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
We also passed over a wooden bridge with a roaring mountain stream classified as a ‘loud waterfall’ by our toddler.
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.
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 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!