Basically nothing in life gets me more excited than discovering a new trail for my family to hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s like finding a secret path or a hidden paradise. I don’t know how I skipped over the Ute Trail during my years of scouring hikes in guidebooks and even passed by the trail dozens of times in our car. I guess sometimes you miss things right in front of you when you are distracted by amazing views or in our case, toddlers in the backseat.
The Ute Trail is located right off of Trail Ridge Road, a scenic highway that connects Estes Park, Colorado to Grand Lake, Colorado. Parking is limited to a handful of cars that can fit into a pull-off area between Rainbow Curve and Forest Canyon Overlook.
We dressed in warm layers because the temperature drops as you rise above treeline. The Ute Trail begins at 11,430 ft of elevation which is incredible! On the tundra, the sun shines bright and the wind can be intense. We lucked out with a beautiful day.
We accidentally locked most of our hiking gear including boots and kid carrier in our storage closet, so we picked this hike for the girls to do (mostly) on their own because it’s basically flat.
Both girls did an amazing job, especially our 3-year-old. She wanted to keep going and going. We decided to turn around approximately a mile into our hike, making this a two mile trek for us. Rockymountainhikingtrails.com lists this as a 4 mile round trip hike which gives us a great goal for our next adventure up on the Ute Trail.
The sweeping views are inspiring, but I also love witnessing the intricate plant life that survives in this harsh climate.
I can just imagine the the Arapaho and Ute tribes passing here between their summer and winter hunting grounds as they did so many years ago. The National Park Service has placed a historical information plaque at the start of the trail.
We spotted wildlife including marmots, pikas and birds. Oh hey, there little guy!
Trail Ridge Road is open seasonally. You can check road status reports on the National Park Service’s website here. In the high elevation take extra caution with weather that can produce lightening or icy conditions.
The Ute Trail is one of my new favorite family-friendly hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. If you are looking for more amazing hikes, check out our favorite hikes under two miles.