Trip Report: Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park


This is the second post about my family reunion trip to Estes Park, Colorado which will focus on all the hiking we did in Rocky Mountain National Park. Find the first part here detailing out the YMCA of the Rockies and our adventures up the Old Fall River Road that just opened up. All the hiking we did I really enjoyed but the weather was terrible. Typically for this time of year there are afternoon showers in the mountains but we were presented with nonstop rain and low clouds pretty much the whole time. It didn’t stop us and we were able to find a couple hikes that broke through the cloud cover with some spots of sunshine.

Day 2 – Hike to Emerald Lake & Bible Point

Dream Lake

The first hike we picked out to do was a 3.8 mile trip to Emerald Lake with Nymph and Dream Lake on the way. We didn’t get the earliest start and it was the busiest day in the park as it was the Monday after the Fourth of July so we were dropped off at the Park & Ride in the Bear Lake area of Rocky Mountain National park and took the free shuttle up to the Bear Lake Trailhead. This was by far the cloudiest and wettest day with a nice drizzle during the whole hike. We didn’t see much of anything thanks to that but it provided some eerie pictures of the lakes. Dream Lake in particular was pretty cool in the clouds. I was little disappointed at Emerald Lake as you are suppose to see some mountain peaks but we could barely see across the lake.

The second half of the day we did a small hike back the YMCA of the Rockies up to Bible Point. It is only a short 2 mile round-trip hike but with a decent pitch up most of the way. There is a split in the trail that leads into Rocky Mountain National Park via the Glacier Basin Trail. On the way up we lost the trail but managed to make our own path up to the top. Arriving up there we came from the opposite side of the trail and scared someone who was on top who was being suspicious… At the top there is memorial dedicated to Edwin Bradt who was also buried on top of the peak. The views were suppose to be great but once again the clouds got in the way. Still managed to get a decent view of the whole YMCA complex.

Bible Point and Glacier Basin Split Bible Point - Turkeys Bible Point - YMCA Plaque

Day 3 – Hike to Alberta Falls, Mills Lake, & Jewel Lake

Alberta Falls - View 1

Checking the weather for the next day we noticed a small break in the rain and clouds and decided to try to get in a decent hike before the downpours ensued. We headed back up the Bear Lake Trailhead and headed out towards Alberta Falls to Mills Lake and then onto Jewel Lake. It ended up being around a 6.8 mile round-trip taking us 3 hours to get the furthest point and only 1.5 hours back to the trailhead.

Hidden Falls Near Alberta - View 2

This was the best hike of the entire trip with the sun peaking through just enough. Alberta Falls was great and this is where most people turn around so as we continued forward the crowds got less and less. Also what I think was a better waterfall was just less than a half a mile up from Alberta Falls where the trail bends near the gorge again. There is no sign to mark it so I just called it the Hidden Falls and it has some of the best rock outcrops over the gorge. The best spot for pictures and no need to worry about other people.

Jewel Lake

The final leg of the hike was to Mills Lake and then onto Jewel Lake (pictured above). Both were spectacular with the mountains reflecting off the pristine water. The lakes were just outside the bulk of the clouds allowing for some great views. We had snack and enjoyed the views for quite a bit before turning back around. We met up with some of my family back in Estes Park for a late lunch and literally just missed getting soaked in the rain.

Day 4 – Hike to Alberta Falls with the Family

For the next day we decided to take some of the old folks out hiking and with the weather still iffy we decided that Alberta Falls would be great even tho we just did it the day before. Everyone enjoyed the hike and it wasn’t too strenuous for them. We also went a little further to the Hidden Falls and had that whole area to ourselves. It was a great family bonding hike.

Day 5 – Hike to Fern Falls & The Pool, Southwest Airline Delays…

Fern Falls 1

For our final day we had limited time to get a hike in as our shuttle left from Estes Park at 12:30 PM so we decided on setting out from the Fern Lake Trailhead early in the morning. It was a lot different trail from the others we did with the lower elevation. With all the rain there were a lot of small streams running down the trail with some sandy run outs. Off to the side of the trail there were a lot of boulder fields that looked pretty cool. Eventually we made it to The Pool and Fern Falls which were pretty. With our time limited we headed back down and then into Estes Park for lunch before catching the shuttle.

Fern Falls, The Pool Hike 1 Fern Falls, The Pool Hike 2 The Pool 1

We caught the shuttle no problem and were joined by two individuals who had been camping the past couple days near Longs Peak. They didn’t seem too happy, apparently the weather was worse over there and they were drenched the entire time. It took about two hours to get to the airport with a quick detour for our shuttle mates to drop off some of their equipment.

The plan was to hangout in the United Club ( I had a pair of free passes) for a couple of hours until our plane departed around 6 PM. But right as we got through security and then on the tram to head to Terminal B I received an email stating that our Southwest flight had been delayed for 4 hours… I wasn’t too happy but I went to check the monitors and online for other options. The only good option was the earlier direct 3 PM DEN to IND which had been delayed and we had a chance to make it. So we changed plans and headed to that gate and tried to standby but it was way overbooked and the standby list was too long. Not a chance to make it. So we headed to the United Club lounge to weigh our options. After calling Southwest they said they could rebook us for the next day but we decided to wait it out. Eventually the plane left 5 hours late and didn’t get home until 4:30 AM back in Indianapolis. It made for a tiring workday the next day but Southwest was proactive and gave everyone a $100 Southwest voucher at the gate. It will be perfect for our next trip.


Overall a great trip but I wish the weather would have cooperated better. The location was perfect for our reunion but I don’t believe we will be coming back to the YMCA simply because the facilities were not ideal for what we usually enjoy. While a location hasn’t been set for our next reunion which will be in 2 years, it should be somewhere in the Midwest (broad I know) but I am hoping it is somewhere new for me to explore.