Explore the most popular birding trails near Grand Lake with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Great walking trail for families and people that are looking for an easier walk in the park. The views are stunning and the trail is alongside a creek which our kids enjoyed wading in.

10 hours ago

Easy, beautiful, full of wildlife, and waterfalls

hiking
1 day ago

great hike. would definitely rate this as closer to difficult if you're not in shape. done in about 5.5 hours, my GPS tracked it at right around 12 miles. like most trails in rmnp, tack on an extra 1.5-2 miles from what you expect.

the lake is gorgeous and the trail is pretty well maintained (done 8/18/18). we saw about 20 elk in the meadow as soon as we entered the woods, as well as a bunch of bulls later in the day. the landslide was difficult to cross (we actually did it in the rain, i don't recommend that) but on a normal day, you should be fine if you take your time.

overall, gorgeous trail well worth the time. start early so you can enjoy. the juice is worth the squeeze.

Spent 3 days in the backcountry while camping at Timber Creek and Snowbird. Saw tons of wildlife (moose, mule deer, elk). Also made our way up Mt Ida which was very difficult for my 70 year old dad. One of our favorite hikes to get away from the crowds and enjoy RMNP. I'd highly recommend!

Today’s weather (8/19) was not perfect. Snowing on summit. We did it in 5 hrs.

Nice view of the lakes below

nature trips
4 days ago

Very easy trail with great educational interpretive signs posted throughout. Great for all ages.

beautiful.

Hard hike with great views at the end. Fairly crowded.

hiking
5 days ago

Difficult but worth it! Got to the trail head around 8am, summited around 1 and was back at 2:15. My partner and I took some breaks on the way there, the hard parts only last a couple of moments-had to give myself some pep talks but it was worth it! Way back is hard on the knees but as long as your mindful of the trail and your body it’s manageable.

Great for families. Did it with an age range from 5-60. Just bring lots of water. It does get a little long so we stopped a few times.

hiking
9 days ago

Ok, I feel like I need to "normalize" all the reviews here for this particular trail. It was a great trail and spectacular views, but even if you are in good shape this may be a workout and a half for you. Granted, we are from NY and not used to exercising at 10,000ft... you will notice the slight reduction in oxygen going up this hill. It took us a good 5 hours out and back with several stops to look at the views and a 30 min stop at the top for lunch. We met several other hikers that were having a tough time and one group quit just 30 min from the top. If you are not used to Colorado hiking, bring 2x the water you think you will need and snacks to get you through. Don't get me wrong, it was a great hike but the reviews here make it sound a lot easier than it is :)

hiking
9 days ago

Well. First off it was an accident that my wife and I went to lone pine lake, but we are glad we did. Even tho we did end up going through snow and it was chilly closer to the lake, we had fun. We saw a moose. And some amazing sights.

11 days ago

Not only was this a beautiful hike with incredible views but it will forever be memorable as I proposed to my girlfriend at the summit. It was so perfect!

Anywhere in Rocky is a great place. Easy walk...Some giant elk, moose ran through just as we were leaving...huge..

hiking
12 days ago

Wow, what a hike! This was almost too much for someone slightly out of shape from Southeast Texas. I hiked Sky Pond the day before and didn't struggle too much, but this was on the next rung up. As difficult as it was for me though, the amazing vistas more than made up for it. The summit location in the center of the park basically allows you to see most of the big landmarks RMNP has to offer, from Long's Peak to the Mummy Range and the Never Summer Mountains. While the views from the summit are certainly the highlight, the entire hike offers constant breathtaking views, especially above the treeline. Make sure to start early not only due to this hike's gaining popularity, but also because of the thunderstorm risk since the majority of the hike is rather exposed. With the caveat that I was one of the slower hikers, I began at about 6:45 am, summited about 10:45, spend about 30 minutes at the summit, and was back at the trailhead at 2 pm. The skies were certainly starting to look angry as I was making my way back below treeline. Definitely my favorite hike thus far.

hiking
12 days ago

Our favorite hike in RMNP (so far). The Milner Pass trailhead lot was already full when we arrived at 8:15 AM on a Saturday morning, so we parked down the road a bit and walked in. The trail begins with fairly steep switchbacks through the woods before emerging above the treeline. The views of the Never Summer Wilderness were immediately spectacular, and so was the wildlife, including elk, mule deer, marmots, pikas, ptarmigans, and numerous raptors. The trail to Mt. Ida is almost completely exposed and quite windy, so layering clothes (and watching the weather) is definitely a good idea. The ascent itself is basically boulder scrambling with no clear path, but the views from the summit were more than worth it. All in all, a challenging but absolutely outstanding hike.

I only saw one trail ranger going down the gravel section in a golf cart. great views and really cold water!

hiking
14 days ago

What wasn't damaged by the beetle kill mitigation project is now sadly burned due to the "Golf Course Fire" in late June early July 2018. It will hopefully be a great area to hike in less then 10 years.

Due to the length of this hike, I’m splitting the review into two parts

Part One: Big Meadow and Ptarmigan Pass Loop Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)

This trail should be on every backcountry hiker’s short list. At around 30 miles (not 25) it can be done in two days (pushing it) or over the course 3 to 4 days (recommended). Let me tell you about it, including its meadows, wildlife and commanding views from Ptarmigan Pass.

The Hike:

I strongly recommend that you hike this trail clockwise. Get yourself the Nat. Geo. Trails Illustrated topo map (#200, Rocky Mountain National Park) and use it to plan your trip. This trail is well marked but you should always have a map and compass before heading into the back-country.

To hike this loop, you must reserve your campsites in advance. Go to the RMNP “Wilderness Camping” registration page, fill out the forms, give them your money ($26.00 USD as of 2018), and pray. When you do get your sites, you must stop at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center to pick up your permit the day of your hike - so plan ahead.

To begin the hike (going clockwise), drive to the Tonahutu/North Inlet trailheads just north of Grand Lake, CO. Park at the North Inlet trailhead (this is where you will exit the loop) and walk the couple of yards back to the Tonahutu trailhead to start the hike.

Day One - Jumping In

Going clockwise, try to reserve one of the following campsites on the West side of this loop: Paint Brush or Green Mountain or South Meadows. Each of these sites borders a BEAUTIFUL meadow with Moose and Elk, as well as a good water source close by.

If you cannot get one of these sites, try for Upper Onahu, Onahu Bridge or Onahu Creek, just North and West of the loop. Of these three Onahu Creek is by far the nicest, though getting to it from the Tonahutu trailhead makes for a 7 to 8 mile first day - a long hoof if you start late.

Day Two - Heading Up

For day two, try to get a site that is as far up the North side of this loop as you can, for example Renegade or Haynach or Timberline. If you cannot get one of these, try for Granite Falls or Lower Granite Falls, both nice, but BEWARE, these sites have had issues with bear activity in 2018.


Day Three - Summit

What makes this trail worthwhile is summiting Ptarmigan Pass. Plan on packing up about 2 liters of H20 (or so), because while this trail is well-watered throughout, the summit has a nearly 5 mile stretch without any water.

This summit is not, especially going clockwise, a tremendously strenuous hike. It is however, a bit of a psychological beat-down. Running nearly six miles from treeline to treeline, it is the pass that seems to never end. Just after Ptarmigan Pass, watch for the sign marking the junction with the Flattop Mountain Trail and turn right to the North Inlet Trail. Down this section of the trail you will see a row of double cairns stretching off and over the horizon - cool but weird.

There is a large, resident herd of Elk that loves this summit. If you are lucky, they will cut the trail in font or in back of you, giving you a “caught in a herd of creatures” Jurassic Park movie type feelings. Again, just cool.

Plan to get above treeline early and watch the skies closely. This section of the trail may take you some two to three hours, and that’s a long time to be exposed above 12,000 feet, especially in bad weather.

On the way down, try to get reservations at July or North Inlet Junction campsites. If these are full, Ptarmigan is OK as well.

Day Four - Getting Out

On the way out plan to stop at Big Pool (shortly after the campsite of the same name) for a killer swim, and Cascade Fall for an awesome view.

Once off trail, but before you leave RMNP and Grand Lake, plan to make a stop at Sloopy’s Grill for great burgers, fries and even fried chicken. It's a bit of a biker joint, but the staff is friendly to smelly hikers and the service is fast - just the ticket!

(Due to the length of this hike, I’m splitting the review into two parts)

PART TWO: Big Meadow and Ptarmigan Pass Loop Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)

This is a great hike, but as with any wander-through-the-woods, this trail has its ups and downs. Here are some of the pro’s and con’s.

Pro’s:

This trail is located in Rocky Mountain National Park: If most of your backpacking has been two to three day excursions and you are looking to make the transition to longer trips with more time on the trail - this is the hike for you. The trail is well marked and well maintained, and even without a map, you might have to work at getting lost. Since it is in a NP (no hunting) the wildlife is used to us two-legged creature, and will, if left unharassed, allow you to watch them for as long as you like.

This trail is popular: While I love remote treks, I also like the company of other hikers, and this trail has plenty of that. You are likely to meet some interesting people on this loop, some of them even hiking the whole CDT which overlaps a long stretch of this trail.

Con’s:

This trail is located in Rocky Mountain National Park: I have a love/hate relationship with hiking in National Parks. While they are well maintained, they are also well regulated, requiring that you walk here and not there, sleep there and not here and so on. If I want to be told where I can and cannot walk/stand/sleep, I’ll check into a hotel. Having to reserve camping sites, carry a BearVault and get checked two or three times for each by a ranger tends to rub me the wrong way.

This trail is popular: This trail is so popular that it suffers (IMHO) from an excess of what I call the “Idiot Factor,” or IF, and the resulting IF-driven regulations. The IF is that small percentage of people who, wherever they go, just cannot keep their damn hands inside the ride, stay the hell away from the lip of the canyon or, in the case of RMNP, figure out how to sh*t in the woods and NOT feed the bears! As a result, the IF never fails to scare the jeepers out of the resident authorities, leading to an excess of knee-jerk regulations that must be suffered by the rest of us. In RMNP, the scenario has gone something like this:

“What this!” Some people cannot figure out how to dig a hole and bury their crap? Well, we’ll just have to require that everyone pack-out their toilet paper AND, coming soon, all human waste!”

“Whoa, hold on, hold on!” “Some hikers just gave their dinner to a bear!? Pass the regulations, and quick! Two to three pounds of useless, freak’n dead weight in the form of a BearVault must be carried by everyone!”

Concerning the requirement of a BearVault, I asked the nice ranger folks why they did not allow hikers to hang their food in bear bags, notably in PCT style. They responded that they tried that, but after some hikers pulled trees down on themselves (yes, I know, loud facepalm “smack!”), it was BearVaults for all.

And there you have it. All pro’s and con’s considered, should you hike this loop? Absolutely. Why? First and foremost, it is a beautiful hike. Second, and this could be true of many hikes, while the idiots, like the poor, will always be with us, this trail, with its stunning meadows, majestic wildlife and sweeping alpine pass, may not be.

Cheers,

JG

Great short hike with kids. We did the “walk back through time” program that was offered by the Visitor center and it was incredible. It was a 2 hour program that you have to sign up for in advance. It rained on us the whole time but it was still an amazing experience for the kids

The trail is quite wide and flat; very driveway-like. The trailhead is easy to access, and the pleasant walk through the meadow to get to the site was lovely. We saw an entire heard of elk huddled together to try to shelter from the rain.
Lovely.

hiking
15 days ago

The trail is a great family friendly trail that can be handled by most people. It is uphill on the way out but plenty of great spots to stop and catch your breath. As many other reviewers have mentioned this is perfect for spotting moose. We saw a cow and her calf only about a half mile into the trail. Our kids especially enjoyed it when the pair followed us up the trail for a while. Great hike with beautiful forest scenery at the beginning and the meadow at the end it perfect for lunch or snack before heading back.

Beautiful lake. Saw Moose , Elk and deer. Caught fish. Start early to plan plenty of time at lake and avoid afternoon rain. Can RMNP please cleanup landslide... would make for a spectacular hike if landslide was mitigated. It is 11 miles.

on Timber Lake Trail

16 days ago

Great trail. A good cardio workout with elevation gain. Good trail to start out on as I just get into hiking. Whoo Hoo!

Nice, mostly level hike for most of it. Lots of downed trees-maybe not good for someone with bad knees. You have to go over or under a fair amount of logs. Trail gets pretty narrow at spots. Overall a nice hike with great views of SM Lake.

hiking
18 days ago

Beautiful hike, even on a rainy day. Saw moose along the trail. It is a very steady uphill almost the entire way up but it make a nice return going down. There is a huge landslide around 2 miles in that required some scrambling around but otherwise trail is in excellent shape. We got 10.4 miles round trip.

hiking
18 days ago

Amazing trail! The elevation gain is no joke. Absolutely stunning.

This trail has yet to disappoint, in three times up this season there has always been a plethora of wildlife. As others have said just be mindful crossing the landslide area. I tried the alternate route once and it’s not really any better/easier and takes a bit longer. Also it is right about 5.2miles to the lake from the parking lot and if you go around you’ll end up covering 11-12mi.

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