Explore the most popular forest 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.

hiking
2 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
2 days ago

Go to 5th lake. Its well worth it. Trail kinda disappears but its pretty obvious still.

hiking
3 days ago

Many small falls. A easy hike.

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.

4 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!

nature trips
4 days ago

Great short hike for kids

hiking
5 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
5 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.

Amazing views, beautiful lakes and low traffic after leaving the Adams Falls area. Difficult hike with many steps. But we’ll worth the trek!!

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

hiking
6 days ago

It was quite hilly but the hike was nice and short and the views and waterfall was rewarding.

hiking
6 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

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.

walking
10 days ago

Our family of 15 includes 8 kids under 10. We loved this easy hike that included a nice waterfall 0.3 Miles in and a stream they waded in for 1/2 hour. We could’ve gone further but enjoyed the first stretch. It was perfect for our family.

hiking
10 days ago

Easy hike, go early and have trail to yourself and get to meadows beyond the Falls to see the wildlife.

A great hike with lots of changing scenery, lots of animals along the way.

hiking
11 days ago

One of my favorite RMNP trail (the other is Chasm lake). Absolutely amazing trail along continental divide. We decided to do an early hike starting around sunrise. Saw a large family of elks while driving along Trail Ridge road and also a couple elks up close at the Milner pass trail head, including a young elk.
Got above tree line after about 1 mile and the view was just breath-taking (not to mention some of the steep inclines at 11-12,000 ft elevation). Saw lots of marmots and cute pikas. We were probably 1/2 mile from summit when we saw straight ahead at a distance a large animal with a skinny long tail leaping, probably at its prey (perhaps a poor marmot). Convinced that it was a mountain lion, we followed our survivor's instinct and turned around. It was still an amazing hike. This is one of our all time favorite hikes. Highly recommend even if you just made it above tree line and not all the way to the summit. Next time I will bring buff and gloves as it gets windy and cold.

hiking
11 days ago

Saw elk, a moose and a lot of other wildlife! A beautiful hike. Challenging and worth every minute. The peak of the hike was absolutely amazing.

Great trail! I left Grand Lake Lodge @ 5:50am & made it to Big Meadow in a little over 1.5hrs...stopped several times on the way up. Spotted 2 big bull moose about 15min south of Paintbrush campsite & several mule dear on the way up the trail. Thought the trail was light and no traffic early in the morning. Back to the lodge in time for breakfast with the fam.

hiking
12 days ago

Love this trail. Not too crowded. Saw only 1 other big group after us. Not too buggy by the lake. Very steady incline to the top which is very doable. No scrambling and no treacherous segments. Only a few fallen trees but easy to walk over. Nice view from the top even though the fire outlook is out of bounce. Saw the same deer twice which was really cute. Saw multiple ospreys and one nesting on top of a tree by the lake, which was amazing.

We loved this hike for the waterfall stops along the way and the Moose sighting in the meadow not far from the trailhead!
The hike did take us all day but we still talk about it as a fave! Take mosquito repellant and you will be happier though.

Tons of wildlife and multiple eco-systems. Water is readily available and camp sites (permit only) are very nice. Portions of the loop are very secluded. Wonderful waterfalls and plenty of day hikes if you want to stay extra nights.

The Falls were beautiful, easy hike up to the Falls. We then continued on for another mile or so, the meadows and river were really nice, with mountain views. We saw moose as well, so be on the lookout for them.

hiking
13 days ago

We picked this for our first RMNP hike as a way to get acclimatized to the 8500 ft elevation. It served its purpose. Relatively flat. Very popular hike. We saw a small crowd gathered watching 2 moose. There may be more wildlife if there were not as many people on the trail. The waterfall was nice. Refreshing to finally sit in the shade for lunch by the waterfall. Otherwise the path does not have much shade. Remember sunscreen, hat and sunglasses.

hiking
15 days ago

Started the trail at 05:45 and made summit at exactly 08:17, leave early and enjoy the views. Bring layers, most of the hike is wide open exposed mountain range. Hike wasn’t to hard, I will say toward the last mile pay attention to trail markers stacked.

Hard is an understatement...we thought it was because we’re flat landers, but the rangers we ran into said they don’t even do it that much. We did 3 nights in backcountry, went off-trail but used this as our first day hike. Spectacular views make it worth it, including all the critters you’d imagine you’d run into. Epic.

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