Rocky Mountain National Park is located in Colorado, and nestled between Grand Lake and Estes Park, with entrances at either end. This place is awesome. And huge. Because of that, there are plenty of great, easy hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park to do with kids.
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We have visited this beautiful national park many times and during all ages and stages with our kids. Some toddled along while we carried others in a pack, and through the years they are now all hiking on their own.
We love this park and want to share the best, easy hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park that the whole family can enjoy.
Here is some info you need to know, as well as great hikes for kids in Rocky Mountain National Park:
Table of Contents
An Intro to Rocky Mountain National Park
Over four-and-a-half million people visited Rocky Mountain National Park in 2019, making it the 3rd most visited National Park. If you want to see ALL of Rocky Mountain National Park, well…you might need to move there. Our family has been up there a number of times and have barely made a dent in the park.
Whether you are looking for easy hikes, challenging climbs, lakes, waterfalls, ponds, or incredibly views, you’ll find it all at Rocky Mountain National Park. (And the kids will love it, too!)
Rocky Mountain National Park is quite large. There are two main sides to the park: The Estes Park Side (east side) and the Grand Lake Entrance (west side).
This post will mainly focus on the east side, as it is the more popular side.
You can read more about great hiking on the west side.
Best Hikes for Kids in Rocky Mountain National Park (East Side)
If you’re heading to Rocky Mountain National Park with kids, one of the best things to do is hike! Here are a few easier hikes for families that everyone will enjoy.
1 & 2. Lily Lake and Sprague Lake
Of course with 4 kids, we aren’t able to scale mountains and hike 10 miles at a time.
These are the best easy trails in Rocky Mountain National Park for if you have toddlers or strollers.
You’ll get the beautiful water and views in an easy stroll. Plus, Sprague Lake is known as one of the best places to spot a moose.
We have hit many of the easy, leisurely places to explore, such as Sprague Lake and Lily Lake. Each of these lakes are easily accessed as you can park right there.
They also are great hikes for kids because they are easy and with minimal elevation. As a bonus, these lake trails are stroller-friendly, so baby can enjoy the views too 🙂
3. Alluvial Fan
Distance: .5 mile from East lot; .3 mile from West Lot
Level: Easy (though there is a short steep section on East side)
How to get to the Alluvial Fan in Rocky Mountain National Park
This is one of the easiest hikes for kids in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Enter the Fall River Entrance Station. Shortly after you pass the Sheep Lakes on the left, take a Right (follow the signs to Alluvial Fan). A small parking lot will appear, or continue on to the second parking lot.
Alternatively, if you are already in the park and on Bear Lake Road, head back to highway 36 and turn left/west. You’ll then take highway 34 east and then take a left to Fall River Road. The parking lot will be down the road and on your right.
What You Need to Know About Hiking to the Alluvial Fan with Kids
The Alluvial Fan is located on the northern side of RMNP (East Entrance). Reaching the water is just a short walk/hike from the parking lot. Note that there are two small parking lots; one of each side of the trail with the water feature right in the middle.
If you come upon the first (east) lot and it is full, drive a little farther and try your luck at the west lot. The walk is short from either end. It’s another one of the easy hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park that you can take a stroller on.
Alluvial Fan Water Fall in fall (I imagine it’s pretty awesome and full in spring!)
The east lot has a short section of 19% grade, so it’s a little steep, but totally doable for kids. The trail is a groomed, packed pebble trail. It is accessible for chairs and strollers, though you may want to check the west lot first if you are worried about the steep grade.
Once you come upon the water, it’s a beautiful sight! The kids can play across the large rocks in the stream or you can view the scene from a beautiful bridge. To get close to the main waterfall, you do have to scramble a bit over rocks, so just enjoy it from a distance if you’d like.
4. Bear Lake– Easy Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
Distance: .5 miles
How to Get to Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
Enter the park through the Beaver Meadows Entrance. Shortly after entering, turn left on Bear Lake Rd (Requires reservation that includes this road!) Drive this road all the way to the end and it will put you in the Bear Lake Parking lot.
Note: The lot fills up quickly, so I suggest parking at the park and ride. You’ll see a sign for it, and it is right across from Glacier Basin. Park here and enjoy the ride to Bear Lake.
What to Know About Hiking Bear Lake With Kids
Bear Lake is one of the most popular spots on the east side of the park. Unless you decide to hike in from another location, you can park right at the lake (or take a shuttle from the park-and-ride if parking is full) and the lake is just steps away.
Being one of the easier hikes for kids in Rocky Mountain National Park, it is accessible for chairs and strollers, and there are wooden benches all around the lake to stop and get some great pictures, relax and take in the view, or have a quick snack.
The loop around the lake is just over a half-mile, so it can easily be done with little ones.
5. Nymph Lake
Distance: .5 Miles one way
How to Get to Nymph Lake
The trailhead for Nymph Lake is the same place as Bear Lake. Either park at Bear Lake, or take the shuttle to Bear Lake.
What to Know About Hiking to Nymph Lake with Kids
Nymph Lake is a pretty easy trail, and it doesn’t take long to get there. Once you arrive, you’ll see a beautiful lake covered in lily pads. This cute lake is fun for kids to explore and there is plenty of space to walk around.
If it’s crowded right when you come upon it, keep walking and you’ll find a better spot to enjoy Nymph Lake.
Nymph lake is especially one of the great, easy hikes for kids in Rocky Mountain National Park because a good stroller could handle it.
Nymph Lake Trail continues on to two more lakes (Dream Lake and Emerald Lake…highly recommended!), if you’d like. Going past Nymph Lake is not stroller-friendly.
Check out the video below to see highlights of the entire trail!
6. Bierstadt Lake Trail
Distance: about 3 miles round-trip to the lake and back
Level: Moderate (has some incline the first half, but nothing too strenuous)
How to Get to the Bierdstadt Lake Trailhead
If your kids are accustomed to hiking a bit, then Bierstadt trail is another of the great hikes for kids in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Getting to the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead is easy. Enter through the Beaver Meadows Entrance and head to Bear Lake Road. Park in the park-n-ride, (grab your mask!), and take the shuttle to the Bierstadt Lake stop.
There is a parking lot for Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, but it only fits a couple cars, so I definitely recommend the shuttle.
Bierstadt Lake is less of a leisurely stroll, and more of an up-the-mountain, 566-foot elevation gain hike. This trail is not stroller friendly, but I would recommend setting the baby in a carrier (front or back) and taking baby along!
The bigger kids chat with each other or find cool rocks and don’t even notice how it ascends.
We’ve done this hike in the summer and gotten stuck in a storm, and we’ve done it in spring when the top was still snow-covered. That just made it all the more fun (the snow, not the thunderstorm) for the kids though and they didn’t seem to mind at all.
You’ll have to decide your kid’s attitude and experience hiking. We’ve done this a couple times, and ours did fine.
Make sure to bring a pack with snacks and water and other necessities. And of course, always carry out what you bring in. Here are some great packs to carry.
7. Bierstadt Lake Trailhead to Bear Lake
Distance: 3 Miles
About 3 miles from Bierstadt trailhead to Bear Lake
Start with the same trail as above, but instead of stopping at Bierstadt lake, keep going to Bear Lake.
Altogether, it is about a 3-mile hike (Bierstadt trailhead –> Bierstadt Lake –> Bear Lake). You can then take the shuttle from Bear Lake back to the park-n-ride (or Bierstadt Trailhead, if you were lucky to get a spot there).
It took us a few hours, but all the kids had a great time. We put the 3-year-old in a hiking backpack. The 5, 7, and 9-year old put on their walking shoes and did great, noticing the different flowers and searching for animals.
On the start of the trail, you overlook mountains and can see yourself get higher and higher off the road as you complete each switchback. Once you are at the top, the trees get much thicker. The terrain is flatter and the air smells like forest. It is very peaceful.
The rest of the hike was up and down terrain through the trees. It was a beautiful trail, filled with greenery and large boulders along the side. It ended at the Bear Lake loop.
Do your high-elevation or long hikes early in the morning. Weather can change quickly and you do not want to get stuck at the top of a mountain as a thunderstorm rolls in (as happened to us)
8. Alberta Falls
Distance: 1.2 miles roundtrip OR 2 miles roundtrip
Level: Easy to Moderate
How to Get to the Alberta Falls Trailhead
The shortest hike for Alberta Falls can be accessed from Glacier Gorge Junction. You can take the shuttle here, and it’s about .6 miles to the falls. While it is shorter, it is also an incline of over 150 feet in just over a half mile.
You can also access Alberta Falls from the Bear Lake Trailhead. The waterfall is about 1 mile from here, making a 2 mile roundtrip.
OR- you could begin at Bear Lake, hike to Alberta Falls, and then continue through to Glacier Gorge Junction, making a 1.6 mile hike. From there you can take the shuttle to wherever you need to go to more hikes for kids in Rocky Mountain National Park.
9. Copeland Falls – Easy Hike at Rocky Mountain National Park
Distance: .3 miles
How to Get to Copeland Falls
Copeland Falls is located in the very southern part of Rocky Mountain National Park on the East Side. From Estes Park, head south on CO-7 for about 12 miles. Turn into the Wild Basin Entrance Station and head to the Wild Basin Trailhead / finch Lake Trailhead. Copeland falls is just over a quarter-mile from the ranger station, and has minimal incline.
Fun Things to do at Rocky Mountain National Park with kids (beside hike)
I’d only recommend this with older kids that really understand bicycle safety. Also, as this isn’t a leisurely activity (plenty of hills and distances), it’s for those experienced on a bicycle.
If that sounds like your family, you can actually enter Rocky Mountain National Park on a bicycle.
Timed-entry passes are not required for entering on a bike.
However, you will need a per-person pass. Unless you have an annual or lifetime pass. Then, your pass will cover up to 4 people on their bike.
For a bit less-strenuous activity, take the kids fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park!
You must have a Colorado Fishing license, which can be obtained from the State of Colorado online.
There are plenty of spots to catch-and-release, as well as lakes to catch-and-keep!
Check out the full list of requirements and locations to fish.
You can bring your horse to the park with you in designated areas and camp areas. Find all the rules and requirements of bringing your horse before you go.
Lunch with a View
Packing a picnic and eating inside RMNP has been one of our great memories! On our latest trip in the fall, we sat at a picnic table and watch the elk across the meadow bugle and chase each other.
There are so many picnic areas in the park. Make sure to take advantage of them. It will allow you and the kids to rest after a hike and really enjoy what RMNP offers in terms of scenery and wildlife.
Join the Junior Ranger Program
Kids can grab an activity packet at any of the open visitor centers. Then, explore the park and earn your badge.
There are activity booklets for different ages, so each child will be able to fully participate.
Complete the activity book, then take it to a ranger at a visitor center. They will sign a certificate and you’ll earn your badge!
Unique Things to do at Rocky Mountain National Park
Guided Snowshoe Walk
You can book a reservation to take a ranger-guided snowshoe walk in Rocky Mountain National Park.
These fun walks are held January through March and don’t cost anything additional (just a parks entry pass).
Bring your own snowshoes and participate in this 2-hour winter hike through the beauty of RMNP.
Astronomy in the Park
During select Fridays in the summer, you can stop by the Upper Beaver Meadows Trailhead. Here, a team of volunteers and rangers who are skilled in astronomy will help you gaze at the night sky through telescopes. See visitor centers for updated info.
Stories Behind the Moon and Stars
This is a fun thing to do in Rocky Mountain National Park with kids!
This one-and-a-half hour program at the Moraine Park Discovery Center is for all ages. You’ll enjoy stories and activities that celebrate nighttime at RMNP.
Check Visitor Centers for dates and times.
Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter
This national park is not just for summer!
From guided snowshoe walks (noted in the section above) to sledding, there are still plenty of fun things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park in winter.
Snowshoeing at RMNP
Get the kids dressed warmly and grab some snowshoes. You can explore most trails within the park in the wintertime.
Try Bear Lake for an easy trail with the kids, or even Sprague Lake.
Cross Country Skiing
More of the skiing type? While the snow is typically better for cross country skiing on the west side of the park, you can ski in an area of the park.
You can’t sled anywhere in the park. But you can head to Hidden Valley (east side) and make a day of it!
The hill is a decent sledding hill, as it was previously a bunny hill of the former Hidden Valley ski resort.
Bring your own sleds and enjoy a family fun day of sliding down the snowy hills of RMNP.
(You’ll even have a real bathroom to use at the bottom of the hill).
More Great Stops at Rocky Mountain National Park
Holzwarth Historic Site
Located on the west side of the park, this is a fun stop in Rocky Mountain National Park with the kids. Explore an old homesteading site and the exhibits!
Moraine Park Discovery Center
Open only during summer, you can explore the exhibits on the east side of the park at the Moraine Park Discovery Center. You can also use a real toilet.
How to Get There (East Entrance)
Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park- East Entrance is about 70 miles from downtown Denver. It takes a little over 1-1/2 hours to arrive at the Beaver Meadows Entrance on the East Side of the Park. To get there, take I-25 north to highway 66 and head west. Then you can follow the signs to Estes Park, the city which Rocky Mountain National Park is located. Be on the lookout for Elk and Moose roaming around Estes Park!
Colorado Springs to Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is about 3 hours from Colorado Springs to the east side entrances.
Fort Collins to Rocky Mountain National Park
The park is an easy drive from Fort Collins, at just over an hour drive. You can take either 25 south or Taft Hill/Wilson Rd South until you get to Highway 34. Then head west right into Estes Park.
Reservations into Rocky Mountain National Park – Timed Entry
Right now in Rocky Mountain National Park, you have to have reservations to enter from late May to late October. This is new ever since the emergence of Covid. Masks are required on the shuttles.
To make a reservation, go to RMNP’s website, then scroll down to “Park Entrance Fees and Passes.“
2023: reservations begin on the 1st of the month before you’d like to go. A few more reservations are available exactly at 5:00pm the night before you plan to go. We have gotten lucky getting night-before reservations, but you have to grab them right as the clock turns 5:00.
Where to Stay INSIDE Rocky Mountain National Park
There are a 5 campgrounds within the park. You really want to get a reservation as soon as possible as they are highly sought after and fill up quickly.
For the campgrounds that require reservations, try to book six months in advance.
The Aspenglen campground is open seasonally, starting in late May. You must have a reservation which can be made 6 months in advance. With your reservation comes a timed-entry pass to the park (including Bear Lake Rd).
You may enter the park starting at 1 PM on the day of your reservation.
Each campsite welcomes up to 8 people. This includes 2 tents, or one RV/trail and one tent.
Campsites are $30/night
The campgrounds have metal grate fire pits and firewood for sale, as you may NOT gather firewood. You’ll also get potable water and food storage lockers which are important for bear safety.
RVs and trailers up to 30 feet are welcome on the campground.
Closed on Holidays.
Get the kids excited for camping with these camping themed toys and gifts!
Moraine Park will be closed from May 2023 to Summer 2024 for repairs
Moraine Park is a first-come first-served campground during winter, and reservation-based during summer months.
Here you’ll have limited-to-no cellphone reception.
Moraine Park campers have access to trash, vault toilets (year round), flush toilets (seasonal), and potable water (year round across from the ranger station).
Moraine Park is open year round, including holidays.
Fees are $30 per night at Moraine Park Campground.
Glacier Basin is open seasonally in the summers. It is closed on holidays.
Located on Bear Lake Road, camping at Glacier Basin campground will also get you automatic
access to the popular part of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Glacier Basin has seasonal potable water available, as well as trash, food storage lockers, and firewood for sale.
This campground also has flush toilets.
Glacier Basin fees differ depending on the size of group you bring.
The starting rate for a campsite is $30/night.
You may bring one RV/trailer and a tent, or 2 tents.
Longs Peak Campground is located farther south on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park.
It is open only in the summer (closed on holidays) and does not have water available, so make sure to pack enough!
You can use a food storage locker at Longs Peak, but there is no firewood for sale, so make sure to bring your own.
Camping at Longs Peak Campground is $30/night and is open to tents only.
Reservations are not needed as it is first-come first-served only.
Timber Peak Campground is the only campground on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park.
It is a seasonal campground, opening in late May each year and reservations are mandatory. It is closed on holidays.
Timber Peak has firewood for sale, flush toilets, and potable water.
However, you’ll have to store all food in the car as there are no storage lockers.
Camping at Timber Peak is $30/night and open to one RV/trailer plus a tent, or just two tents.
Where to Stay in Estes Park
Estes Park is a great place to stay if you don’t want to camp. There are 3 cool places to stay with the family, depending on what you are looking for.
If you have older kids that like a little suspense, you can stay at the Stanley Hotel. This place is where Stephen King was inspired for The Shining, as is rumored to be a bit haunted! No pets, no RVs.
Another great option is the Estes Park Resort. This is where we have stayed and it’s gorgeous! It’s the only hotel on Lake Estes, giving it a beautiful scenery. You can even just walk out and take a stroll on the path around the lake.
The YMCA of the Rockies is another great place to stay in Estes Park. This is more budget-friendly and not far from Rocky Mountain National Park. Plus, they’ve got activities all day long for the whole family! (Read more about YMCA)
Rocky Mountain National Park Weather
I really can’t give you an idea of what to expect. So, it’s best to go knowing you can’t expect anything in particular. To visit Rocky Mountain National Park, bring layers and a hiking pack. Some days it is chilly, some hot. There may be snow at the top of where you’re going.
The earlier in the day you can get in, the better due to weather changes in the afternoon. We went last year. We checked the weather upon arrival: sunny forecast.
We began one of our hikes with completely clear skies. Right as we got to the top (Bierstadt Lake), it began thunder-storming. Expect the unexpected, and be prepared!
Try to reserve an early time in the morning to get the best weather before afternoon storms. But even if you get an afternoon slot, there are plenty of hikes that are shorter where you can quickly get to safety if needed.
Getting Around in Rocky Mountain National Park- Shuttle
Upon entering the park, you will be given a map with all the trails and roads to get there. Take note of where the Park-and-Ride is on the East Side, on the road to Bear Lake (just across from Glacier Basin Campground). There is a large parking lot there, along with restrooms (no-flush).
Did you know that you can actually take the Hiker Shuttle in from Estes Park into Rocky Mountain National Park?
Forget dealing with parking at all. If you are visiting the east side of RMNP, you can get around the major stops solely by shuttle.
Pick up the shuttle at the Estes Park Visitor’s Center. This will take you to the Park and Ride inside of RMNP.
To access this “Hiker Shuttle”, you will need both a pass into RMNP as well as a $2 reservation (per person) for the shuttle.
You can reserve up to 4 Hiker Shuttle tickets per account, so if you have more than 4 people in your party (including babies!), you’ll have to have another adult book tickets on their account as well.
Reserve your Hiker Shuttle Tickets from Estes Park to the Park and Ride.
Bear Lake Shuttle
Once you are in the park at the Park and Ride, you can choose from two different shuttles to see most major areas of the east side of RMNP.
The Bear Lake Shuttle Route will take you to Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, Glacier Gorge Trailhead, and end its route at Bear Lake.
Moraine Park Route shuttle
If you are camping at Moraine Park or Glacier Basin, this route will get you to the Park and Ride, where you can then jump on the Bear Lake shuttle.
This shuttle also makes a couple other stops, including the very walkable Sprague Lake.
Make the day hiking easier and comfortable with these hiking necessities
Visitor Centers at Rocky Mountain National Park
We have grown to really appreciate visitor centers, so when we go to Rocky Mountain National Park with the kids, we make sure to stop!
Beaver Meadows Visitor Center is open year round on the east side of the park, with shorter hours in the off season. Enjoy education, exhibits, and real toilets.
The Kawunechee Visit Center is on the west side of the park. Here you’ll find a gift shop and real toilets.
The Alpine Visitor Center is located where Trail Ridge Road and Old Fall River Road meet. It’s the highest National Park Visitor Center that you can visit! Only open seasonally, you can go in and grab some great souvenirs.
Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park with Kids
As I said, Rocky Mountain National Park is HUGE! We have taken an entire day just driving through the entire park in fall, just making quick side-of-the-road stops to admire the changing colors. We’ve also stayed a few days to experience all the great hikes for kids in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Note that if you go late fall, Trail Ridge Road, the main road that connects the East and West side of the park, is closed down. It is closed every year from mid-October to Memorial Day as weather makes for some pretty unsafe conditions. So if you go in winter, you’ll have to decide which side of the park you’d like to explore and stick with that side.
Which trails are you wanting to try with (or without) the kids? Comment below, I’d love to hear!
Coming in from the west entrance? Check out these awesome trails in RMNP from the west!
Fall in RMNP
Passing the top of Trail Ridge Rd, closed mid-October through Memorial Day
FAQ about Rocky Mountain National Park
Are there gas stations in Rocky Mountain National Park?
No, there are no gas stations in the park. Make sure to fill up your tank in Estes Park before you enter.
What is the best time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park?
The best time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park is in spring or fall. Spring will give you beautiful, full waterfalls. Fall is filled with colors across Trail Ridge Road and beyond. Both seasons have decent weather as well.
Can you just drive through Rocky Mountain National Park?
Yes! You can just drive through Rocky Mountain National Park, and many people do! There are great pull overs if you need to stretch. In fall, driving across Trail Ridge Road is filled with color. But Trail Ridge Road closes down in October for the season.
Do you have to pay just to drive through Rocky Mountain National Park?
Yes, you have to pay just to drive through. Going through the entrance requires a park pass, which must be reserved ahead of time in the summer months.
How Many Days do you need to see Rocky Mountain National Park?
You can see a lot in one day, but two days will give you a better experience to really explore different trails and sections of the park.
Is Rocky Mountain National Park in Denver?
No, Rocky Mountain National Park is not in Denver. The park is about 70 miles outside of Denver, by the town of Estes Park.
Are Dogs Allowed at Rocky Mountain National Park?
Dogs are not allowed on any trails in Rocky Mountain National Park (except service animals). However, leashed dogs may come to your camping spot or in your car as you drive through. Do not leave your dog unattended in the car or tied to a tree unaccompanied.
Is Rocky Mountain National Park open in winter?
Yes, Rocky Mountain National Park is open in winter and brings a whole new perspective to the park. Grab some snowshoes and explore the beauty during low season; no reservation required!
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