Estes Park is surrounded by entrances into Rocky Mountain National Park. That’s right, entrances, plural. Read on to learn the basics and what you may not know about each.
Lily Lake Trailhead
While technically more access than entrance, this short loop provides stunning views of the Continental Divide from the western-most side. The trail that encircles Lily Lake is flat and grated for maximum access and the quick off shoot, Lily Ridge Trail, scales the side of Lily Mountain and offers views of Longs Peak.
What you may not know: this is, indeed, part of Rocky Mountain National Park, so don’t forget your entrance pass. Purchase one ahead of time here.
Longs Peak Trailhead
Dedicated to its famous namesake, Longs Peak. It provides access to nearby Estes Cone, a shorter mountain, if 14er-Longs Peak isn’t on your radar this trip.
What you may not know: local (historical) hero Isabella Bird climbed Longs Peak in 1873. She started the hike on horseback in what is now Estes Park. Read more about Isabella Bird, and why she should be your hero, too.
Lumpy Ridge Trailhead
Provides easy access to Gem Lake and the Twin Owls/Lumpy Ridge Loop. This range is easily recognizable from town for it’s “lumpy-like” shape, distinct from the neighboring rocky mountains of the Continental Divide.
What you may not know: this trailhead is part of the Fall River area trails because hikers can reach Lawn Lake from the western-most point of the loop. Another interesting fact you may not know – the area's name comes from the Arapaho Tribe, which used to inhabit the area. Find out how other area peaks got their names.
Twin Sisters Trailhead
Twin Sisters Peak rests opposite Longs Peak, Meeker and Mount Lady Washington, giving hikers an intimate view of the trio from across a narrow valley.
What you may not know: like Lily Lake, this trail does not seem like it would be part of Rocky Mountain National Park, but it is. Purchase your entrance pass ahead of time, here.
Wild Basin Trailhead
Tucked away just south of Estes Park, off State Highway 7, the Wild Basin area of the Park is popular for its relatively short hikes to beautiful waterfalls.
What you may not know: Wild Basin is separated from the Bear Lake region of the Park by a ring of stunning peaks that curve around to the East, creating a basin that feels remote and wild when hiking within it. Make Ouzel Lake your destination to experience the wildness of Wild Basin.
Beaver Meadows Visitor Center
This entrance is by far the most well known. From here, one can access the Bear Lake and Glacier Gorge trailheads, which lead to the majority of destinations accessible from the east side of the Park. Perhaps for this reason some of Rocky’s most iconic sights are visible from here.
What you may not know: dedicated hikers can reach Longs Peak from The Bear Lake Trailhead via The Loch.
*US 36 past the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center to Deer Ridge Junction is now open, including the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station, as is Bear Lake Road. On the east side of the park Trail Ridge Road is open to Many Parks Curve.
Fall River Visitor Center
Popular for its access to Old Fall River Road and the Endovalley picnic area. Old Fall River Road is a one-way grated, dirt road that ends at the Alpine Visitor Center. Drivers then take Trail Ridge Road to descend back into Estes Park.
What you may not know: this entrance offers nearly the same amount of hikable destinations that Beaver Meadows does, and they’re equally stunning. Also, for a short time each year the road is closed to vehicles but open to hikers, their dogs and bicyclists. Learn about the different ways up Old Fall River Road.
Some things you need to know about the Park's entrances:
- All entrances into Rocky Mountain National Park require entrance fees, even the ones that don’t have a physical entrance to drive through. It is a common misconception that there are fee-free entrances into the Park. Timed entry permits (in addition to an entrance fee) are required from the end of May through October. Learn more here.
- Parking lot sizes vary. Check availability and make a plan ahead of time to make sure you get a spot.
- Rocky Mountain National Park is open in the winter but is not staffed at the same levels as it is in the summer. Check with the Park to find out what you need to know about winter access and how that may affect the distance to the trailhead you're interested in.
- Parts of the Park are currently closed due to wildfire activity. Fine the most up to date information here.