Best Day Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park

By J H Phillips

Rocky Mountain National Park offers over 300 miles of hiking opportunities. Where should a weekend visitor begin exploring this wilderness? One option is to use Longs Peak Campground as a base camp for two spectacular day hikes in the area. At 14,259 feet, Longs Peak is one of the tallest mountains in the Colorado Rockies. Longs Peak Campground rests 5,000 feet below its snowy namesake. The campground only offers the most basic amenities and it doesn’t take reservations or allow RV’s. Out of the 26 sites to choose from, sites 1,2,3, and 4 are the only ones with views. The cost is $20 per night during the summer when the water is turned on, and $14 from mid-May to mid-September when the water is off. The campground is conveniently located on Route 7, 9 miles south of Estes Park.

Day Hike #1: Chasm Lake

The trailhead to Chasm Lake is less than a mile from Long’s Peak Campground. It’s a 4-mile hike up to the lake. The first couple of miles are spent in the trees, but once hikers get above tree line, the landscape is full of diversity. There are narrow streams meandering between pristine fields. There are waterfalls, snowfields, and expansive views on the walk leading up to Chasm Lake. This hike is moderately difficult due to large boulders that hikers must climb immediately before arriving at the lake.

Day Hike #2: Flattop Mountain

The day hike up Flattop Mountain to Hallet Peak is a challenging trek, but if hikers are physically able to hike 5 miles up a mountain, it is worth every strenuous breath. After an initial ascent in the forest, the trail affords one epic view after another, for hours. Hikers will gain almost 3,000 feet of elevation to arrive at the top of Flattop, and many choose to end their hike there. However, the steep Hallet Peak is only ½ mile away from Flattop and standing on its rocky edge is a thrill for all who conquer it.

Days spent in the absence of walls, enjoying abundant sunshine and expansive views can be one of life’s purest joys. Days like those are easy to find on the trails up Flattop Mountain and Chasm Lake. Day hikers exploring the Rockies will find these walks worth every step, and easy to access from Long’s Peak Campground.

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