Rocky Mountain National Park is gorgeous. When Enos Mills, Woodrow Wilson set out to make the National Parks they really found some of the most unique and interesting geological areas in the country. What really amazes me about this little pocket of mountains is how unique and different they are than anything else in this area of Colorado. Especially, along with the Front Range.
On our trip to RMNP, we camped outside Estes Park and were really excited to explore this town. But, I have to stay its really not my jam. Estes Park is very touristy as in lots of taffy shops, a place where you dress up in western wear and take a sepia tone photo and all the t-shirts shops you can handle. However, there were two spots we liked.
- The Stanley Hotel – The freaky hotel from The Shining is totally worth a visit. Its big beautiful and full of history aside from the movie too
- Eat at Ed’s Cantina we loved this little Mexican spot and enjoyed literally everything we ate. Great vibe too!
Where To Stay In Estes Park
This is a National Park so there are tons of places to stay come camping to hotels. We camped outside town but there are literally hundreds of options. Head here to learn more about your options.
Getting To Rocky Mountain National Park
RMNP is about an hour half from Denver and an hour from Boulder so you could easily visit the park for a Day Trip. If you plan on going multiple days I suggest staying in the area.
Okay RMNP has a lot of hikes that are short and easy that will take you to some spectacular views, but they often crowded. If you are in the park for a few days defiantly take the time to do these. Many are still on my to-do list.
We hiked Dream Lakes this summer – read more about it here!
Rocky Mountain National Park Ticket System (Updated 2021)
This summer RMNP implemented a ticketing system to enter the park. RMNP implemented a ticketing system last summer to reduce the capacity for COVID but in general, the park’s crowds have been growing and growing. In 2020, Rocky Mountain was the 4th most visited park in the US!
- Tickets are released on the first of the month (June 1st for all of July etc)
- There are now 2 reservations types = get details here
- However, 25% of tickets for every time slot is held for the day before, but you gotta be on right at 5 pm to grab them
- Tickets are your ENTRY TIME – if you get 8 am you enter around 8 am but if you show up at 9 or 12 that works too. You just can’t go in any earlier than your ticket time.
- Each car must have a ticket to enter the ticket
This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated and recirculated for 2021.
Sky Pond & Loch Lake- Rocky Mountain National Park
Trail: Dream Lake
Length: 9.5 Miles RT
Elevation Gain: 1,837
Where: Rocky Mountain National park
Closest Town: Estes Park
Sky Pond is a 9.5-mile hike that gains 1,837 feet in elevation. When we started the trail was quite crowded but really thinned out towards the top. It’s a long slow uphill hike so be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, and of course layers. Colorado weather can really change any second, especially in the summer. Summer in Colorado is like the tropics – at higher elevations thunderstorms can appear out of nowhere, so its best to hit the trails early.
The Trailhead is located at Glacier Gorge Trailhead but I use apps like AllTrails or Hiking Project for more details on the trial and conditions.
The first lake you reach is Loch Lake. It’s simply gorgeous. We stayed here for a bit took pictures and enjoyed the view.
From there we started our ascent to Sky Pond. We ate lunch at Timberline Falls before scrambling up the right side of the falls to Lake of Glass. We hiked in the fall so parts of it were totally frozen and gorgeous. But it did make the scramble a little more interesting.
Lake of Glass was equally as beautiful with lush vegetation now golden in the fall. Most people assume this is Sky Pond but from here you need to stay right to continue the trail up to Sky Pond.
I wish we had taken a 100 more photos of Sky Pond as its absolutely gorgeous. I swore I took a bunch of GoPro pictures but I’m not having any luck finding them.
I actually totally forgot my tennis shoes on this trip so I did this — in socks with chaos. It was great weather but pretty chilly when the clouds came in so I wore ski socks lol. This is hands down one of the most beautiful hikes that we have done in Colorado and I highly recommended it if you’re looking for a longer hike.
Linking to all my must-have hiking gear here
Note: Dogs are not allowed in the park which has defiantly made it harder for us to get to RMNP as we are always looking for a place to hike with Jake. We have also heard rave reviews to the backside park near Grand Lake so we are hoping to visit that side this summer!