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Colorful Colorado: Secret hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is the obvious choice with 350 miles of trails. Pro Tip: The west side is the best side.

Credit: Kevin Moloney, Getty Images
Rocky Mountain National Park

I’ve never been able to find a decent culinary experience in Estes Park.

But maybe that’s not what this area should be about—because it’s so dang pretty. If someone can prove me wrong—I welcome it.

Colorful Colorado, a 30-minute special, will air Saturday, May 27 at 9:30PM on KTVD (Channel 20- or Channel 5 on Comcast). Set your DVR!

I’m also totally going to recommend heading over to the west side of the park. The west side is the best side.

Hiking (east side)

Rocky Mountain National Park is the obvious choice with 350 miles of trails. Sign me up.

My fave is the Sky Pond hike.

A 9-mile roundtip jaunt past some amazing waterfalls and sparkling lakes, and it’s just challenging enough to get away from the crowds.

Thunder Lake is another place to get away from the crowds. At 13.2 miles RT, it makes for a really great overnight backpacking trip.

There are several spots to set up camp near the lake, which is surrounded by impressive peaks.

There are many easy hikes in the park, and Cub Lake is one of the best. Many times you’ll be sharing the trail with not only people, but a ton of elk. The 4.6 mile RT trail is good in almost any season.

Hiking (west side)

Looking to get away from the hordes of tourists found on the east side of the park? Here ya go. Grand Lake is rad.

Lone Pine Lake is 10.8 miles RT of quiet. Bring a hammock, string it up on the banks of the lake, and watch how jealous people get when they see your setup.

A good, kid-friendly hike is the 7.1-mile RT Lulu City hike. A mostly-flat trail that takes hikers to the former site of Lulu City, which was at one time a 500-person town.

There aren’t many signs of the old town, but the view is nice. It’s a good spot to set up by the flowing creek and take a nap in the sun.

Backpacking isn’t for everyone, but if you dig it, try the Tonohutu loop—a 3-day, 25.2 trip, with plenty of places to stop and camp, and great views of Longs Peak.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

And you’ll probably see some moose.


The Barrel is a great beer garden, right in the heart of Estes Park.

The Wapiti Pub has a huge list of beers from Colorado. They also have food, but the beer is what’s most impressive. It’s also pretty cozy.


If you’re not going to camp, The Stanley Hotel is a pretty fun experience because of its ghost tours, history, and the fact that it inspired Stephen King’s “The Shining.” They have my favorite food, cocktails, and fireplace in town.

Do yourself a favor and head over Trail Ridge Road (pretty cool), and stay at Grand Lake Lodge. It’s like summer camp, in the best of ways.

Before You Leave, Check This Out