Scenic USA - Colorado

Bear Lake

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Bear Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Photos by Andy Cook
Andy Cook Photography

     Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the kings when it comes to hiking and back-country adventure. Its snow-covered peaks and alpine lakes attract climbers and backpackers from around the globe. Laced with over 350 miles of hiking trails, there are many pathways to explore this Rocky Mountains park.
     Not all trails are day-long adventures or overnight journeys; in fact some are designed for family hikes consisting of flatland trails with very little elevation gain. A few are found within a short drive from the park headquarters at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. One of the most popular trails is found at the end of Bear Lake Road where a half mile loop circles Bear Lake. Bear Lake, a beautiful site, lies nestled in a glaciated valley, surrounded by snow-capped peaks and a pristine forest. This circular trail offers a Longs Peak from Bear Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado scenic view of inviting clear water, surrounded with deep green fir trees and the Rockies as a backdrop. It's a relatively level hiking path and most visitors can walk the entire trail. Because of the spectacular views and easy access, this parking facility becomes overcrowded during peak season. Bus service in the summer eases congestion, but is not yet mandatory. Many trails were damaged in the 2013 flood, but most trail damage and footbridges have been repaired. Two more Rocky Mountain National Park trails, topping the park's suggested list, are waterfall hikes. The Adams Falls Trail, following a beautiful stream, is just a short three-tenths of a mile. Another popular trail climbs about 200 feet to Alberta Falls, where Glacier Creek tumbles 30 feet over a rocky ledge. Coupled up with a look at Bear Lake, the Glacier Creek Trail splits and also leads out to Alberta Falls if you choose.
     Summit hikes, where most trails are more than three miles, will require nearly a full day commitment. Here, trips above the tree-line offer incredible sweeping mountaintop views in all directions, but come with a warning about high altitudes, dehydration and the abundance of ultraviolet light. Weather is responsible for many changes in the mountains, so make sure you inquire about trail conditions before you get started. Even though you may be enjoying pleasant weather at home during the spring, keep in mind that Trail Ridge Road doesn't open entirely until late May.

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