best trail guide book for Rocky Mountain NP?

Old Apr 3rd, 2007, 07:00 AM
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best trail guide book for Rocky Mountain NP?

Is there one outstanding guide book for Rocky Mountain Park trails? We'll be spending 3 days in the area in August and need to find easy-moderate hikes. When we did Canadian Rockies last year, there was one particular book that was heads and shoulders over the others as far as giving very careful-- and ACCURATE-- descriptions/ratings of the various hikes. Hoping to find similar treasure for RMNP. Thanks!
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Old Apr 3rd, 2007, 07:12 AM
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The best hiking guide by far is "Rocky Mountain National Park: The Complete Hiking Guide" by Lisa Foster. The author is a park ranger in RMNP and has hiked to (or climbed) every single named destination in the park, so her descriptions are based on firsthand knowledge. However, she doesn't "rate" hikes in terms of difficulty - she has a listing of distance and elevation gain, but only rates the peaks and rock climbs for difficulty.

Honestly, if you're looking for easy/moderate hikes, doing a search on this forum and looking at the park's official website would give you a bunch of ideas. Talking to a ranger when you get there would also give you ideas, and you would have more than enough hikes for 3 days. I personally don't think a guidebook is at all necessary (and kind of a waste of money) for someone who's doing the short/easy stuff. All that info is readily available online.

Just to get you started, look for Sprague Lake, Bear Lake, Cub Lake, Alberta Falls, Deer Mountain, Lily Lake, Emerald/Dream Lake, Fern Lake, Gem Lake, Lily Mountain and Rock Cut. The 2 mountains listed are 2 of the most accessible and easiest - Lily Mtn is only 1.5 miles to the summit.
Old Apr 3rd, 2007, 07:59 AM
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Many thanks, Weasel!

Here's another question: You mention that Lily Mtn is only 1.5mi to the summit. We're not likely to be able to get to ANY summits. We're in our late 70's and one of us has a pretty bad knee. We've had a wonderful time in past summers hiking many many national parks-- no problems at all. But there were infinite walks/hikes that didn't require up-and-down (or at least not much). Will we find similar trails in RMNP or will it be basically "mountains"?
By the way, what is Birdal Veil Falls like? (I mean the walk to get to it.)

Thanks again!
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Old Apr 3rd, 2007, 08:24 AM
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Here's a website with detailed information on most of the trails in RMNP:

Weasel's list above is perfect for the easiest hikes. Just check this website to determine elevation gain on a particular trail - there are only a few mostly flat trails in the park; Sprague Lake and Lily Lake come to mind. The others have some elevation climb, but not severe and the trails are well maintained.

I highly recommend using a high tech walking stick, especially for those with bad knees. It will help immensely with negotiating rocky areas, particularly on descent. I love mine; I often see people using two! Any major sporting goods store will have them, including the ones in Estes Park.
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Old Apr 4th, 2007, 06:48 AM
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walking sticks will really help and there are hikes in the bear lake area that are not at all mountainous that are quite beautiful. this means staying on the estes park side. enjoy!
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Old Apr 4th, 2007, 12:45 PM
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Bridal Veil Falls is about 3 miles. The first 2 miles are fairly level and then it gets steeper as you get closer to the falls.

There are a number of hikes/walks in RMNP that don't involve major elevation gains. You should be able to find enough for 3 days without a problem. While some of the trails are mountainous in that the trail climbs a mountain (either directly or by switchbacking), there are still plenty of trails that mainly stick to meadows and/or valleys.

I'd say you would be the best judge of how much the bad knee can handle, so I'd suggest doing a couple of different hikes the first day to see how it goes, and then base your plans for the next 2 days on that. Since you're coming from Boulder, I'd drive up 36 to 7, and then take 7 west to the Wild Basin section. A very easy (0.3 miles) walk would be to Copeland Falls. If you want to test yourself a bit, go another 1.5 miles to Calypso Cascades - that would add about 700 feet of elevation gain. After that hike, drive on up 7 towards Estes Park and stop by Lily Lake on the way. The walk around the lake is maybe 0.5 miles and nearly level.

An alternate is to simply head to the Bear Lake area (read up on the shuttle service because there's a good chance you won't find parking). You could walk around Sprague or Bear - both trails are like Lily Lake in terms of being very easy. This would also be a good time to do Alberta Falls, which is under 1 mile one-way and about 400 feet of gain. This hike is pretty modest but gives you a nice destination and a baseline to judge what your knee can handle.

After that, it really depends on how the knee feels and how much distance and/or elevation gain you think it can handle. That's where I'd take a few minutes to talk with a ranger and discuss the knee and trail conditions with him/her. It'd be easy for me to say that Cub Lake or Gem Lake is pretty easy and doable because it is for most people, but you know yourself better than I do so you'd have to factor in your knee and how you think it'll handle everything.

There are trails that loop around some meadows (Upper Beaver and Moraine Park) that are fairly level. I haven't walked on these trails, but I'm pretty certain you can combine different trails into loops to shorten or extend the distance. You could also walk to The Pool from the Fern Lake trailhead - it's about 2 miles and fairly level. There's a short trail at the Alluvial Fan that should be OK, and across from the West Alluvial Fan parking lot you can make your way over to the river and watch elk if they're in the meadow.

I mentioned Rock Cut in my previous post. It's a great short walk on a path on the tundra, but the initial part is a bit steep. Very much worth your while if you can do it though. It's on Trail Ridge Road which will be having some construction work this summer, so you can expect to hit a delay or two. A nice alternative would be to drive up Old Fall River Road to the Alpine Visitor Center and then drive TRR back to Estes Park. You'll pass by Rock Cut on the way and you can decide if you feel up to it or not. I'd recommend doing this in the morning to avoid being on the tundra when the typical afternoon thunderstorms roll through. There are a couple spots on OFRR to stop and pull over to walk on the tundra as well. On TRR, the Ute Trail is a fairly level tundra hike, but the trailhead only has room for a couple cars and it's not easy to spot. It's just a little bit east of the Forest Canyon overlook.
Old Apr 4th, 2007, 01:58 PM
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What absolutely spectacular help I've gotten!

tekwriter and justme-- thanks so much for the reminder about the walking stick. I did use one once (picked up on the trail somewhere), and it made a real difference. I wonder in what ways the ones that one buys are "better."
and tekwriter-- that website is exactly what I'd hoped to find. Thank you so much!

Weasel-- thanks so much for coming back to add your wonderfully detailed last post: terrifically helpful. By the way, we won't be staying in Boulder--rather we'll be staying there, but for 2 days after the RMNP part of our trip. And we'll really only have 2 days in the Park-- we get there early evening one day and then stay three nights, i.e. 2 days "on the trails."
Now all I need to do is decide where to stay for those 3 nights! As I've mentioned on other posts, I was trying to find something "upscale" (doesn't need to be "luxurious"), and mainly somewhere that'd be quiet and private. Boulder Brook looked pleasant, but I'm afraid we'd be bothered by the sound of the river (which we'd love during the day, but not at night). Solitude cabins look like a possiblity, but there's a wedding going on during the period we'll be in Estes, plus it's awfully far east of the park; it'd be better, surely, to be closer. Riversong looked kind of hokey, and also a bit more than we wanted to spend. Still going around in circles about this.
Thanks for everyone's energetic in-put: truly appreciated!
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Old Apr 21st, 2007, 08:10 PM
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We liked "An Outdoor Family Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park" by Lisa Gollin Evans.

Even though it states families we found it to be a nice overall guide to the park with hikes on both sides of the park, picnic areas, etc. It lists the difficulty, elevation gain, distance and usage and describes the hike in detail.

Have a great time at the park - we love it there!
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Old Mar 3rd, 2009, 06:13 AM
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I am planning a trip to RMNP in June as well, I really appreciate all the information too!
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Old Mar 3rd, 2009, 03:07 PM
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If you happen to come back to this post -- did you post a trip report? I've gone back through your name and couldn't find one. If not, which hikes did you end up doing and would recommend.
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