Bear Lake picture
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Key Info

Bear Lake Rd.

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Hiking, Recreation, Free Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
4.6

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 4.5Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

Bear Lake is encircled by a nearly 1-mile trail that visitors enjoy for its ease and beauty, especially during the fall when the aspens turn gold. Spruce, fir and pine trees also surround the lake, as do giant granite boulders. Travelers that hike Bear Lake's entire perimeter will also be rewarded with majestic views of Hallett Peak and Half Mountain. 

The variety of trails that lead from the Bear Lake trailhead (including the Emerald Lake Trail) make it a great place for people of all fitness levels. Previous travelers recommended getting here early to secure a parking spot in the small lot that fills up quickly. 

To reach Bear Lake, you can drive and park your car on Bear Lake Road, which is less than 10 miles from the turn-off at Highway 36, but the park's free shuttle makes stops here as well. There is no fee to access to Bear Lake. For more information, visit the NPS website.

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#1 Trail Ridge Road

Horace Albright, director of the National Park Service between 1929 and 1933, once said about Trail Ridge Road, "It's hard to describe what a sensation this new road is going to make. You will have the whole sweep of the Rockies before you in all directions." Trail Ridge Road was a sensation when it debuted back in 1932 and it remains so today for the travelers that make the 48-mile drive from Estes Park to Grand Lake, rising above the tree line for 11 miles at an elevation of more than 12,000 feet. Visitors should keep that in mind when they're stopping at the lookout points that the road experiences temperatures that are 20 and even 30 degrees lower than both Estes Park and Grand Park. 

Most travelers call Trail Ridge Road a must-do while in Rocky Mountain National Park. One recent traveler, who said she spent a full day taking in the "stunning views" along Trail Ridge Road, saw elk, marmots and moose. Stopping at the pull-offs yields some spectacular photo ops, and some offer restrooms. 

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