3 Hikes on the West Side of Rocky Mountain National Park

I got lucky and Dan and Lori, who I housesat for in June, let me use their house in Grand Lake for a few days.  As such, I explored the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park.  This side is less crowded than the east side though it still attracts many visitors in search of moose.  It also features several long trails.  Below are three hikes in the 10-12 mile range.

Parika Lake

Parika Lake is reached from the Baker Gulch Trailhead on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park.  The trail begins as a flat road that crosses the Colorado River and passes through a large meadow.  At the junction, follow the single track to the right as it steadily ascends through the pine forest dotted with a variety of mushrooms.

The path crosses a dirt road and irrigation ditch before it continues through the forest across many creeks and past a small pond to the right. Soon it opens into a meadow of spectacular wildflowers.  Following the trail to left leads hikers to a wonderful lake setting which is best viewed from above on the west side.  It can be breezy up there which is good to propel the mosquitoes, but also might require a windbreaker.

The total trek is 11 miles, a little longer to circle the lake, and gains 2,650 feet, topping out around 11,400 feet.

Timber Lake

Also located on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, the Timber Lake Trail is 10 miles round trip and gains 2,350 feet up to 11.300.  The path climbs through a pine forest most of the way.  There is a landside 2.5 miles in which wipes out the trail, but it is passable by climbing up and over lots of fallen trees.  Just take precaution.

Closer to the lake keep an eye out for moose and elk.  I saw both and it is clear by the scat and hoof prints they frequent the mosquito infested lake.  I think I got five mosquito bites in the time it took me to grab the bug spray from the outside pocket of my pack.

Circling the main lake provides views of another lake which feeds the main lake as well as a small pond to its south side.

The wildflowers in mid-August were fair.  I may have been a bit too late, but there were plenty of interesting looking mushrooms along the way.

Onahu Trail to Granite Falls

The hike to Granite Falls along Onahu Trail is 10.6 miles long.  The trail provides something for everyone…forest, meadows, wildflowers, wildlife, waterfalls, and even historic cabins.  It is a fantastic trail in Rocky Mountain National Park for spotting moose. Find out more details on my post Seven Hikes Near Grand Lake.

Granite Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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