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Lily Lake Loop: A Scenic Stroll Through Colorado’s Alpine Paradise

High Point

High Point:
8,930 feet

Total Ascent

Total Ascent:
20 feet

Difficulty

Difficulty:
Easy

Distance

Distance:
0.8 miles

Waypoints

Waypoints:
40.3072, -105.5415

Route Type

Route Type:
Loop

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Discover the beauty of the Lily Lake Loop in Rocky Mountain National Park. This easy, 0.8-mile trail offers stunning mountain views, abundant wildlife, vibrant wildflowers, and serene picnic spots, perfect for all ages.



Lily Lake Loop Trail Guide

Nestled in the eastern part of Rocky Mountain National Park, the Lily Lake Loop offers hikers a picturesque and accessible trail experience. At an elevation of 8,930 feet, Lily Lake provides stunning views of the surrounding peaks, a serene alpine lake, and a variety of flora and fauna. This trail guide will take you through the loop, highlighting key points of interest, trail conditions, and tips for making the most of your visit.

Trail Overview

Distance: 0.8 miles (loop)
Elevation Gain: 20 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead Location: Lily Lake Trailhead, off Colorado Highway 7

Getting There

The Lily Lake Trailhead is conveniently located just off Colorado Highway 7, about six miles south of Estes Park. The parking area is well-marked and provides ample space for vehicles. During peak season, it’s advisable to arrive early to secure a spot, as the trail is popular with both locals and tourists.

Trail Description

The Lily Lake Loop is a delightful 0.8-mile trail that circles the picturesque Lily Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. With an elevation gain of only 20 feet, this easy and accessible hike is perfect for all ages and skill levels, including families with young children, seniors, and those with limited mobility. The trail is well-maintained, featuring a mix of packed dirt and boardwalk sections, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience for everyone.

Starting from the trailhead, you’ll immediately be greeted by breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. To the east, the Twin Sisters Peaks rise to an elevation of 11,428 feet, providing a stunning backdrop to the serene waters of Lily Lake. To the west, the imposing Longs Peak, towering at 14,259 feet, dominates the skyline, offering a dramatic contrast to the gentle landscape around the lake.

As you begin your walk, you’ll notice the trail meandering through a diverse array of plant life. During the summer months, the area around Lily Lake bursts into a riot of colors with wildflowers such as Indian paintbrush, columbine, and lupine. Interpretive signs along the path provide interesting information about the local flora, enhancing the educational aspect of your hike.

Lily Lake is also a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Keep an eye out for various bird species, including osprey, ducks, and songbirds, which are often seen fishing or flying overhead. You might also spot mule deer grazing in the meadows and, if you’re lucky, the occasional elk or moose wandering near the water’s edge. The tranquil environment of the lake makes it an ideal spot for wildlife watching, so bring your binoculars for a closer look.

For those interested in fishing, Lily Lake offers a peaceful setting to cast a line. The lake is home to brook trout, and anglers can often be seen enjoying the serene waters. Be sure to follow all park regulations and obtain the necessary permits before fishing.

As you continue around the loop, you’ll find several picnic areas equipped with tables and benches. These spots are perfect for a relaxing break, allowing you to enjoy a meal surrounded by the natural beauty of the area. The panoramic views of the mountains and the reflective waters of Lily Lake create a serene atmosphere, making it an ideal location for a family outing or a quiet lunch in nature.

The Lily Lake Loop is a perfect blend of natural beauty, wildlife, and tranquility, offering a memorable experience for all who visit. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll, a place to fish, or a scenic picnic spot, this trail has something for everyone.

Longs Peak and Mount Meeker reflect off Lily Lake in the early September morning sunshine within Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Key Points of Interest

1. Scenic Vistas From the trailhead, the loop begins by offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Notable peaks include:

  • Twin Sisters Peaks (11,428 feet): These twin summits provide a dramatic eastern backdrop to the lake.
  • Longs Peak (14,259 feet): The highest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, visible to the west, dominates the skyline.

These iconic peaks provide a dramatic backdrop to the serene lake, making for perfect photo opportunities.

2. Wildlife Watching Lily Lake is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Keep an eye out for various bird species, such as osprey and ducks, which are often seen fishing in the lake. You might also spot mule deer grazing in the meadows and, if you’re lucky, the occasional elk or moose.

3. Wildflowers and Plant Life During the summer months, the area around Lily Lake bursts into a riot of colors with wildflowers. The trail is lined with a variety of flowers, including Indian paintbrush, columbine, and lupine. Interpretive signs along the way provide information about the local flora, enhancing the educational aspect of your hike.

4. Fishing Opportunities Lily Lake is a popular spot for fishing. Anglers can try their luck at catching brook trout, which are abundant in the lake. Make sure to follow all park regulations and obtain the necessary permits before casting your line.

5. Picnic Areas Several picnic areas are available around Lily Lake, equipped with tables and benches. These spots offer a perfect place to relax, enjoy a meal, and take in the breathtaking scenery. It’s an ideal location for a family outing or a quiet lunch surrounded by nature.

Seasonal Considerations

Spring and Summer Spring and summer are the most popular times to visit Lily Lake. The weather is generally mild, and the wildflowers are in full bloom. However, afternoon thunderstorms are common, so it’s advisable to start your hike early in the day and be prepared with rain gear.

Fall Fall brings a spectacular display of autumn colors to the area. The aspen trees turn vibrant shades of yellow and gold, providing a stunning contrast to the evergreen forests. Wildlife is also more active during this time, as animals prepare for the winter months.

Winter While the trail is accessible year-round, winter conditions can vary. The path is often covered in snow and ice, so proper footwear and traction devices are recommended. The lake may freeze over, offering a unique winter landscape. Always check trail conditions before heading out.

Tips for a Great Hike

1. Start Early To avoid crowds and enjoy a peaceful experience, aim to start your hike early in the morning. The lighting is also ideal for photography during the early hours.

2. Bring Water and Snacks Even though the trail is short, it’s important to stay hydrated, especially at higher elevations. Pack some snacks to enjoy at one of the picnic areas.

3. Dress in Layers Weather in the mountains can change rapidly. Dressing in layers allows you to adjust to changing temperatures and conditions. Don’t forget a hat and sunscreen, as the sun can be intense at higher elevations.

4. Respect Wildlife Observe animals from a distance and never feed them. This helps keep wildlife wild and ensures your safety and theirs.

5. Leave No Trace Pack out all trash and leave the area as you found it. Follow the Leave No Trace principles to help preserve the natural beauty of Lily Lake.

Nearby Attractions

1. Estes Park Just a short drive from Lily Lake, Estes Park offers a variety of shops, restaurants, and attractions. The town is a great place to explore before or after your hike. Don’t miss the famous Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King’s “The Shining.”

2. Longs Peak For more experienced hikers, Longs Peak presents a challenging but rewarding climb. The Keyhole Route is a popular trail for those looking to summit this iconic peak.

3. Twin Sisters Peaks If you’re looking for a moderate hike with stunning views, the Twin Sisters Peaks trailhead is nearby. The hike offers panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains and is less crowded than some of the more popular trails in the park.

4. Rocky Mountain National Park Lily Lake is just one of many beautiful spots within Rocky Mountain National Park. The park offers over 350 miles of trails, ranging from easy walks to strenuous backcountry routes. Explore more of what the park has to offer, including Bear Lake, Trail Ridge Road, and the many scenic drives.

Conclusion

The Lily Lake Loop is a gem within Rocky Mountain National Park, offering a serene and accessible trail that showcases the beauty of Colorado’s high country. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll, a spot to fish, or a place to enjoy a picnic with stunning mountain views, Lily Lake has something for everyone. Remember to respect the natural environment, stay safe, and enjoy the unparalleled beauty of this remarkable trail.