Last updated: April 29, 2023
General Overview of Current Trail Situation in Rocky Mountain National Park
We're now in Rocky Mountain National Park's spring season. This can be the snowiest time of year with warm sunny days in between. Most trails in the park are still heavily snow-covered, especially above 9,000'. Trails in the lowest elevations in the park may be mostly snow-free, except in heavily forested, shaded, or north-facing areas.
Many of the more popular trails in the park such as those around Bear Lake and Glacier Gorge are likely to be packed down from all of the foot traffic. During the warmer days, this snow can become quite soft and wet. Snowshoes are recommended for these warmer days to avoid breaking through the snow and creating large holes in the trail. During the mornings, evenings, and on colder days this packed snow may become very icy and might require the use of micro-spikes and poles to keep from slipping. Less traveled trails and off-trail hiking will likely require snowshoes or skis, since the snow may still be many feet deep and also very wet.
Specific trail reports
April 29th 2023
- Trails in the Bear Lake area are still deeply covered in snow. They are icy in the morning and soft and slushy later in the day.
- The Deer Mountain Trail is snow free for the first mile and then as you hit the switchbacks you encounter snow. The snow clears a little later, but once the trail heads over to the north side of the mountain (2.4 miles), you'll be in snow until the summit. The trail is icy in the morning and slushy in the afternoons. If you step off of the main trail, the snow is very deep.
April 20, 2023
- Trails around Bear Lake are still heavily snow covered. Snowshoes recommened on warm days and micro-spikes early or late in the day.
- Gem Lake Trail - Most of the trail up to Gem Lake is snow free. As you near the top, above Das Boot, you will encounter snow and ice on the trail.
- Black Canyon Trail - This trail is free of snow until after MacGregor Ranch gate at 2.1 miles.
Spring Hiking Reminders
Here are some important things to keep in mind as you head out onto the trails this spring.
1. Spring is Like Winter
Spring in the mountains is the snowiest time of year. You can expect to find snow on many of the park's trails through early June. In April and May, you are likely to encounter deep snow on many trails and also snowstorms, so prepare as if you were heading out in the winter.
2. Dangerous Streams
During the spring and early summer the melting snow leads to fast running streams in Rocky Mountain National Park. These are much more powerful and dangerous than they look. During this time of year stay away from streams, do not try to cross them without a bridge, and keep children away from them.
4. Ticks Are Out
If you hike in the lower meadows during the spring, check yourself for ticks as soon as you come in. The CDC recommends that you put all of your clothing into the dryer on high for 10 minutes and to check your body from head to toe. Learn more here.
5. Lake Ice is Thin
Now is the time to avoid walking on the lakes. While they might look solid, they have been melting and will soon turn to open water.
6. Avalanches Happen in the Spring Too
From mid-October through mid-June anyone hiking, skiing, or snowshoeing in the mountains should be aware of the potential for avalanches to occur. A good rule of thumb is to avoid being on or immediately below slopes that have an angle of 35-45 degrees and to know the current avalanche forecast before you head out. Be aware that snow can often avalanche on warm sunny days.
Here's a good introduction to avalanche safety by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. If you plan to spend a lot of time out in the mountains in the winter, consider taking an avalanche training course. Several are offered in Rocky Mountain National Park by groups such as Kent Mountaineering and the Colorado Mountain School.
7. Always, always, let someone know where you are going, when you plan to return, and who to contact if you don't.
You can find more safety information for hiking Rocky Mountain National Park at this link.