Sometimes a short, easy hike is just what you need for a nice change of pace during a park visit. Here's a suggestion for a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park—and an alternative to the justly-popular Bear Lake Trail.
Ask anyone familiar with Rocky Mountain National Park for a recommendation for an easy and scenic hike and you probably won't have to wait long to hear about the trail at Bear Lake. That's a fine choice, but it's also so popular that the park limits parking in the Bear Lake area and runs a shuttle bus during the busy season to help manage the crowds.
A nice option for an easy, short walk at Rocky Mountain is located right along the park boundary south of the gateway village of Estes Park. The Lily Lake Trail covers about a mile of almost completely flat terrain while circling the lake of the same name.
According to a park publication, Enos Mills, often called the "father of Rocky Mountain National Park," enjoyed walking to Lily Lake from his nearby cabin. This trail is a good choice for spotting wildflowers in the spring and early summer, and the lake and marshy edges provide good habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.
The trail is officially considered handicapped accessible, although a few spots may be just a bit uneven. The route offers fine views of peaks in the park, including the Diamond Face of Longs Peak, Twin Sisters, and Lily Mountain.
Lily Lake had an added plus for some visitors: at about 8900 feet, it's at a relatively lower elevation for trails on the east side of Rocky Mountain. If you've just arrived in these mountains from the lowlands, a leisurely stroll around this trail shouldn't leave you wondering who stole the oxygen from that wonderful Rocky Mountain air.
The parking lot at the trailhead is located about six miles south of Estes Park on the west side of Highway 7. Don't confuse it with the much smaller lot for the trailhead for the Lily Mountain trail, which is about 1/2 mile north of Lily Lake (just before mile marker 6). That trek is a two-mile hike to the top of Lily Mountain (9,786 feet)!
If this one whets your appetite, the park website includes information on other trails at Rocky Mountain National Park.