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Lily Lake and Lily Ridge

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Lily Lake, located within Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, is an easy day hike that offers spectacular views of Longs Peak, Estes Cone, and Twin Sisters from the shores of a pristine alpine lake—the best views unfold from the northern shore of the lake and along Lily Ridge, the ridgeline high above the azure waters.

To reach the trailhead from Estes Park, go south on CO 7 past Marys Lake—after driving 6.3 miles look for a small parking area on the right side of the road across from the Lily Lake Visitor Center (now closed).

The Lily Lake Loop, a level, fully accessible trail, circles around the perimeter of Lily Lake and the surrounding wetlands—the short 0.9-mile path, provides outstanding mountain views and a chance to spot wildlife, including paedomorphic tiger salamanders, several species of ducks, deer, elk, moose and a variety of songbirds.

Hikers can usually trek around the lake in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction, but on the day of our visit a portion of the trail was closed for repair, making a counter-clockwise approach the only option—setting off along the northern shore of the lake, we were instantly impressed by the amazing views of Longs Peak and the colorful display of autumn leaves.

We continued hiking along the entirety of the north shore, bypassing the first chance to venture up onto Lily Ridge—when we reached the closed portion of the trail located on the southern side, we retraced our steps and opted to return via the Lily Ridge spur trail.

The Lily Ridge Trail, a non-accessible semi-loop that climbs about 350 feet above the lake, adds 0.4-miles to the loop—the extra mileage and climb are worth the effort, as the views of the lake from above and the rocky landscape along the trail should not be missed.

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