On the four-day hiking trip to Thunder Lake RMNP, you’ll head off-trail to the South Fork of North St. Vrain Creek. Enjoy a gorgeous 5-mile hike for additional opportunities to see marmot, pikas and bighorn sheep. Spend a day off the beaten path, hiking to the majestic Mertensia Falls waterfall. Your full 22-mile hike is brimming with mountain views and rewarding climbs!
Your trip starts with a scenic drive from Estes Park to the trailhead. After a final fit with the backpacks, the hike begins. In the first two miles, you will hike past Copeland Falls – a beautiful cascade along North St. Vrain Creek. The remainder of the trek continues up North St. Vrain Creek to the camp at Thunder Lake. Camp a short distance from the lake, next to a serene meadow with breathtaking views into the high country’s snow-capped peaks. After a tasty dinner and a stunning sunset, settle in for the night.
After a relaxing morning and a hearty breakfast, depart with light backpacks for a day of hiking and exploring in the higher mountains. Hike west through an alpine basin thick with thousands of wildflowers and up to the Continental Divide. The Lake of Many Winds sits very near the Divide below Boulder-Grand Pass. Hike around the lake and up to the pass for views into the lush, western side of Rocky Mountain National Park. If your group’s up for it, go for a summit attempt of the 12,420ft tall Tanima Peak.
After breakfast, head for an off-trail hike up the South Fork of North St. Vrain Creek. After traversing into the valley, reach Mertensia Falls, a waterfall that thunders down through steep drainage. Continue hiking up the valley and you’ll arrive at Box and Eagle Lakes, which reside below the Continental Divide. Wildflowers are abundant throughout this entire hike, as are opportunities to see marmot, pikas, and bighorn sheep. Eat lunch with a view before turning back and making your way to camp.
After a relaxing morning and a big breakfast, break camp and begin your hike back to the trailhead. You’ll hike a slightly different trail on the way back that takes you along Ouzel Creek, past Ouzel Falls and Calypso Cascades, both Rocky Mountain water features well worth seeing. Ouzel Falls is a sheer waterfall about 50 feet high, and Calypso Cascades is a beautiful stretch of tumbling water in a thick Lodgepole Pine forest. Arriving at Wild Basin Trailhead marks the end of your backpacking trip; after a short shuttle ride back to Estes Park, your guides will drop you off at your hotel, where warm showers await you!
57hours is committed to providing safe outdoor adventure experiences. We require all guides using our platform to have a COVID-19 safety plan and to make the details of that plan accessible to travelers. In most cases, group sizes will be reduced, guides will avoid overcrowded locations, and other safety measures will be met depending on the location and activity.
We also expect clients to respect local regulations and take measures to protect themselves, their guides, and the communities they’re traveling to. For more information on COVID-19 measures in Thunder Lake, Colorado, please refer to the official Colorado COVID-19 updates website.
Please contact us if you have any questions or require further information. We are happy to provide you with the most up-to-date information!
What you get on this adventure:
- An experienced, local hiking guide with extensive knowledge of the area
- 3-4 days of hiking and camping depending on your chosen itinerary
- Use of tent, sleeping pad, and multi-day backpack
- Use of trekking poles
- Entrance fees and national park permits
- Transportation for the duration of your tour
- Bear canisters for food storage
- Emergency equipment, including first aid kit and satellite phone
What’s not included:
- Accommodation before and after the trip
The best thing about hiking in Thunder Lake is that there are incredible options for all skill levels. For beginner hikes, if you can walk for four to six hours with little elevation gain, you are good to go! Intermediate hikes will see a little more change in elevation and hikes will start to increase in length, hiking anywhere between four to eight miles. Advanced hikes are full-day treks with steep descents and challenging switchbacks. Keep in mind, the weather in summer can be very hot and you’ll also be packing a daypack filled with water and other things you’ll need throughout the day.
Your guide will provide tents, sleeping pads, multi-day backpacks and trekking poles. They will also take care of the food and bear canisters for food storage.
Here’s a list of the equipment you need to bring:
- Two one-liter water bottles
- Hiking boots
- Spare warm clothes
- Minimum of three pairs of wool socks
- Compass & map
- Toiletries (sunscreen, first aid kit, toilet paper, etc.)
- High-quality sunglasses
- Bug spray
- Camera — optional (but recommended)
Dress comfortably and for the weather in clothes you can move in. We suggest bringing clothing appropriate for the season. Layers are best and don’t wear jeans.
Group sizes and pricing:
- For the group adventure, the usual client-to-guide ratio is 6:1. It takes a minimum of 4 people for a tour to operate. The cost does not decrease as the group grows.
Hiking in Thunder Lake can be arranged for larger groups. Contact us to make arrangements.
Min. age requirements:
- If you are older than 18, you’re good to go.
- Minors as young as 12 may be permitted to join private tours, with final approval and specific logistics requirements on a case-by-case basis
If your group has hikers under the age of 18, contact us prior to booking to make arrangements.
The meeting location is at your hotel or agreed upon location in Estes Park, CO. You can get there by taking a flight to Denver International Airport or one of the municipal airports around Denver. From DIA, one can take a shuttle or rent a car to reach Estes Park. It is a 1.5-hour drive to Estes Park on good roads.
From there, you’ll be transferred to Rocky Mountain National Park. Your guide will transfer you back upon departure. If you’re driving separately, you can also meet your guide at the park or follow them to the trailhead.
Once you and your guide agree on the details of your itinerary, your guide will suggest the best place to meet, whether that’s at the guide shop in Estes Park or a predetermined location. The guide will choose the appropriate terrain dependent on conditions and the ability of the group.