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Rocky Mountain National Park: North Inlet Trail

This 18.8-miler follows the North Inlet through aspen groves, spruce stands, and marshland (feeding grounds of bugling elk) to a campground tucked beneath the Continental Divide.

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Tracing the western edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, this route features moose and elk viewing, the meandering North Inlet, ragged cliffs, pummeling cascades, and massive views of the Continental Divide. From the trailhead, hike through aspens to a small horse ranch on the right of the trail. Continue past the grazing horses and a red cabin, to a bend in the North Inlet that’s popular with fly fishermen and hungry moose.

Once the trail leaves the wetland area, it begins to slowly climb through evergreens toward the high country. Exposure increases as hikers reach the junction with Lake Nanita Trail. For the remainder of the route, Taylor Peak and the Sharkstooth are prominent figures to the right. Elk herds can be seen traveling across the base of these mountains even in autumn. Follow the switchbacks up the July Campground and take a break before the hike home.

INFO For information on permits, current trail and camp conditions, and wilderness guidelines, go to

PERMIT A wilderness permit is required for all overnight camping in the backcountry. Reservations accepted ($20 administrative fee for permits during peak season).

CONTACT Rocky Mountain National Park, (970) 586-1206;

-Mapped by MacKenzie Ryan and Kristy Holland

To Trailhead

From Grand Lake: Head south on US 34/Trail Ridge Road. Turn left onto CO 278/W. Portal Road. Make a left onto Hancock Street and follow it to the end of the road. Bear right into the parking lot for the North Inlet Trailhead.

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