It’s virtually flat, short, and beautiful. The Sprague Lake Trail is without doubt a perfect hike for every visitor of Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
Last updated: February 7, 2023
How to Hike Sprague Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park (Photos Included)
The road sign showing direction to Sprague Lake was just another signpost along Bear Lake Road. For the past two days, we saw it no less than four times. Yet never once, it occurred to us to stop and check out the place.
The Sprague Lake Trail seemed too ordinary, too easy, and too crowded. Instead, we longed for solitude along the stunning Bierstadt Lake Trail and the isolated Cub Lake Trail. Truth be told, our 2-day fall trip to Rocky Mountain National Park did include some popular trails, such as favorite Alberta Falls and the remarkable Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes hike.
Sprague Lake… Let’s just say we had too many other destinations to hike to.
Yet somehow we ended up at this little gem on our last day in the park. Despite the fact that we walked nearly 10 miles every day, we managed to spare enough time for another activity. So why not to swing by Sprague Lake and hike a little bit more?
THE SPRAGUE LAKE TRAIL – AN EASY HIKE IN ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
Sprague Lake Trail Stats
- Distance: 0.8-mile loop
- Elevation Gain: 10-20 feet
- Difficulty: Easy
- Time: 15-20 minutes
Sprague Lake Trail
The Sprague Lake Trail is one of the easiest hike in entire Rocky Mountain National Park. The closest competition in this department comes from the popular Bear Lake Loop. Consequently, the place is busy. Hordes of visitors hike along raised boardwalk and over a hard gravel surface the Sprague Lake Trail consists of every day, rain or shine.
The Sprague Lake Trailhead sits at the end of a relatively big parking lot. Here, a wooden footbridge takes over the paved pathway and assists the hikers in crossing over Glacier Creek. Past this point, the route snakes around Sprague Lake, allowing you to choose which way to hike first.
We turned to the right. With a wedding photoshoot about to happen near another footbridge to our left, the right leg looked rather secluded. Letting this easy trail guide us, we focused on panoramic vistas that changed drastically depending on which side of the shore you were standing at.
Scenic Views from the Trail
Right from the start, the Sprague Lake hike dazzled us with bountiful fall colors adorning surrounding sweeping hills and mountainsides. As we were getting closer to the final stretch of the trail, the Colorado’s Rockies, including Hallett Peak, Flattop Mountain, and Otis Peak, and the distant views of the Continental Divide greeted us from the opposite side.
Although Rocky Mountain National Park had already pampered us with some of the best sights, the mountains, towering over the lake, still looked too irresistible. I had to capture them. Meanwhile, Roshan perched on one of many benches spread along the Sprague Lake Trail and enjoyed his last hike in the most relaxing manner.
The End of the Hike
Camping: For those who think of camping in the area, hike along the Sprague Lake Trail for approximately 0.4 miles. At a trail junction, veer off the well-trodden path and follow a side trail to a tent campsite.
If a leisurely walk around Sprague Lake is sufficient to you, then hike to the footbridge you started at and head back to the parking lot.
Meet Sprague Lake: History in a Nutshell
The shallow lake spans 13 acres. Guarded by the majestic mountains, yet so easy to hike to and around, Sprague Lake has been an alluring destination for decades. Partially, it owns its fame to Abner Sprague. One of the first settlers in the Estes Park area, Sprague moved to Rocky Mountain eager to start his cattle business. The land, however, was insufficient for the successful endeavor.
On top of that, new visitors of the mountains were more interesting in camping, hiking, and eventually lodging. To avoid going bankrupts, Abner and his wife switched from cattle to hotel business. Soon a popular resort was established near Sprague Lake.
In 1962 the National Park Service acquired the land. Not much reminds of the heydays of the area today. Yet the natural beauty of the region still entices thousands of people that hike along the Sprague Lake Trail day after day.
The Best Time to Hike Sprague Lake Trail
The Sprague Lake area is accessible all year round. The hikers march along the lake shores in spring, summer, and fall.
In winter, late fall, and early spring, snow covers the boardwalk. Yet considering the amount of people hiking along the Sprague Lake Trail, the path is well noticeable even at this time. Snowshoes, though, might be necessary to explore Rocky Mountain National Park when it turns into a winter wonderland.
From late September though mid-October, the nearby area puts on vibrant fall garments. Transformed, the Sprague Lake Trail is a sheer delight to hike at this time.
Sprague Lake sits in the Bear Lake Road Corridor. To get to the area from the town of Estes Park, follow US-36 W for nearly 4 miles. At an intersection, turn left onto Bear Lake Road and drive for roughly 6 miles. At the next intersection, follow a left side road until you reach the Sprague Lake parking lot.
Map: Directions from Estes Park
Facilities in the Area
- Parking Lot. The area’s parking lot is relatively big. Yet considering the number of people wishing to hike the Sprague Lake Trail, it’s still unable to accommodate all visitors during the peak tourist season.
- Bathrooms. Just like the Sprague Lake Trail itself, the bathrooms are wheelchair accessible.
- Picnic Area. Nearly a dozen of picnic tables and fire pits are set near Sprague Lake, offering a perfect place to relax after the hike.
- Campsites. For those who decide to spend a night near Sprague Lake, the area boasts a wheelchair-accessible camp that accommodate up to 12 campers. 5 wheelchairs can use the campground at a time.
Things to Know before Hiking Sprague Lake Trail
Sprague Lake is a busy area. Thousands of visitors hike the trail every day. If the lake is on your radar during the peak season, be sure to arrive early to avoid the crowds and claim a parking spot.
Use Park Shuttle
Otherwise, use park shuttle to eliminate any parking issues while visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, including the Sprague Lake area, during the summer season.
Hike the Sprague Lake Trail in the Morning
The morning hikes have another advantage. This time allures many landscape photographers aiming at flawless reflection photos. Undisturbed by afternoon wind, the calm water of the lake reflects the surrounding mountains like a mirror.
Slippery Trail Alert
The Sprague Lake Trail may be slippery in winter when the snow and ice accumulate on the boardwalk. Afternoon thunderstorms contribute to the same slimy conditions of the path during the summer months.
Don’t Hike along Sprague Lake Trail with Pets
Pets are not allowed on the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. Dogs on leash may be present in parking lots, picnic areas, campgrounds, and along the roadsides.
Don’t Feed or Approach Wildlife
Beaver and moose frequent the area. The animals are the most active in the morning hours. So be sure to hike the Sprague Lake Trail early to increase your chances of observing the wild animals in their natural habitat.
Yet never feed or approach the wildlife. First, it’s not safe. Second, you may be fined for disturbing the animals and interfering with their natural eating patterns.
READ MORE: How to Protect Yourself from Bears in the Wild: Tips and Myths
Bring along a rod and fish away. Sprague Lake is an ideal place for this type of activity. But be sure to read fishing guidelines in Rocky Mountain National Park beforehand.
Hike Sprague Lake Trail: Photo Gallery
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