Sprague Lake Trail – the Easiest Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park (+Photos)

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.

Sprague Lake Hike - Roads and Destinations

How to Hike Sprague Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park (Photos Included)

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 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 was not exempt from some popular trails, such as the favorite Alberta Falls and the remarkable Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes hikes.

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?

Sprague Lake Hike - Roads and Destinations
Sprague Lake Hike - Roads and Destinations

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 probably the easiest hike in entire Rocky Mountain National Park. The closest competition in this department comes only 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 sweeping hills and mountainsides nearby. 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 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 towering over the lake mountains still looked too irresistible. I had to capture these as well. Meanwhile, Roshan perched on one of many benches spread along the Sprague Lake Trail and enjoyed his last hike in the most relaxed manner.

End 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 the leisurely walk around Sprague Lake alone is sufficient to you, hike to the footbridge you started at and head back to the parking lot. 

Sprague Lake Hike - Roads and Destinations
Colorado - Roads and Destinations

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. 

Sprague Lake Hike - Roads and Destinations

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 “hike” around Sprague Lake when Rocky Mountain National Park 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 along at this time. 

Location

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 rather big. Yet considering the number of people wishing to hike along the Sprague Lake Trail, it’s still unable to accommodate all visitors during a 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.
Sprague Lake Hike - Roads and Destinations

Things to Know before Hiking Sprague Lake Trail

Arrive Early

Sprague Lake is a busy area. Thousands of visitors hike along 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 hiking in 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 it pertains 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

Fishing Allowed

Bring along a rod for a hike around Sprague Lake and fish away. But be sure to read fishing guidelines in Rocky Mountain National Park beforehand.

Hike Sprague Lake Trail: Photos

Sprague Lake Hike - Roads and Destinations
Sprague Lake Hike - Roads and Destinations
Sprague Lake Hike - Roads and Destinations
Sprague Lake Hike - Roads and Destinations
Colorado - Roads and Destinations
Sprague Lake Trail: A hike into the woods
Sprague Lake Hike - Roads and Destinations
Colorado - Roads and Destinations
Colorado - Roads and Destinations
Hike along fall adorned Sprague Lake Trail

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