DIRECTIONS: From Estes Park, head through town on Hwy 36 towards the Beaver Meadows Entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. However, instead of entering the park, bear left (southwest) on Hwy 66 towards East Portal. Follow 66 until the road ends at the East Portal Campground.
The Wind River Trail of Rocky Mountain National Park explores the East Portal area along the eastern edge of the park. This part of the park sees far less visitors than the main area and is a good option for the summer months when the interior of the park gets crowded. The Wind River Trail is low key and pleasant and the approach to the trail provides nice views of the East Portal.
The trail starts at the East Portal Campground but if you are not staying in the campground, then park at the lot just outside the campground entrance. Cross the street and pick up the East Portal Trail to the Big Thompson Water Project sign. The trail begins by crossing a meadow with nice views to the east and of the Mummy Range to the north. Look for Elk in this meadow...
Cross the meadow and you then have a choice, either follow the trail to the reservoir or follow the trail that climbs the steep hillside. I highly recommend climbing the hill. This trail climbs up to the boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park and provides views of the reservoir and the surrounding mountains, definitely worth the extra effort.
After the initial climb, the trail mellows and crosses into the park at the junction for the Wind River Trail. The trail then descends down through beautiful aspen forest with more views. Before long the trail joins the trail for the reservoir, save this for the return. Instead of heading back to the parking area, turn right and head west further into the Park.
As you hike through the picturesque forest, you';ll soon come to a wonderful red rock cliff with a cascade cutting across its base. This is followed by an easy trek through beetle kill forest that the NPS is thinning. Climb some rock steps through interesting rock formations. The trail continues for 2.5 miles (each way) but if you want a shorter hike, head west to the Wind River Backcountry Campground, 1/2 mile away.
Before you reach the campground there are rock ledges and outcroppings to explore and nice views. A small footbridge crosses Wind River and a side trail heads up to the campground. I suggest climbing this section for some nice views out to Storm Pass near Estes Cone. This makes for a good rest spot and a good place to turn around if you are ready.
On you way back, take the trail that leads to the reservoir instead of re-climbing the hillsides. As you head down to the reservoir, look out for numerous side trails leading to the river and some beautiful cascading waterfalls, the most impressive of which lies through a fissure in a boulder that my kids dubbed "The Gateway to Narnia." Continue down the trail past the East Portal Trailhead, to the Reservoir and back to the campground.
While not the most impressive trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, this is a great trail to explore when you are looking to beat the crowds and have a more laid back RMNP experience. Overall the trail is beautiful and should be amazing in the fall.
HIKES BY REGION
NATIONAL PARK HIKES
- BENT'S OLD FORT NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK
- COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT
- CURECANTI NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
- DINOSAUR NATIONAL MONUMENT
- FLORISSANT FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
- MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
- ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
- GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK
- HOVENWEEP NATIONAL MONUMENT
- SAND CREEK MASSACRE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- YUCCA HOUSE NATIONAL MONUMENT
- HIKES BY CATEGORY
- $UPPORT GHC
- INTERACTIVE MAP
Wind River Trail / East Portal
Rocky Mountain National Park
Date Hiked: June 13, 2020
Distance: 2.5 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 450 ft
Elevation Min/Max: 8,240.5 ft, 8,688.8 ft
Trailhead Lat/Long: 40.32886, -105.57557
Managing Agency: National Park Service