Overland’s Best Day Hikes: Lake Helene in Rocky Mountain National Park

If you’re looking for a great day hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, read on for a firsthand account of the Lake Helene Day Hike.


Here Are Some Basics From Overland’s Trip Planners

  • Name of Hike: Lake Helene
  • Location of Hike: Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Location of Trailhead: Bear Lake Trailhead
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Roundtrip Miles: Approximately 6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: Approximately 1340 feet


Every summer, over two hundred Overland leaders are in the field leading groups of kids and teens on summer hiking trips. Their first-hand accounts are typically based on multiple hikes of the trail with different groups of kids or teens each time.

Here is Some Background on the Overland Leader Who Hiked This Trail in 2023 During the summer of 2023, Overland leader Annie Galbraith of Bainbridge Island, Washington, led two groups of 12-year-old girls and boys on Overland’s Rocky Mountain Adventure. Annie’s favorite hike was Lake Helene.

Here is Annie’s Report on the Lake Helene Hike

“Lake Helene is a beautiful hike in RMNP. It is not as popular as the neighboring trailheads, making it much quieter and more secluded. The trail winds up a bit before leveling out below Flattop Mountain and ending at the lake. The lake is serene and surrounded by multiple peaks above 12,000’ making for the perfect lunch spot.”

Here is Why Annie Loved It

“This was one of the best hikes we did all summer in RMNP. It is so much quieter and more peaceful than the busy trails, making it much more enjoyable. The lake at the end is beautiful and our kids absolutely loved this hike, often saying it was their favorite one of the trip. And we saw moose both times we did this hike!”

Annie’s Biography

Annie grew up on Bainbridge Island near Seattle in the Pacific Northwest, where she loved adventuring and exploring the outdoors. She spent many summers hiking on Mount Rainier, exploring the North Cascades, biking around Bainbridge, and paddle boarding. Annie studies mathematics at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, where she is an officer on the rowing team (and spends a LOT of time out on the water training, competing, and hanging out with teammates). She has led orientation trips for incoming freshmen. Annie spent the fall of 2023 studying in Prague. 

Here is a Quote from One of Annie’s Co-leaders

“Annie was the perfect Overland leader. She was on top of logistics, loved the kids, and the kids loved her. I could not think of someone more perfect to lead with.” – Annika Milliman


There are lots of online resources for this hike. Here is a selection of what is available:

Rocky Mountain National Park. This is the official site for the park.

AllTrails. AllTrails offers extensive user-generated copy; here is a description of Lake Helene

Day Hikes Near Denver. This site offers trail write ups of day hikes near Denver. To give you an idea of what their copy is like, this is an excerpt of the information on the site about the Lake Helene day hike:

“The hike to Lake Helene is a popular lake hike beginning at the Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. Lake Helene is situated in a bowl beneath Flattop Mountain, Ptarmigan Point, and Notchtop Mountain. The trail weaves through aspen groves and pine forests with scenic mountain views at almost every turn.”

Our experience has been that by looking carefully at the information from a number of sites—like AllTrails and Dayhikes Near Denver—and comparing / contrasting it to the experience of our Overland leaders with their groups, an accurate picture emerges of the hike’s logistics, difficulty, and attractions.

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    Tom Costley

    When Tom Costley founded Overland in 1984, he sought to create experiences for young people that were fun, where new friendships could grow, where natural beauty was embraced, where there were real and varied challenges, and where Overland’s students would achieve something of importance to them. Overland’s focus on small groups, carefully crafted trips, and superlative leadership has made it a leader in the summer camp world. Overland’s commitment to excellence in everything it does has led to its success: over the past four decades, Overland has served 40,000 students and 5,000 trip leaders. Tom writes about the outdoors and travel from Williamstown, Massachusetts.

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