Skiing in Rocky Mountain National Park is not the most popular activity since Colorado has numerous skui resorts with better slopes. But, for anyone who is interested in a more solitary experience than crowding into the gondola at Vail mountain, cross country skiing routes are available in the park.
There are around 350 miles of hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. I only hiked a few short trails that coincided with stops along the Trail Ridge Road. This was the most challenging; although it really wasn't a difficult trail. It was one of the longest of the three, the highest in elevation, and fairly steep at times. Most of the trail is wheel-chair accessible so it is still not that difficult. There are interpretive signs along the trail and restrooms at the trailhead.
Equipment: Good walking shoes, sunscreen, a hat.
The trail leading to the Forest Canyon Viewpoint is short, paved, and has interpretive signs along the way. It is fairly steep in places but I would still designate it a pretty easy trail. Remember though you are at a high elevation.
Equipment: Good walking shoes, water, a camera for the great views.
Backpacking is a great sport and Rocky Mountain National Park offers great short circuits so if you are a beginner or just not into extreme exertion, this is a great park to do it. They even have one wheel-chair accessible backcountry camping site!
You will need to carry everything you need for the trip with you and also everything back out. A good backpack makes that easier so don't scrimp on that part of your equipment. Make sure to get one that fits your body too. We are all different and so are the packs. Get yourself a good pair of waterproof boots and break them in before the trip. Thick cushiony socks are a blessing when hiking long distances over rock terrain. When you buy boots, wear the same socks you plan on hiking in so they fit together. We never hike in shorts. We prefer very light long pants which dry easily and provide protection from not only the sun but also bushes, rocky surfaces, and biting insects. Likewise, a light long-sleeved short helps up top. Synthetic layers are the key to keeping warm and dry. Rain gear is essentials no matter how dry it is when you start. It can rain at any time, especially in the mountains. Long underwear is great for chilly mornings and evenings if you plan on spending any time out of your sleeping bag. Warm hat, warm hat, warm hat, warm hat. Don't forget one.
What types of food should you be carrying? Dried food is the lightest though it comes at a cost. We find Mountain House to make a good product. It is not gourmet food but it's tasty enough, light to carry and very easy to prepare. You basically boil water, pour it into the plastic pouch the food comes in and close it for ten minutes. We eat some nuts while we're waiting for extra protein. The two-serving pouches from Mountain House are a bit meager. It might be enough for two small people but when you are carrying so much weight over passes, you need more calories. We generally add some starches to the pouch to flesh them out: instant mashed potatoes for the stews and instant rice for Asian style meals. We follow up the meal with a liquid soup like ramen noodles which provides warmth, liquid, sodium, and also helps clean out the cup we just ate our meals from. Breakfasts are either cereal bars or oatmeal. Tea is easier to deal with than coffee and hot chocolate seems to taste great in the mountains on a cold morning. It's also less to carry back as wet tea bags can get heavy. You will need a small camp stove as fires are not permitted nor practical for cooking in the backcountry.
Equipment: Bring a sleeping bag appropriate for the temperatures you will be sleeping in. If it will get down to 0F, don't count on staying warm in a 32F bag. I cannot stress how important a good sleeping mat is. It will go a long way in keeping you warm and comfortable: two things you do want after a long day of backpacking. A good quality tent will round out what you need to be comfortable in the mountains. Get a light one but one big enough for the number of people who will be sleeping in it. We find we need a three-person tent even though we are just two people. It's a bit heavier but we enjoy our time in the tent more with the extra space. It is also our car camping tent and we would not go with a super small tent for a six-month trip like we were on. It would be nice and ideal to have two tents.
With more than 360 miles of trails, Rocky Mountain National Park is a magnet for hikers. Hiking guides, maps, and advice are available at visitor centers and at Rocky Mountain Nature Association Book Corners in the park. The park offers self-guiding trails; trail guides are found at the trailheads.
Several short hikes are available for the casual hiker which range from 0.5 to 7.2 miles in length. These include:
Bear Lake Nature Trail: A short stroll around a subalpine lake with exhibits which tell the story of glaciation and subalpine life. Distance 0.5 mile; elevation: 9,475 feet.
Lulu City-Colorado River Trail: Follows the Colorado River to the remains of a once-booming mining town. Distance 7.2 miles; elevation 9,300 feet.
Never Summer Ranch: The nature trail around the cabins and surrounding landscape tell the story of early 20th-century homesteading and dude ranch life. Distance 1 mile; elevation 9,000 feet.
Sprague Lake Nature Trail: A level, wheel-chair-accessible trail around a lake and through a wetlands, ideal for visitors with disabilities. Distance 0.5 mile; elevation 8.710 feet.
Equipment: A sturdy, comfortable pair of hiking shoes.
Be prepared for sudden changes in the weather.
The trail leading to the Holzwarth Historic Site is a short 1/2 mile paved trail with interpretive signs along the way.