East Inlet Trail Backpacking - Rocky Mountain National Park

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The East Inlet Trail is a portal to wonderful lakes, high peaks, swift rivers and the start of a beautiful traverse of Rocky Mountain National Park. The backpacking and backcountry camping here is divine.

Written by

James Dziezynski


16.0 miles

The main, established trail goes 8.0 miles to Spirit Lake, a 16 mile out and back. Backpackers can continue on to Fourth Lake and up and over Boulder Grand Pass.

Destination Distance From Downtown

31.5 miles


4 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

2 days

2- 3 days or more


Spring, Summer, and Fall

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits


$20 for 7-day pass, $40 for a Rocky Mountain National Park annual pass, $80 for a National Parks annual pass; $20 Backcountry Camping Pass.



The East Inlet Trail (located on the west side of the park near Grand Lake) is one of the older trails in the park, established in the 1920s as a route to visit several of the less well-known lakes and rivers in Rocky Mountain National Park. Lone Pine Lake, Spirit Lake and Lake Verna are three of the very best, both for scenery and wildlife. The main, established trail goes 8.0 miles to spirit lake but backpackers can continue on to Fourth Lake and up and over Boulder Grand Pass, where a few miles of off-trail excitement end at the Lake of Many Winds and established trails that lead into Wild Basin.

What Makes It Great

The solitude, isolation and peacefulness of the wilderness -- while still in the established confines of Rocky Mountain National Park -- are the best part of the East Inlet Trail. Backpackers who make it to Spirit Lake and beyond will note that there is still a lot of “wild” left in the park. The lakes and peaks in this area see few visitors, so consider yourself lucky to be in such a remote and beautiful place! The lakes on the east side of Boulder Grand Pass, such as the Lion Lakes, are every bit as gorgeous as their western counterparts.

The western reaches of the park see fewer visitors than the east and thus the pristine nature of the wilderness remains much more intact. At the end of the East Inlet Trail, you’ll be in the most remote part of the park where some of the best adventure await including Mount Alice, Boulder Grand Pass, Tanima Peak, Isolation Peak and the seldom seen Moomaw Glacier. A classic Colorado backpack going from East Inlet to Wild Basin is a memorable adventure that highlights the very best of northern Colorado’s mountains.

Who is Going to Love It

Backpackers, day hikers and photographers who want to get away from the crowds will love the peaceful setting and abundant wildlife. Peak baggers will love adding some of the remote summits to their checklists, including Isolation Peak -- considered the most remote mountaintop in the entire park.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The East Inlet Trailhead is on the west side of the Continental Divide on the east side of the town of Grand Lake. Follow Highway 34 (Trail Ridge Road) to the turnoff for Grand Lake on Highway 278. Turn east toward Grand Lake, then bypass the main road through Grand Lake, following West Portal Road and signs toward the boat launch area. Continue to the trailhead, about 2.7 miles from U.S. 34 and along the eastern shore of Grand Lake, opposite the boat launch.

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East Inlet Trail Backpacking - Rocky Mountain National Park

Grand Lake, CO,
40.239389, -105.79976

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