After just shy of two miles of scenic hiking through a grassland and into lightly forested areas, with a few heart-pumping stretches along the way, we scramble through a fun keyhole to pop out on top of Kruger Rock.
The bald summit offers some of the most beautiful views you can imagine -- the vistas cover 360 degrees, and we gasp at our neighbors, the nearby mountain peaks, quiet valleys and Lake Estes.
It feels as if we are on top of the world.
Many places in Colorado will give you that euphoria, and we've enjoyed several such hikes over the decades. But Kruger Rock offers the best payoff for not too much investment.
That is, you can easily complete this fantastic hike in about three hours without totally trashing your feet and legs. Colleen and I were joined by Ryan and Kelly of Watch Us Wander on the hike in late-November. We caught a perfectly sunny and mild day for our outing. The weather was crisp and cool but we warmed up fine with just a couple light layers on.
Kruger Rock Trail in one of several trails available in Hermit Park Open Space, which is located just outside of Estes Park and near Lyons, about a 90-minute drive northwest from Denver.
Fee: $9 per car to enter Hermit Park Open Space
Distance/Type: 3.8 mile out and back; 1.9 miles one way.
Time: 2:30 to 3 hours roundtrip
Elevation: Trailhead starts at 8,440 feet, and you hike to a top elevation of 9,350 feet
Tips: Wear layers, pack plenty of water and binoculars, as well as snacks for along the way and a lunch to have at the top. (There is plenty of space to spread out and sit down on the bare rocks up top.) Have fun!
Once you make your way up the trail toward the base of the ascent, you will have to take regular stops. Perhaps to catch your breath every now and then from the incline. But mostly because you will want to look out over Estes Park and the stunning scene that is painted by the trees, mountains, rocks and Lake Estes as you gaze to the north.
After about 20 minutes up top, we noticed that several more people were starting to make their way to our little slice of heaven. We packed up, dropped back down through the keyhole and made the return descent.
Thanks for reading, and happy hiking!