Moraine Park Loop, Moraine Park Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Moraine Park Loop - 4.65 miles
Moraine Park Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||4.65 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||8,038' - 8,038' (8,128' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+90' net elevation gain (+258' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Moraine Park Loop - 4.65 Miles Round-Trip
Rocky Mountain National Park's landscape has been shaped by the cyclical growth, recession and reconstitution of glaciers over many millennia. Glacial movement grinds the land beneath it, depositing till on its margins that accumulate on ridges called moraines.
Wide, flat depressions sometimes form where glaciers end their downhill progression, ringed by the land (moraines) they've displaced. Moraine Park is one such place where glaciers once settled and subsequently receded, leaving a broad, level expanse in its place.
Moraine Park is cut by the Big Thompson River and Cub Creek, which hold abundant trout and support an array of wildlife. Every fall large elk herds congregate in these food-rich meadows for their annual rut, a spectacular ritual where dominant bulls battle for mating rights.
Mule deer gather in smaller numbers and are common throughout the year. Small mammals like squirrels, voles and rabbit attract larger predators such as coyote, fox, bobcat and raptors, while bears seek out late summer berries along the meadow's perimeter.
All plays out before the Continental Divide, a backdrop that runs from Longs Peak (south) to Mount Chiquita (13,069'), Ypsilon Mountain (13,514') and Fairchild Mountain (13,502') of the Mummy Range to the north.
The Moraine Park Loop Trail is comprised of an informal trail and Cub Lake Road on the meadows' north side, the Cub Lake Trail (west), Lateral Moraine Trail (south) and a Park service road (east).
The north side is flat and open, while the Lateral Moraine Trail undulates along the forested base of a moraine to the south. The loop's mild grades and good maintenance are ideal for families, runners and winter recreation. Anglers will enjoy easy access to miles of slow moving oxbows across the Moraine Park basin.
The following description travels counter-clockwise from the Moraine Park Trailhead:
An unnamed but clear path trail leads northwest of the parking beside the Big Thompson River through a vast sage-grass field to Cub Lake Road (.8 miles : 8,095').
Remain on the road (ignoring splits to the Moraine Park Campground and Livery) to the Cub Lake Trailhead on Moraine Park's west end (2.0 miles : 8,110').
Bear left (south) on the Cub Lake Trail, which crosses the Big Thompson and negotiates a few quick turns and hills to the unmarked but distinct Lateral Moraine Trail split (2.55 miles : 8,095'). Keep left.
The Lateral Moraine Trail turns east between the base of a densely wooded moraine and Cub Creek. Be mindful of wildlife in this brushy, concealed space.
The Lateral Moraine Trail merges with a Park Service Road (3.9 miles : 8,065') and continues east by several private residences and Park facilities. It gradually bends north (4.5 miles) on the final turn back to the trailhead and parking lot (4.65 miles : 8,038').
- N40 21.247 W105 35.039 — 0.0 miles : Moraine Park Trailhead
- N40 21.510 W105 35.810 — .8 miles : Moraine Park Road - bear left
- N40 21.418 W105 36.439 — 1.5 miles : Continue southwest on Moraine Park Road
- N40 21.370 W105 36.946 — 2.0 miles : Cub Lake Trailhead - bear left to Cub Lake
- N40 20.984 W105 36.965 — 2.55 miles : Cub Lake - Lateral Moraine Trail junction
- N40 20.898 W105 36.185 — 3.35 miles : Heading east on Lateral Moraine Trail
- N40 20.998 W105 35.678 — 3.9 miles : Merge onto Service Road
- N40 21.247 W105 35.039 — 4.65 miles : Moraine Park Trailhead
- Anticipate seasonal closures due to the Elk rut (varying weeks September - October) and call ahead for status.
- Be mindful of private residences and Park structures along the trail and respect their privacy.
- Elk are also known as Wapiti, an American Indian name meaning white deer. Males are known as bulls, and females as cows. Elk cows can weigh 400 - 800 pounds, while a full-grown bull can exceed 1,000 pounds. Despite their immense size, elk are exceptionally fleet-footed, graceful and terrific swimmers. Elk can reach land speeds of over 30 mph.
- Elk are generally passive, but can be aggressive when defending calves and during the rut (late August - November). During this time, if you listen close, you may hear the high-pitched "whistling" or "bugling" of male elk calling to their female counterparts. Elk are polygamous and can mate with as many as 50 cows in a season. View all wildlife from a respectful distance and never place yourself in the middle of a herd.
Camping and Backpacking Information
Cub Creek Backcountry Campsite
- 2 Sites, a Privy and Bear Box are available. They are located 2.2 miles from the Cub Lake Trailhead at 8,600'.
- Water may be obtained from Cub Creek, or from Cub Lake when the stream is dry. Boil or treat all water.
- The sites are located in a mixed pine forest on the south side of Cub Creek, about 250' below the east end of Cub Lake. Red arrowheads on trees mark the spur leading to the sites, which are marked by metal arrowhead posts in the ground. Pitch tents as close as possible to the metal arrowheads.
Directions to Trailhead
Just beyond the Beaver Meadows entrance station, turn left onto Bear Lake Road. The Moraine Park Trailhead is located 1.65 miles away on the right side of the road and has limited parking. Additional parking can be found on Cub Lake Road and at the Cub Lake Trailhead.
Rocky Mountain National Park