Lake Verna, East Inlet Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Lake Verna - 13.8 miles

East Inlet Trailhead

Lake Verna (10,200')

Lake Verna (10,200')

Round-Trip Length: 13.8 miles
Start-End Elevation: 8,391' - 10,200' (10,228' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,809 net elevation gain (+2,549' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Lake Verna - 13.8 Miles Round-Trip

Lake Verna is located 6.9 miles from East Inlet Trailhead on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. This large subalpine lake fills a slender, steep-walled basin midway up the East Inlet valley. The long but moderate hike features miles of cascading streams, abundant wildlife, a stop at Lone Pine Lake and 8 backcountry campsites:

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The trail passes splits for Adams Falls (.27 miles) and levels around the north side of East Meadow, an expansive meadow cut by slow moving oxbows on the East Inlet. This is a popular destination for anglers, and great place to see moose

The trail enters a thinned-out lodgepole forest to Lower East Inlet backcountry campsite (2.35 miles : 8,685’), where grades steepen on rugged terrain up the valley’s north wall.

It crests at 3.45 miles (9,220’) and drops to the creek, where healthier fir trees appear and soften the aesthetic loss from pervasive beetle kill. The trail levels by a slow section of water before rising away to the Cats Lair backcountry campsite (3.8 miles : 9,210’).

It edges back to the creek and undulates to a bridge over to the south side of East Inlet (4.35 miles : 9,405’), just past which are a series of powerful cascades.

The trail steepens away on a rocky-rooted path to the Gray Jay Group campsite (5.05 miles : 9,805’), then crosses a debris field created by a recent avalanche. The NPS has done a great job making it passable, but expect fallen trees and vague spots on this short segment.

Travel eases on the aproach to Lone Pine Lake (5.4 miles : 9,885’). The trail turns sharply up Lone Pine's kinetic inlet falls to open rock slabs with views over the lake, and crosses back to the north side of the creek.

Grades moderate between Slick Rock backcountry campsite (5.7 miles : 10,040’) and Solitaire backcountry campsite (6.0 miles : 10,145’) through a slot in the valley where the creek is dammed up into three large pools by logjams and talus.

This interesting stretch continues to the Upper Inlet backcountry campsite (6.6 miles : 10,190'), then crests and drops to the NW shore of Lake Verna (6.9 miles : 10,200'), the Lake Verna backcountry campsite and beginning of unimproved travel.

Lake Verna's long shore is rugged and cluttered, but the unimproved trail and various social trails aid travel. It's worth continuing a few hundred yards up the unimproved trail to appreciate the lake's size and reach its open NE shore.

This unimproved portion of the East Inlet Trail continues on to Spirit Lake (7.9 miles : 10,290'), Fourth Lake (8.5 miles : 10,360'), Fifth Lake and Boulder Grand Pass, which leads to Thunder Lake in Wild Basin east of the Divide.



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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 14.358 W105 47.991 — 0.0 miles : East Inlet Trailhead
  • N40 14.241 W105 47.621 — .5 miles : Trail skirts large meadow
  • N40 14.262 W105 47.159 — 1.2 miles : East Meadow backcountry campsite
  • N40 14.160 W105 46.383 — 2.0 miles : Re-enter forest
  • N40 14.078 W105 46.112 — 2.35 miles : Lower East Inlet backcountry campsite
  • N40 13.664 W105 45.328 — 3.45 miles : Trail crests and drops to creek
  • N40 13.630 W105 45.064 — 3.75 miles : Cats Lair backcountry campsite
  • N40 13.576 W105 44.569 — 4.35 miles : Cross bridge to south side of creek
  • N40 13.828 W105 44.179 — 5.05 miles : Gray Jay backcountry campsite
  • N40 13.877 W105 43.968 — 5.4 miles : Lone Pine Lake
  • N40 13.990 W105 43.641 — 5.7 miles : Slick Rock backcountry campsite
  • N40 13.886 W105 43.558 — 6.0 miles : Solitaire backcountry campsite
  • N40 13.720 W105 42.956 — 6.6 miles : Upper East Inlet backcountry campsite
  • N40 13.663 W105 42.653 — 6.9 miles : Lake Verna | begin unimproved travel
  • N40 13.521 W105 42.134 — 7.5 miles : Unimproved trail passes Lake Verna Inlet
  • N40 13.511 W105 41.869 — 7.9 miles : Spirit Lake
  • N40 13.346 W105 41.247 — 8.5 miles : Fourth Lake

Worth Noting

  • The unimproved trail is initially rugged, but clarifies and moderates considerably from the Lake Verna inlet area to Fourth Lake.
  • Moose are common along the East Inlet corridor. Enjoy wildlife from a safe, respectful distance. Mosquitoes can be a nuisance on this trail corridor. Long sleeves and repellant are highly recommended.
  • The East Inlet Trail has 8 backcountry campsites that fill up quickly during peak summer months. Advance reservations are necessary.
  • Contact the ranger station for fishing rules and regulations. A Colorado fishing license is required. Rules are strictly enforced.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • A permit is required for all backcountry camping in Rocky Mountain National Park. Permits may be obtained from the Beaver Meadows Visitors Center Backcountry Office, or the Kawuneeche Visitor Center at Grand Lake. Day-of-trip permits may be obtained in-person, year round. Contact the Backcountry Office for details: 970.586.1242.

  • Reservations may be secured by mail or in person anytime after March 1 for a permit to be used in that calendar year. Phone reservations are accepted from March 1 - May 15, and anytime after October 1 for a permit in that calendar year.

  • Camping is permitted in designated sites only. Fires are not permitted. Gas stoves only.

  • Camp safely away from dead trees, as close as possible to the metal arrowhead posted at each site. Red flags on trees provide additional guidance to each campsite from the main trail.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted along the East Inlet and at each lake with a valid Colorado fishing license. Specific rules may apply to each lake and various sections of the East Inlet. Consult the RMNP backcountry office for the latest rules and regulations.

Rules and Regulations

  • A $20 Day Use Fee is required to enter Rocky Mountain National Park (or $30 for a 7 Day Pass).
  • Camping is not permitted at Lone Pine Lake.
  • Horses are not permitted beyond Lake Verna.

Directions to Trailhead

The East Inlet Trailhead is located on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park on the east side of Grand Lake. The trailhead is 2.35 miles east of Highway 34 on West Portal Road.

From Highway 34, turnoff for Grand Lake on Highway 278 / West Portal Road. Remain on West Portal Road 2.35 miles to the East Inlet Trailhead, just across from the boat launch on Grand Lake.

Contact Information

Rocky Mountain National Park
Visitor Information:

Backcountry Office:

Campground Reservations:

Emergency Dispatch:

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Wife and I did 2 nights on this trail with kids (13,11) for their first backpacking trip and it was really fun and beautiful. The trail up to Lake Verna is fairly strenuous with loaded backpack, but it is doable for fairly athletic kids of this age. Pants with zipoff legs are good to have, as there are biting flies in certain sections where the "pants" come in handy (versus "shorts" in areas where not so bothersome). Overall a great backpacking venue, and great burgers at Squeaky-B's in Grand Lake after trip."
Jim  -  Texas  -  Date Posted: August 6, 2018
"This is one of the best areas of RMNP - way fewer crowds and incredible wildlife! Try and go early in the morning to avoid other hikers and increase your odds of seeing moose in the willows at the beginning of the trail. If you're interested in backpacking I highly recommend spending a night in the area. More info on backpacking logistics here: "
Ian  -  Colorado  -  Date Posted: March 7, 2018
"The Park Service tells us the East Inlet Trail is clear of snow between Lone Pine Lake and Lake Verna!"
ProTrails Admin  -   -  Date Posted: June 25, 2014


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