I hiked to Kruger Rock for the first time a few years ago and it immediately became one of my favorite local hikes. A two mile long out-and-back trail leads to Kruger Rock which offers beautiful 360 degree views of mountains, lakes, and the nearby town of Estes Park.
Why Choose Kruger Rock for a Hike?
The Kruger Rock Trail in Hermit Park is great place to hike if you're looking to avoid the Summer crowds at the nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. It's lesser known to tourists, but still a great Colorado hiking destination near Estes Park. It's also a perfect trail choice if you want to bring your dog. Dogs aren't allowed on trails in the national park.
The Kruger Rock Trail
The first part of the path winds through open fields and past a stand of aspens. Next it goes around a few rocky switchbacks before entering a pine forest and meanders alongside a rocky ridge. This is where the first really nice views can be seen. The trail turns left (west) at this point and climbs steadily uphill and through the forest until it reaches Kruger Rock.
The Top of Kruger Rock
The last fifty feet or so of the hike involves a little rock scramble to the peak, but nothing too hard. The top of Kruger Rock sits at 9,355 feet in elevation. When you reach it, you'll have climbed almost 1,000 feet up from the parking area below. The reward is a spectacular 360 degree view. I took a video while I was at the top. You can check it out below. As you can hear, it was a little windy that day.
Finding the Kruger Rock Trailhead
Kruger Rock is located in the Hermit Park Open Space within the borders of the Roosevelt National Forest. To reach it travel three miles east of Estes Park on Highway 36. The entrance will be on the right.
There is a six dollar fee to enter the open space, payable at the park office near the gates. A free map is available at the front office, but it's mainly good for finding parking areas and campsites. The trail map isn't very detailed. Parking for the trailhead is located about two miles back the dirt road on the left. The dirt road is pretty well maintained and most cars should be able to access the Kruger Rock Trail with no problems. I would think that a four wheel drive vehicle would be advisable if you happen to be braving the inclement weather to hike.
To reach the trailhead from the parking lot, walk past the pavilion and toilets and look for the trail sign near the road. The rocky peak of Kruger rock is visible from here, jutting up from the forest to the west.
Camping at Hermit Park Open Space
Hermit Park is open most of the year. It's only closed from around Christmas until March 1. If you're looking to spend more time in the area, the Hermit Park Open space also offers camping opportunities. It's actually the first place I ever camped in Colorado, back in 1996. There are tent and RV sites as well as a few primitive cabins with propane heat and lighting. The latter is where I stayed.
The Nearby Town of Estes Park, Colorado
The nearby town of Estes Park is the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. If you want to spend the night in the area, but not camp, there's plenty of lodging in Estes Park. The tourist town is also full of coffee shops, souvenir stores, ice cream shops, restaurants, fast food, and a visitors' information center. The historic Stanley Hotel is also in Estes Park.
The Kruger Rock trail is a great destination whether you're a local spending half a day there or an out-of-towner combining it with other activities.
Have you ever hiked to Kruger Rock? Did you think it was easy or are you a "flatlander" and found it to be breathtaking in more ways than one?
Liz Westwood from UK on June 10, 2020:
This is a well-illustrated and very informative article.