Chasm Lake Trail, Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park 9/22/12

Chasm Lake ( Long’s Peak Trail > Chasm Lake Trail)

Starting Elevation:  9400 Ft

Ending Elevation:  11,800 Ft ( Total Elevation Gain 2400Ft)

Trail Length:  8.6 Officially (unfortunately we made the mistake of passing the Chasm Lake trail by almost a mile so my fitbit said 12 miles)  We spent probably 6-7 hours total actually walking.

Trail Uses:  Hiker and some horse access only

Degree of Difficulty:  Difficult to Strenuous (mostly due to elevation and the final scramble up to the lake)

Bathrooms:  At the parking lot, and at 3.8 miles at the trail junction and at the base of the scramble up to Chasm Lake although these last 2 are a little interesting.

Pets:  None Allowed

Last week when we reached the summit of Twin Sisters, one of the hikers up there mentioned that if Longs Peak wasn’t in our future we had to at least check out Chasm Lake which is just below diamond of the Peak.  The other challenge we discussed was getting to see a sunrise at one of our summits.  We only have a few more chances to get some higher altitude hikes in before the weather changes  and this sounded like the perfect one to try next.  Add to that, the parking challenge at Longs Peak it was also the right one to try to summit by sunrise.   So we set our alarm for 2AM and struggled to get any sleep like kids on Christmas Eve.

We got to the trailhead at 4:15 AM and in a pretty decent sized parking lot, there were only 5 or 6 spaces left and the cars were steadily coming in.  I had read about this parking situation everywhere, Long’s Peak is a highly desirable 14ner  to bag and at 7 miles to the peak those trying to meet the challenge get there early.  We were the only hikers who just wanted to get to Chasm Lake by sunrise so the pictures of the trails  were taken on the way down.

The Trail itself is not really too difficult, it has a nice steady grade all the way up  some rocks and steps to help with the climb.  It starts at the Ranger station where you have to register with your trip details; destination, party size and when you started and expect to be back down.  We did have to wear headlamps and it was cold, about 30 degrees so we were bundled up.  It was weird and exhilarating to start hiking this early, the stars were so bright and it seemed like they were just getting closer and closer to us as we climbed.  Since it was our first time on the trail, we didn’t know what we weren’t seeing either so it was all headlamps of other hikers and just path below our feet.  The first trial junction comes up quick, just .5 miles in go straight(left) or right, stay straight(left) to Chasm Lake:

At about 2 miles in we were getting close to the tree line and the Alpine tundra:

Past this sign there is a footbridge to cross over the falls/stream.  I am actually really proud of our progress, after just 30 minutes to acclimate to the altitude we started really moving trying to get to our summit as the sun was rising but in the end we were too slow, we reached the next trail junction in a little over 2 hours and the sun had just risen.  There is a privy here to the left and by privy, they mean a very short walled box with an outhouse vibe so you are head shoulders in view of everyone coming by ….or waiting their turn… or checking out the view.   There is then a simple paddock,signage with 2 trail options, one to the left and one to the right, GO LEFT.  We messed up here, twice!  Our maps were simple and misleading we initially started left but looked at the maps and decided it must be wrong so we turned around starting up the Longs peak trail.  About 20 minutes up that way I finally pulled my book out and read through it and saw the error  of just consulting the map.  Back down we went.

The trail goes down passing Peacock lake and Columbine falls.  The stream feeding those falls continues across our path  on a ledge, then up the side of  where we had to go to get to Chasm lake.


The scramble

And then we were there:

We had some lunch, well whatever meal it would be at 9 AM when we woke up at 2….  We relaxed there for an hour before we headed down taking pictures like crazy.  It was so beautiful up there and peaceful, it seemed like maybe the scramble kept many hikers at bay.  This is a busy trail especially on a beautiful day with no threat of storms, which is perfect for such a hike!  Plus with all the Aspens changing colors the golds mixed in with the green was stunning!  The only down side of the endeavor was that we have all this haze in the air from fires to the west and northwest of us so all the other ranges were obscured in the haze.  After the directions I will post some more of our pictures from the hike


From Denver take 36 through Boulder and then on through Lyons.  In Lyons you will have highway 7 ( left lane) meet up with 36 (right lane), at the stop sign go left onto 7 and take it for 24.6 miles to the junction of Longs Peak Area and mile marker 9, turn left onto Longs Peak and drive 1.1 miles to the parking lot at the rangers station.  The trailhead is to the South of the Rangers station.


Published by hikingtohealthy

an enthusiastic hiker living in Colorado.

3 thoughts on “Chasm Lake Trail, Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park 9/22/12

  1. Wow, you guys – I’m so impressed! What an incredible hike & love the pics. I never get tired of seeing Colorado. The Peak to Peak Highway was pretty cool – Doug & I were both saying that we aren’t sure if we’ve ever been on that road. It was pretty cool that we ended up at Long’s Peak.

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