Gem Lake Trail
Starting Elevation: 7882 Ft
Highest Elevation: 8830 Ft ( Total elevation gain 948 ft)
Trail Length: According to the map it is 1.8 miles one way to the lake for a total of 3.6. We did a lot of walking around taking pictures so in the end we had a little over 4 miles on my fitbit. It took about 2 and half hours for our whole trip.
Trail uses: Hiker only
Degree of Difficulty: This one is hard for me to categorize, I would say overall Moderate but the elevation gain is a lot in a short distance and so some parts could be considered strenuous….
Bathrooms: Yes, at the parking lot/trailhead and then there is a privy not too far below the lake itself.
Pets: No dogs allowed.
When I was looking at different hikes for when Lauren and Anne were here, I wanted something with great views. Normally I would have taken them to a hike I had done before but at this particular time of year all those great view hikes were probably under quite a bit of snow. I liked what I read about Gem Lake for different reasons, it was not too long with spectacular views of Long’s peak, Mt. Meeker, the Twin Sisters and the whole town of Estes Park down below along with a nice elevation gain. The other bonus was that we had tickets for the ghost hunt tour at the Stanley Hotel later that night so it gave us lots to do in Estes Park. I have also been wanting to do this hike for a long time but since we have been focused in getting more stamina a hike under 4 miles kept getting knocked off for longer, harder hikes. My final reason, evil genius plan to make my nieces fall in love with Colorado….
Lets talk trail, this is a short trail that climbs quickly but has some very well placed straights to catch your breath on with stunning views to admire. From the parking lot you want to go to the vault toilet and take the path to the right of it, this is the Gem Lake trail it is very easy to follow and is straight in and straight out. At points there were some stairs to help with the climbing but the path itself is pretty easy. It actually runs through and along Lumpy Ridge and the rock formations were really neat.
The best part is that the trail is done in such away that you are always moving towards the next great view and the trail is so easy to follow. We were lucky to have a pretty nice day, we started out a little chilly but quickly stripped off layers as we went up.
One of the things I super love about Colorado is about how beautifully blue the skies get and the day we did this hike they were extra pretty. After the above picture we climbed at a little steeper pace for just a little longer before it leveled out to where we started entering an aspen grove and some beautiful pine. But before that grove we came around to the Paul Bunyans Boot, seriously check this out:
After this is a great Aspen Grove that my nieces thought looked like it should be in a museum as a perfect depiction of an alpine aspen grove and I had to agree.
From here it is not far to the lake and the last climb. The steps could get challenging as there was some with long distances from one step to the next so I think this is where other hikers have decided to classify this as a harder hike but if you take your time getting through it is no problem. Also there is a privy up here. Privy’s are so interesting and I encountered one when we hiked Chasm Lake I just want to giggle every time I have to use one because there is barely enough coverage to get your business done. At least this one was kinda down and behind a huge boulder so you could sort of get off the trail and out of view. The last stretch of trail was a little in the shade and so snowy but not hard to get up or down at all.
From here it is an easy scramble to the lake, which was frozen when we got there but still beautiful and the views around were amazing.
We took a bunch of pictures, pretended to be yeti’s waiting to be spotted laughed a ridiculous amount and then headed back down. I have to admit hiking with my nieces was so much fun, today’s hike ( post coming) was a little subdued because we didn’t have their company! We are already counting down the days until their next visit so we can show them more of beautiful Colorado. After the directions on how to get to the trail I will put some of our favorite pictures.
This trailhead was relocated to the northwest of the old trailhead, and the parking lot expanded. The turn-off to the new trailhead is approximately 1/4 mile west of the old Gem Lake Trailhead, on Lumpy Ridge Rd.
From Estes Park, take the US Hwy 34 bypass (the road that goes by the Stanley Hotel). Just west of the Stanley, turn right (north) onto MacGregor Avenue (CR 43). The road makes a hard right at the entrance to MacGregor Ranch, after which it is known as the Devils Gulch Rd. Veer right, and proceed about 3/4 miles to Lumpy Ridge Rd. Turn left onto Lumpy Ridge Rd. The Lumpy Ridge Trailhead and parking area at the end of the road.