Archive | Rocky Mountain National Park RSS feed for this section

Deer Mountain, RMNP Estes Park CO, Hiked 7/19/14

21 Nov

1

Starting Elevation:  8930 Ft

Highest Elevation:  10,013 Ft ( A total Elevation gain of almost 1100 Ft)

Trail Length: 6 miles – it took us 3ish hours but we did spend a lot of time on the summit.

Trail Uses:  Hiker & Horses ( but no horses allowed on the Summit spur)

Degree of Difficulty:  Moderate

Bathrooms:  There are bathrooms at the visitors centers there was nothing near the trail head

Pets:  No this is Rocky Mountain National Park and no Dogs allowed

Deer Mountain trail sign

I am so sorry at how long I have been away.  I will have to catch you all up soon, I can tell you that I have had just a few breaks in hiking but have been mostly hiking every weekend.  I want to get out those new trials I did while away and then one big summary of some amazing days out on the trails between then and now.  First Deer Mountain!

Wow it has been a long time since I hiked this one, I almost forgot what it was like!  I did it the weekend after I had company in town so I wanted something that challenged me but was not too much, because when my company was here we had done 3 tough hikes in just 5 days.  I was wiped when we hit this trail.

This hike was exactly what I needed as it has great views all the way up of the mountains that make up Rocky Mountain National Park. But there was this weird haze in the air we hoped would burn off but only ended up getting worse.  We speculated that it was from that horrible fire in California this summer.

The trail head is right off Trail Ridge Road and there is literally a little bit of a wide shoulder for maybe 6 cars to park.  You can park along the road in some places near here, but get there early if you want a parking spot at any of them.  There are also shuttle parking lots at the various gates and you can take a shuttle to so many places in the park so you don’t have to worry about finding parking.

We got there around 7:30 and just barley nabbed a spot.

We got there around 7:30 and just barely nabbed a spot.

The trail starts out super wide and very well maintained, the whole trial was very well maintained and we even talked to a couple of Park rangers we passed while hiking.

Start of the trail

Start of the trail

First trail marker

After a decent climb, while the stellar views just started opening up all around us we got the Switchback part.  Sadly the haze in the air made it hard to get any really great pictures.  I actually gave up taking them because there was no depth but we stopped a lot just to ohhhhh and ahhhh.  It doesn’t take too long to start the switchbacks up the to flat before the summit.

The views were everywhere

The views were everywhere

Starting up the switchbacks

Starting up the switchbacks

Then towards the end of the switch backs

Then towards the end of the switch backs

There were a lot of switch backs on this one and it was a strange struggle that day.  I am not sure if it was the altitude or exhaustion from the few days before with my guests in town, but it took me time to get up this part.  I would not say it is particularly hard but that day for me it was.

Once we turned the corner of the last switchbacks we reached a nice flat that felt like it went on forever but was probably more like a quarter of mile maybe half a mile before the final summit climb.  The summit climb sign made us want to come back and do the rest of the trail back to Estes just to see what is was like.

The summit climb Summit climb conditions

It was just a short steep climb to the summit, and then WOW!  Such an amazing payoff so quickly!

The Summit

The Summit

I will tell you we hung up there as long as we could before more people started showing up.  I think we got a solid 25 minutes up there just to take it all in.  It was lovely.  The hike back down was crowded…. and it was just around 10AM.  I cannot imagine what kind of traffic this trail gets throughout every summer day, but I can tell you I was glad we got there early and had it mostly to ourselves.

If you ever find yourself in Rocky Mountain National Park and you want a great view payout without a ton of effort this is the hike for you.  Of course there are so many great trails in the park but I really liked how this one was both a nice work out with great payout.  There were views in every direction and of the almost the whole park. After the directions will the be the few goodish pictures I took while at the top.

Directions:    The Deer Ridge Junction Trailhead is located 3.05 miles west of the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station along Trail Ridge Road (Highway 36). The trailhead is located on the north side of the road at the Trail Ridge Road – Highway 34 split. There is no designated lot, but roadside parking is permitted. Parking is limited.

View of Estes Park from the Summit.

View of Estes Park from the Summit.

View looking south towards Long's Peak

View looking south towards Long’s Peak

The view West-ish

The view West-ish

Looking North was a little obstructed

Looking North was a little obstructed

Fav 1 Fav 2

Advertisements

TrailRidge Road Hike/Snowshoe RMNP, Estes Park CO hiked 4/5/14

12 Apr

1

There is a Facebook Page called Enjoy Estes Park and every Thursday they run a contest for an all expenses paid trip to Estes Park, free lodging, free meals, Free beer and wine, free snacks throughout the day, free rental of sporting goods and they even gave us money to spend in some of the stores in town.  They started doing it in October and it runs for 36 weekends through May.  They start every Thursday then pick someone by Saturday night for 2 weekends ahead.  2 weeks ago I won!  So this past weekend we had a fun weekend in Estes.  I wasn’t sure with all we had to do for free that we would get in time for hike or snowshoe but we did.

Saturday was crazy beautiful when we woke up at 6AM…. I was determined to get in a hike or snowshoe!  What was not so great… the headache and disconnected head I woke up with.  I will admit I still thought this was my crown work at this point since it had been hanging around all week at weird times.   I am not one to give into things like this when I have so much planned and like so many before me, I just pushed through…..

Driving into RMNP

Driving into RMNP

As we drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park ( after our free breakfast) I saw views I had never seen before, as I have reflected on this shock of awe it occurred to me that every time I have actually entered the park it has been cloudy, snowy or stormy.   I think if had seen the views I saw last Saturday I would have been in RMNP more frequently before now.  I have to be honest here, I didn’t want to leave….like EVER.

It took us almost an hour to get to the Trail Ridge Road parking lot and trail( Snowshoe details here) because we kept stopping to take pictures. I figured that we could hit this trail again and see what it looks like outside of a snow storm, assuming there were views.

When we pulled up to the parking area, I was still not feeling so hot and I seriously chalked it up to poor sleep and the crown.  So we climbed up on one side of the parking area to get this shot, I figured it was just exhaustion.

parking lot

We scouted out the trail and saw it was all straight ice and decided that we didn’t need to bring our snowshoes, but if I was honest with myself I knew I couldn’t carry the snowshoes  anyway.  We started hiking up the road and the views were amazing!

rounding the first corner up the road

rounding the first corner up the road

how the Road/trail looked

how the Road/trail looked

Views before the Snow

Views before the Snow

It was pretty much after this turn that I checked out….. that disconnected head thing that happens when you have a head cold, well I was there. The views were crazy amazing and I was loving them but I was also out of touch….

view

Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley

same view 2 weeks earlier

same view 2 weeks earlier

Looking forward

Looking forward

We walked for about a mile and then all the sudden the snow was deep, and us with no snowshoes… the good or bad of it was, I was completely oblivious and just kept following Aaron.  He was following other footprints so I didn’t care much about our direction and then the other foot prints were  gone … I still didn’t care much I just had my head down thinking-> put one foot in front of the other.

hmmmmmm snow

hmmmmmm snow

As we moved forward, I was fighting with myself the whole way thinking WTF this is cake why am I struggling> get over the stupid tooth thing already ….. while Aaron was moving forward on 2-5 feet of snow with no input from me.  He did awesome, as he always does, but about a quarter to half mile into the snow the tracks we and been following turned around while we kept going.

Looking Back

Looking Back

It was both cool and foggy as we went forward, I completely figured out the snowshoe trail I could not see the last time.  The hard route from Hidden Valley to Trail Ridge Road > Can you see it?

Hidden Valley to trail ridge road

Hidden Valley to trail ridge road

As we were moving through this last little bit I realized I was totally sick…. its not the tooth.

just us

At one point Aaron turned around and said what do you think, I just stared at him and said whatever…. he knew >I had the sick face…. so he said check the time we still have a lot of awards to get.  Sure enough it was 11 and we needed to turn around.  It was then that I realized I was totally sick. For the record it only took me 20 minutes more to voice it….

The drive out was both beautiful and painful….. I never wanted to leave, I was so excited about our prizes AND completely sick…..  We stopped at every awe point and took pictures, we went into town and celebrated our wins, we left early the next morning and I spent the next 36 hours in bed.

I had a crazy good time in Estes Park despite my illness, I loved seeing Trail Ridge Road without a storm, I loved driving through RMNP with moody weather and skies.   I loved going through town and gathering our prizes…. What I didn’t love  was, was being sick the whole time.  Either way we got some good pictures…..

heading out fav 1 fav 2 fav 3 fav 4 longs peak fav5 fav 6

fav 8

still pretending on the drive out with crazy beautiful views

fav 7

Great view…. pretending to not be sick

 

Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park( RMNP)- Estes Park CO- Snowshoed 3/22/14

28 Mar

DSCN1076

Starting Elevation:  somewhere in the mid 9000’s

Highest Elevation: A little over 10,000 Ft- our watch that gives us the elevation is no longer working so this is a guestimate.

Trail Uses: Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing Winter only trail as it is an actual road in summer.

Trail Length:  5.5 miles Round trip but this can grow and shrink based on conditions. We did a little over 6 miles, it took 3.5 hours.

Degree of Difficulty:  Easy to Moderate

Bathrooms: None at the road closure so hit one of the visitor centers just outside the park.

Pets: No pets allowed in RMNP

Fee:  Yes $20 per car a day OR $40 for annual pass with unlimited RMNP access – we have the pass

1

I have been trying to figure out the balance when it comes to snowshoeing, is more mileage better or steeper trails?  Since last week we did a steeper trail with low mileage that felt good and maybe a little too easy.  I decided this week would be better to up the mileage and keep the incline low, I was also secretly hoping we might get some magic timing again like last week and catch  the amazing views that Trail Ridge Road is supposed to have.   Once again the weather forecast was snowy…snowy the day before, through the night and all day Saturday and it truly was.

We were just outside of the Park when we came across 2 large groups of Elk.

elk Lots of elk

The roads were not great and the snow was pretty thick at times, so it was no surprise that when we pulled into the area cleared for parking at the road closure we were the only ones there.

Parking lot Start

Trail Ridge road is open through the summer and is closed in the winter months until the snow is no longer an obstacle.  It goes over the Continental Divide in RMNP and in the winter is used as a great way to snowshoe or cross-country ski with amazing views, wicked wind and a certain level of security in that it is impossible to get lost.   Since it was pretty obvious the snow had no intention of stopping, we were confident that there would be no views.  We just got our snowshoes on and started moving and at first it was decidedly….hard.  Not just because we were the first people out there in a while, but likely the altitude played a factor too.  Oh and maybe the fact I overdressed.

looking back after the first quarter mile

looking back after the first quarter-mile

I am always amazed when I do a trail for function then get transfixed by the unexpected beauty.  The snow made any views of the surrounding mountains impossible, occasionally we would catch hints of them but the snowy landscape itself was just lovely.  The bonus of this particular snow storm was that the wind wasn’t all that bad so no wicked wind to make us miserable.

It wasn’t too long before we got to the overlook near Hidden Valley which used to be a ski resort, in fact  my sister learned to ski there, but now it is all closed down and its own snowshoe/winter fun route.  You can make a difficult adventure loop by starting at either Trail Ridge Road OR Hidden valley then climb/descend to the other location.   I have to be honest, staring over the edge at Hidden Valley I have no idea how you do the loop.  Perhaps taking the road all the way around to that main run?  I didn’t get a good shot of it to even let you all hypothesize with me.

Enjoying a brief views of Hidden Valley

Enjoying a brief views of Hidden Valley

At this point on the road the snow was not very deep and we actually almost took off our snowshoes for fear of ruining the metal spikes on them.  When we turned the corner up ahead it was crazy deep again, so deep we could no longer go side by side.  We took turns breaking trail to help us keep some strength in reserve just in case we went further than we originally planned.

Looking up ahead to where the snow gets deep.

Looking up ahead to where the snow gets deep.

We went along the road for about 3 miles and had it all to ourselves the whole way.  We decided to turn around when we got to this sign, for the record the snow wasn’t this bad the whole way it was a just well-timed gust of wind.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Looking at our single track

Looking  back at our single track

Breaking trail

Breaking trail

All together we got a little over 6 miles from the snowshoe and maybe 600 feet of elevation gain.  Breaking trail was great exercise, after just 3 miles my legs were solidly tired, it was nice to turnaround and head back to the car.  We saw some people on the way back, I think we passed maybe  6 or 7 total the whole snowshoe, all of them taking advantage of the trail we broke.

I have to be honest, I cannot wait to get back to this trail and try it again with a clear sky, the few hints of mountains we saw through out our snowshoe looked amazing!  I would also like to go further than we made it last week.  We didn’t get a ton of pictures because the snow was so heavy I was worried about hurting my new Nikon.  After the directions will be a very few of our favorite pictures.

Directions: Taking 36/66 through Ester Park, at the 3rd light along main street there will be signs for the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and RMNP, turn left.  Once you cross into the park, stay straight then take this road for about 8 miles to the road closure sign.   You will pass the Hidden Valley snow park on your right before the road gets curvy( hairpin turns) and then you will be at the road closure.

being artsy

being artsy

Cool Tree

Cool Tree

Best View

Best View with a little moisture on the lens

Nymph, Dream & Emerald Lakes – RMNP – Estes CO, Snowshoed 3/15/14

21 Mar
Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake

Nymph Lake > Dream Lake > Emerald Lake

Starting Elevation: 9400 ft

Highest Elevation: 10,100 ft

Trail Uses: hiking, snowshoe, cross-country skiing, hike in ski out…. anything with skis….

Trail Length: Officially 3.8 miles, we walked around Emerald and Nymph lakes a lot so we got around 4.5 miles for the day… it took us 3 hours although we did spend 30 minutes at Emerald lake in awe.

Degree of Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Bathrooms: Yes in the parking lot

Pets: No- No pets allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park

Fees – Yes $20 per car a day OR $40 for annual pass with unlimited RMNP access – we have the pass

Looking back at Emerald Lake

Looking back at Emerald Lake

I have to tell you that I have been getting humbled by our snowshoes and how these shorter distances kinda kick my butt.  With that said I picked this easier snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park ( RMNP) in hopes that if I try something a little easier I won’t feel so defeated at the end.  It is short and the elevation gain is minimal.

As we were driving into the park, we were lucky enough to catch these Elk battling it out.

elk

We pulled into a huge parking lot that was quickly filling up at Bear Lake.  If this lot is full, they suggest parking at the Glacier Gorge parking lot and walk up from there.  I was impressed with how many people were out there given it was St. Paddy’s day weekend and the weather forecast was questionable.  The weather was supposed to be exactly like our first snowshoe at Mills Lake via Glacier Gorge, snowy with a lot of wind.  I had already made peace with the fact that I would not get any views just some experience and work on my leg strength with those snowshoes on. Getting out the car I was not surprised by our view.

parking lot view

Parking lot view

There are 2 options at this parking lot… well a lot more than 2 but for snowshoeing you had Bear lake, which is a 1 mile loop around Bear lake Or the 3 lakes we were going to that day; Nymph, Dream & Emerald. We took the path kinda up the middle and to the left of Bear Lake.  It is not far to Nymph lake, in fact maybe a half a mile and the path was hard packed we didn’t have our snowshoes on but carried them instead.  It was not super steep but we did climb up to the lake.  It was snowing even harder upon our arrival then when we started.

trail break 1 emerald lake sugn trail break 2

Trail Conditions to Nymph

Trail Conditions to Nymph

 

When we got there I realized I had left my directions in the car and so we started going the wrong way. I should have just looked for the hard packed trail but there was a large guided group there as well and it threw me off.  We went right and the snow felt lass hard here so I put my snowshoes on.  That’s when we saw everyone going left along the lake so we turned around and followed them up.  For the record I didn’t need my snowshoes for this portion either and really I could have gone without them until Emerald lake where I was actually out on the lake adventuring around.   It was kind of steep going up this section, I would say the most steep of the whole snowshoe and it was busy!

Nymph Lake

Nymph Lake

Views on the way to Dream Lake

Views on the way to Dream Lake

When we got to Dream Lake, I was once again confused by where to go.  There is a clear path off to the left but it must go up to other options, we decided to stay straight and cross over dream lake hoping to get to Emerald lake.  I was so consumed to see where everyone else was going that I failed to notice it was starting to clear up.  We thankfully crossed the path of another snowshoer who said we were on the right track for Emerald Lake and so we continued on.

Dream Lake Looking towards Emerald Lake

Dream Lake Looking towards Emerald Lake

Me on Dream Lake

Me on Dream Lake

It was not far to this last lake with some more climbing, a little over half a mile.  As we got a little higher, the sky lit up in the best blue while clouds moved around the peaks surrounding the lake.  It was amazing!  When we got to Emerald Lake Aaron put on his snowshoes while I ran out on to the lake to try to capture the views as best I could before we lost them again.  Honestly I could have stayed there longer it was so beautiful. The best part is we had it mostly to ourselves.

Trail Conditions going towards Emerald Lake

Trail Conditions going towards Emerald Lake

Skies opening up

Skies opening up

Almost to Emerald Lake

Almost to Emerald Lake

We spent about 30 minutes ohhhing and ahhing before heading back.   It was a slow start back because I kept turning around to enjoy the views before they were gone.  By the time we got back to Dream lake the clouds had moved back in, while the crowds were on the move to Emerald lake.  We passed so many people on the way down.

On Emerald Lake

On Emerald Lake

Overall it was a great snowshoe!  I would love to take visitors here so they could see the amazing beauty for themselves.  I  know I will be back in the summer, there is another lake to check out and so much to see, all off this parking lot.  I couldn’t believe how lucky we were in terms of our timing, it made me want to get back there as soon as I could!

Since the snowshoe was on the easier side, we got out on Sunday and did 7 miles at Deer Creek Canyon which is a muddy, snowy, icy mess right now.  It was a good workout.   After the directions will be some of my favorite pictures from the day.

However your week is going, find some time and get out there and hike!

Directions:  From Estes Park stay on 66/36 through town, at the 3rd light in town, turn left and follow the signs to the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station entrance into the park. There is a fee to enter the park through this entrance.
Shortly after passing through the Beaver Meadows fee station, turn left onto Bear Lake Road. Take Bear Lake Road until it dead-ends into the Bear Lake Trailhead area. If parking is unavailable at Bear Lake, it is possible to park at the Glacier Basin area and take a shuttle to Bear Lake.

Me on the way backfav1

 

One side of the lke Ice falls views on the way  down Beautiful

We caught this one on the drive out of the park

We caught this one on the drive out of the park

Mills Lake via Galcier Gorge RMNP Snowshoed 2/8/14

12 Feb
Mills Lake is just over there... trust me

Mills Lake is just over there… trust me

I know I usually start with all the details of a new hike but this snowshoe was not what I expected, instead it was everything I could have hoped for and more.  Because of that I have no hard facts and no path to tell you to follow but I can tell you I am totally in love with snow shoeing and even purchased some snowshoes this week….just waiting for them to arrive.

these signs are usually about chest high in the summer. We are almost walking on it

these signs are usually about chest high in the summer. We are almost walking on it

On the way up we were hardly on a path… we broke our own trail and eventually made our way up to Mills Lake in Glacier Gorge.  The weather was terrible, heavy snow and the wind just got worse the higher up we climbed but I still had an amazing time! The best part about the snowshoe was the guides and their comfort with the area, with that knowledge they said we could pretty much explore where ever we wanted and let me tell you it got pretty creative.  If I was honest with myself,  I was ok with this approach  because the weather was so bad that there were no views to see anyway, but on a nice day this might have been a little bit of a bummer as I have read that this trail has amazing views!

The view as we went off the winter trail

The view as we went off the winter trail

I think originally the plan had been to sort of follow the summer trail to Mills Lake, we wove in and out of huge drifts of snow and along a creek bed until we eventually came to the Alberta Falls, which were of course covered in lots of snow.

looking back

Once we got past the falls we crossed over the creek a few times until one of our group broke through the ice and soaked her foot.  This wouldn’t have been a big deal except she had on gym shoes…. yep she wore gym shoes to snowshoe in even after the email and phone call the day before said how important waterproof boots were.   To make it worse, for whatever reason she insisted on breaking trail… in gym shoes and the guides were not going to fight with her so they gave general directions and told her to just have fun with it.   Needless to say after they got her out of the creek, into dry socks and caught back up with the rest of us, we had gone pretty far afield of the summer route.

Alberta Falls

Alberta Falls Somewhere over there

Again not a problem, as they just took the lead and got us back on track, we did everything you could hope to do in snowshoes during this correction path and it was so fun.  We climbed up steep inclines, through thick trees and around massive boulders, I fell a lot but it wasn’t a big deal because it was in like 6 feet of snow so no injuries!

Leaving Tracks

Leaving Tracks

view 2 view 3

As we got closer to the lake, the wind and snow really picked up intensity it was pretty much like walking in a blizzard.  One of the guides knew of a great spot for the fondue across the lake… like walking across it…. so we snowshoed across Mills lake and had a lovely fondue out of the wind while watching it whip around the lake with a crazy amount of snow.  Did I mention it wasn’t supposed to really snow at all on Saturday, maybe an inch at most?  On Monday I read the park itself got around 35 inches of snow, most of that was on Saturday.

These guides were quick in getting the fondue together, it was simple but delicious and ready in like 5 minutes.  We had been snowshoeing for 4 hours before the fondue and everyone was spent but exhilarated.   When we had all had our fill, they asked us if we wanted to go straight down or take the longer way down.  If it had been different weather I know I would have gone longer but it was wicked windy and the snow was very heavy at this point, as a group we agreed fastest way down was best.  We took the winter route back down which gave me great comfort in terms of our first solo snowshoes that we certainly have in our future. How awesome is it that the guides were completely ready to take us out for as long as we wanted? An hour later we were back at our cars and heading home.

On the way back

On the way back

on the way back view 4

I will tell you the weather could have made this a miserable experience but the guides were so great, laid back and engaging, it kept everyone’s attitude happy and fun.

Here are the details behind the trip,  this was a groupon that I got for a day long guided snowshoe with fondue and cider lunch.  It included the snowshoes and poles all for $98, the additional cost was  tipping the guides and the $20 fee daily car fee to get into Rocky Mountain National Park (OR you can pay $40 for annual pass to the park,  I bought the pass,) I can see us spending a lot of time in Rocky Mountain National Park this year so it was a good investment!  Normally the Day long guided snowshoe with fondue and cider is $399 per person.

It was run through Apex Ex , they do all sorts of Mountain activities and adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I was very leery of how it may turn out as I always am a little fearful of groupons, but I cannot convey strongly enough how truly awesome our guides were.  I don’t know how many of you have a chance to take advantage of something like this but if you are here in Colorado and want to do it , request Tyler and Mike they made it a perfect trip.

I cannot wait until our next snowshoe adventure, I wish those snowshoes would show up quick!

Cow Creek Trails Via Gem Lake, Estes Park CO Hiked 11/16/13

28 Nov

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gem Lake Trail> Cow Creek TrailHead

Starting Elevation:  7882 Ft

Highest elevation: 8830 Ft

Trail Length:  Officially we did 9.2 miles around trip, my Fitbit said we did close to 11 miles ( it took us approximately 5.5 hours)

Trail Uses:  Hiker only

Degree of difficulty:  I consider Gem Lake Moderate, after the floods I think there are many more strenuous parts. If you are going to Cow Creek I think difficult would make sense with all the ups and downs and distance.

Bathrooms: Yes at the trailhead parking lot

Pets: No Dogs allowed as this is all Rocky Mountain National Park

VIews on the way to Cow Creek

VIews on the way to Cow Creek

It had been just over 2 months since those devastating floods hit so much of our front range and no where was harder hit then Lyons as well as the most of the ways in to Estes Park.   I have been reading about the recovery and the how desperate things are in those hard hit communities for small businesses.  The amazing part is how quickly CDOT has managed to repair so many major arteries helping to get tourism back as quickly as possible, but for some businesses it is already too late.  That is why on this particular weekend I searched long and hard for a hike near both Estes Park and Lyons so that we could spend some money in each town trying to help out where we could.  What I didn’t expect was how hard it would be to find a trail we could get too that hadn’t been obliterated in parts or in total. Finally at 10:30 the Friday night before I saw that the Gem Lake/Lumpy Ridge Trail system was intact and not just the trail but the roads to get there was all open too.

Map of trail system

Map of trail system

I had wanted the trail to be more challenging but I also knew that I had a girls hike on Sunday so it was worth it just to get up there and spend some money in those towns.

The weather forecast wasn’t that great either, we had a small window before a nice snow storm hit Estes Park and a huge wind warning went into effect.  We maybe had until 2 when we left our house.  When we got to the trailhead it was already snowing and the wind was whipping up pretty good at 8AM.  But it was also so beautiful being both sunny and snowing with almost no cars in the parking lot – we took off.

Wind and storm coming in early

Wind and storm coming in early

The trail has taken quite a bit of damage from the floods but was still hike-able, although RMNP had put up “hike at your own risk” signs at the beginning.  We flew up the Gem Lake trail, when we got to the lake itself the wind was so hard it pulling off drops of water off the lake, turning it to ice which was pelting us as we walked by.  It was so fun to watch, not so great to walk through.  We went right past the lake to the next section of trail starting our long journey down to Cow Creek , what we didn’t expect was how flipping cold that wind would make everything.  I had a first on this hike…. I actually took off my pants on the hike to put on long underwear, thank goodness we didn’t see any traffic ….because that would have been quite a show.  It was crazy insane cold  taking off my pants but I can tell you it saved me for the rest of the hike.

Trail signage just past Gem Lake

Trail signage just past Gem Lake

One more trail break before Cow Creek

One more trail break before Cow Creek

After putting on those extra layers on, we started moving at a good pace but steadily down with a few small ups.  Having never done this part of the trail before, I can’t say for sure but it seemed like there was some damage from the floods it was still easily hike-able with little worry about a lot of risk. We did 2.8 miles out to the Cow Creek trailhead and then headed back.  I imagine the views on the way to Cow Creek are usually pretty astounding, but they were mostly obscured by the storm moving towards us.   Even so it was amazing to behold.

trail sign to cow lake trail on the back end OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Climbing back up to Gem Lake was beautiful and getting back to the lake was interesting in that the wind was twice as bad as it was a few hours before.  Once we pushed back through the wind, we hung out in the shelter of trees and rocks for a few minutes just to marvel at ferocity if the wind.

Snow blowing at Gem Lake

Snow blowing at Gem Lake

On the way down from Gem Lake we saw a lot more traffic but nothing like there is on a good day.  Upon finishing the hike, we quickly drove over to Estes Park and hit a few stores to spend as much as we could afford.  Those owners were crazy appreciative.

Driving back, I was able to be the passenger and take in the damage from the floods.  It was heartbreaking, I don ‘t know how all those people are coping and moving forward.  There were pieces of route 36 on the other side of the St.Vrain Creek, so much debris or trees with guard rails wrapped around them….. it was weird and sad and hopeful.

I don’t know if you ever find yourself close to these communities, but if you do please spend some money and help out these small businesses.  They are hanging on by threads and struggling to make it through this mess.  I caught a few pictures of the damage and a few favorites…….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Me at Gem Lake on the way back… Man those winds are cold!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Finch Lake – Rocky Mountain National Park – Allenspark trailhead, Allenspark CO 8/3/13

7 Aug

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Finch Lake trail

Starting Elevation: 8526Ft

Highest Elevation: 10,165 ( Total Elevation gain around 1900Ft)

Trail Length:  Officially 8.2 miles but we wandered around the lake a lot so we ended up with 9 miles total, it took us approx. 4 hours total

Trail Uses:  Hiker only

Degree of difficulty: Moderate

Bathrooms: None

Pets:  Not allowed, as this is all in Rocky Mountain National Park

Fees: None at this trail head location(one of the reasons I chose it)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I was looking for a hike to hit this weekend, I needed something with some views, around 10K at its highest point and 8-9 miles in length.  I had not yet really dug into my Lakes Hiking book from Colorado Mountain Club and this was a great opportunity to see what it had to offer.   Finch Lake did not disappoint and surprisingly, for none of the reason I initially chose it.

Allenspark Trailhead Parking lot

I was honestly surprised at how hard my hikes had been the week before, I mean I knew it always takes me a minute to re-acclimate when I travel back to sea level but I thought with all I had accomplished so far I would bounce back more quickly.  The blister situation had improved over the course of the week prior but were still a significant issue.  I was pretty depressed about the fact that we were once again starting low to work our way back up to another 14er after finally climbing our fist one just a month earlier.  I manged to get over myself pretty quickly because the fact is, these mountains will be around much longer then I will, but if I don’t take care of me now I won’t get to see as much of them as they invitingly offer up to me each week.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I got up insanely early Saturday, 4AM, because the weather forecast said that rain chances would increase even earlier then usual, around 11AM, and I wanted to make sure we got to the lake and were well on our return before any hit.  We started hiking at 7AM and while there were a few cars already in the parking lot, we only crossed paths with a few other hikers almost the whole way to the lake.

First Trail Marker

First Trail Marker

Trail Conditions for the 1st .8 miles

Trail Conditions for the 1st .8 miles

The first mile is pretty much through dense forest, in fact maybe the most dense forest I have seen since I started hiking in Colorado.  It was like hiking through a Grimm fairytale.  We met our first trail break at a little under a mile in and stayed left, the trail is really well marked so we had no problems following it correctly to our final destination. As we climbed a little out of the heavy denseness, the views started to show themselves, it was all Mt. Meeker & Long’s Peak on our right just getting better and better as we continued on.

Next trailhead

Trail Conditions for the next mile probably the steepest part of the hike

Trail Conditions for the next mile probably the steepest part of the hike

The views are starting out awesome

The views are starting out awesome

At the next trail break, we took advantage of a little outcropping to get some good pictures of the view, we were 2.2 miles away from the lake.  While we were snapping away, another hiker moved on down the trail we had been on.  At the time we didn’t think much about it, but I have to tell you when we passed him, I got the most creeped out I have ever been on a hike.  There was not really anything outwardly odd about him but what he was putting off just wasn’t right.  I used to be a victim advocate for victims of violent crime and I always listen to my gift of fear, the next 1.5 miles were a blur for me as we huffed and puffed to get as far away from him, as quickly as we could.  At one point I was considering what my options for protection were if attacked.  What changed at mile 1.5 you may wonder….. trail maintenance, there were 3 National Park workers improving the trail.  It was an immediate relief and we never saw the hiker again.

Last Trail break before Finch lake

Last Trail break before Finch lake

Trail Conditions through the burn scar

Trail Conditions through the burn scar

Cool Water crossing before we started down to the lake

Cool Water crossing before we started down to the lake

Yay Trail Maintenance

Yay Trail Maintenance

Already fixed trail

Already fixed trail

As we got closer to the lake, we saw the option to carry on to Pear lake another 2.2 miles ahead.

At Finch Lake

Trail conditions by Finch Lake

Trail conditions by Finch Lake

Since this wasn’t an option for us today, we explored the area around the lake.  It as incredibly marshy and at first the bugs were not really aware of us but then I got one quick bite and that little monster must have rang a dinner bell because I was swarmed and attacked mercilessly. I actually squealed as I ran away from my marshy perch, barely grabbing my pack en route.

fav 4 fav 5

We started seeing more people around the lake coming and going up to either the camp sites or Pear Lake but from what I have read, this is a hidden gem in RMNP and so gets much less traffic then all the other lakes in the park.  It’s true, while we did see an increase in traffic after 9AM, it was one of the lighter trafficked hikes we have done lately.  Plus the no fee entrance was a huge bonus!

We turned around and headed back the way we came.  It was like a brand new trail now that there were more people out an about and we were not trying to get away from  someone.  The surrounding mountains  looked even more beautiful ( if that is possible) on the way back and something had shifted in the atmosphere so that Long’s Peak, Mt. Meeker and their neighbors looked extra close, like we could reach out and touch them close.  I LOVE when that happens.

Fav 11 fav 10

We ended up taking almost as long to get back because we stopped a lot to take pictures of all we missed on our rush through mile 1.8-3.5.  We finished up the last little bit as it started to thunder, our timing was almost perfect as the rain started up on our way to Oskar Blues Grill & Brew for our little victory dance.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is a beautiful hike and one I know we will likely do again soon so we can see Pear lake.  I also think we are going to start dipping our toes into backpacking and this looks like a perfect trail to test our resolve on.   One of the best things was that we were in Rocky Mountain National Park the whole time without all the RMNP crowds or the fee to get to a trail head and it was breathtakingly beautiful!  As always, my favorite pictures after the directions.

Directions:  From Hwy 66 west into Lyons, At the Y intersection in Lyons, turn left on Highway 7 toward Allenspark. About 18.5 miles turn left on Business Route 7/Allenspark. (Don’t take the first Business Route 7 into Ferncliffe.) 0.1 of a mile, turn right on County Road 90 (just before the post office). Travel 1.5 miles to a fork in the road. (There are several, but stay on the main road) At 1.5 miles, take the right fork, travel 0.1 of a mile to the trailhead on your right. There is a sign that says “Allenspark Trailhead.”

Copeland from teh scarOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA fav9 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA fav 3