Tag Archives: Gem Lake

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

28 Nov


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…….


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


Gem Lake, Estes Park CO; a repeater & the first Girlfriend hike – 6/2/13

5 Jun
Gem Lake

Gem Lake

One of the best parts of moving to Colorado so far has been the amazing friends I have made!  These friends have been a great source of motivation, information and comfort for me.  Because of them I seen such beautiful parts of the state that I may never have adventured too if not for their advice!

Julie was patient and nice enough to take me on one of my first hikes here, one I later used to help me get in some sort of better shape to try hard harder hikes, Deer Creek Canyon ( hike details here).  When I think back to that hike with her, I grimace at what she had to put up with from me and with such good grace!  She has been so encouraging in my pursuit of hiking to healthy and everything I pursue for that matter, not to mention just a great friend to bounce hike ideas off of!


Karin knows so much about Colorado in general it is staggering, she gave me my second go to hike in the beginning of this journey at White Ranch Park( hike details here)  with the Rawhide trail.  At the time I first started doing it, I thought she considers this easy… note to self never hike with Karin!  But as I have learned to discover, people who live here a long time know what is really hard and what is easy.  She was right, it is now an easy hike for me but 53+ pounds ago, not so much.  She is also my biggest cheerleader every day as I try to live a healthier more active life, she is always bragging on my weight loss to anyone who mentions I look great while she is around.  She helps me stay on track when ever I need a little lift to keep on going.  Everyone needs a Karin in their life….but you can’t have mine!

Karin n view

On this particular hike we were missing our third partner in crime, Carrie, who will be joining us for future hikes but she has been equally important to me and our move here.  She took me out all over the place to do all sorts of different fun Colorado things, introduced me to so many wonderful people and all while laughing and having a  great time! I often remind her that she is the reason I stayed in Colorado and I am thankful every day she helped me through those hard transition times, among other things!!

They have all been extra supportive of my hiking and have actually started asking for my advice on which ones to try.  I was so excited that I begged them to come hike with me so this past Sunday I got to show them a trail they have never tried before.

I took Julie & Karin to Gem Lake (hike details here).  I love this hike because it is the perfect hike to plant the seed of “doing more hikes” with.  It isn’t too long, has amazing views, and it does have a decent climb so it is hard work but the payoff is so worth it!  The day was perfect in terms of weather, close to 70 degrees, sunny and dry which made the sky the best color blue while the clouds were the whitest white!

trail 12

The only down side to the day is that the trail was very crowded, which made pictures a little more challenging and finding a nice spot to grab a snack at the top was harder to come by.

I need to rename this hike as the persuasion hike, because I think it helps in convincing people that Colorado and hiking are awesome!   In fact during our hike on Sunday, it was easy to suggest that we try to get together and do a girl’s hike once a month!  It was a great day with wonderful Ladies!  Now once a month I will share with you our friends hike!  I hope you like the extra hikes!  Now for some favorite pictures.

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