Tag Archives: Longs Peak

Spruce Mountain Trail, Larkspur CO (Repeater) 9/26/13

10 Oct
View at the top

View at the top

A couple of weeks ago I had the best visitor in town….my sister!  While we were planning her visit, she let me know she wanted to see more of Colorado and to see it the way I have been seeing it, by hiking.   We only had 5 days to visit and hike, so like a crazy person I planned aggressively, 4 hikes in those 5 days.  The day she landed I picked her up fed her and drove her right to the trailhead here for a quick acclimatizing hike.

Spruce Mountain Trail (hike details here) is one of those good an easy hikes to take flatlanders to first.  A solid 5.5 miles with a little bit of elevation gain with amazing views all up and down the front range.

When we pulled up and started getting ready to hike I noticed these 2 school buses slowing down at the entrance to the parking lot, for a second I thought maybe it was just dropping off kids after school but it was noon on a Thursday.  Sure enough both buses unloaded at the parking lot entrance for a hike….our hike …….. right then.  And then they were moving right up the trail ahead of us.  Hiking with 100-ish kids seemed like it would be…..crowded.

It was actually not that bad, we needed to move more slowly at first anyway plus we got to talk to some of the teachers.  The kids were finishing up their week of outdoor education and this hike was like their graduation.  It made me wish I had grown up in Colorado just so I could have outdoor education as part of my school curriculum.  Eventually they stopped and had lunch, when we walked past them they all cheered ….. it was kinda cool, cute and encouraging.  What a great way to start our week of hiking, with our own cheering section helping us ring in our first hike.

It. Was. Awesome!!!!!

Outside of our fabulous hiking buddies, the day was beautiful and with some wind – perfect.  We could see a lot of trail  damage from all the flooding the week before, I mean the trail was still in good shape but there were huge crevices all over the place.   We had great views of Pikes Peak and the front range but Long’s peak was hard to see because of the brown cloud that tends to sit over the front range.  We could sort of see it but not capture it in a picture.

Mary did awesome and we kicked the trail’s butt, finishing in just 2 hours, an hour less than I had planned.   Better yet, she loved the trail,  the whole time oooohhhiiiinnnngggg and aaaahhhhiiiinnnngggg.  It made the hike even more special for me!  There is something about getting to share my love of Colorado with the most important people in my life this way.  Hiking Rocks!

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

7 Aug

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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St. Vrain Mountain Trail, Allens Park CO 6/15/13 – Part 2

20 Jun
Southern view from the summit

Southern view from the summit

Check out part 1 here

When we finally got to the top of St. Vrain mountain, the views were really breath-taking and if the wind hadn’t been so bad we would have spent a lot more time up there.  We knew there was a chance of a storm rolling in so we kept a close eye on the clouds moving our way as the wind actually picked up in intensity.  At one point I seriously thought I was going to get blown over.

Just before I was almost blown over.

Just before I was almost blown over.

We took just 20 minutes of resting at the top and immediately started down.  If I was worried when I was climbing up the summit, going down I was incredibly nervous with how steep it was especially after falling the weekend before on the hike down off of Twin sisters.  Aaron told me to just take my time and follow him as much as I could.  We were also kind of following the couple who was in the wind shelter with us, they mentioned that following the border posts was supposed to be the easiest way down.  We were all of the mind that going down a slightly different way then how we went up might be a better idea and at first it was.

Me going down slowly.

Me going down slowly.

At least the views on the way down were beautiful

At least the views on the way down were beautiful

But we wanted to get around the snow field at the base of the summit climb and from up top it looked possible so we started heading right while they went left.  It took me longer to get down from the summit then it did to go up, for like the first time ever.  When we finally got to the bottom I was thrilled when we saw the trail that goes all the way past the mountain onto other trails and eventually the Continental Divide Trail, it was way south of the where we had turned up the mountain.  As we tried to get around the snow, trees and bushes we were moving downward and further down then we expected.  We weren’t getting any closer to our route down and the snow field was worse in this direction, ie the snow was deeper then we were tall.  We decided that the smart thing to was to get to a trail entrance of the snow field and try to get across it safely to get back on trail.  Neither one of us said anything to the other, but we knew that if one us went through the snow here there wasn’t much we would be able to do to get out or help the other because it was so deep at this part of the crossing.  Needless to say we didn’t take out a camera to capture it all.  We moved quickly and as lightly as we could, in short order we were back on trail.

Now things were changing very quickly, the dark clouds were rolling in fast over Long’s Peak, Mount Meeker, Lady Washington and building in over us while the sun was baking us.  Suddenly Aaron started to slow down and I couldn’t figure out why when he tested his blood, he was pretty low with insulin on board.  This was not a good time to stop and deal with it but we really had no choice, so in between he sugar feeding frenzy I got these pictures of the storm coming in.

Storm starting over Long's Peak

Storm starting over Long’s Peak

The sky closer to us still showing some sun.

The sky closer to us still showing some sun.

He was such a trooper and started moving as soon as he could so we could try to get off the pass before the storm started while I looked for places we could take shelter or at least not be the highest point on the pass.  I was pretty sure we were going to get soaked.  Surprisingly the storm completely passed us by.

We were both spent now 6.5 hours into the hike with more than halfway down still to get through.  We moved slowly but did keep moving, we passed about 6 or 7 groups of hikers just starting up and I bet they were treated to a beautiful sunset.  The snow fields we crossed earlier were melting and much harder to get through the runoff deeper.  Despite all that we were insanely proud of what we had accomplished because it proved to us both that we had come so far from last summer and told us we could do so much more!

There are those moments on the way down where you see stuff you don’t know how you could have missed on the way up, like this:

Nature's flower pot

Nature’s flower pot

And the bottom part of the trail was a bloom with these flowers:

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We were probably about half a mile from the end when came across the final group of hikers we would see.  They casually asked if we had made it to the top we were excited to say yes and then she said so how long did it take you like 2.5 hours, because I have done this before, that’s how long it took me…. I was a little crestfallen when I answered, oh um we started at 8AM ( it was 4PM ) I started making all these excuses as to why we took so long but stopped, who cares how long it took us, we finished and that is all that matters.   We walked up to the parking lot and saw our wind shelter buddies just getting into their car, it lifted our spirits because they needed 8 hours too and were like 15 years younger than us.

Things you should keep in mind when you do this trail:

1. It takes a long time to complete and if you start the same time we did you will be in the direct sun as you climb from the East to the West.  Then when you come back down from the West to the East, the sun is still beating on you be liberal with the sun block and wear a hat.  My sunburned scalp is mad at me.

2. Bring lots of water as we ran out of our 100 ounces just as we walked up to our car. We also always have a water filtration system with us just in case, this is exactly the kind of hike we carry it for.  Plus we always have more water in our car.

3. Brings lots of fuel to keep you going over the course of the whole hike,  we were moving for almost 8 hours straight that is a crazy amount of energy to expend and you need to be able to keep going.

4. know the weather and watch the sky, you do not want to be on the mountain or the pass when weather changes.

Even if the Mountain itself looks too daunting do this hike to the pass, that alone is worth it.  You don’t get the amazing 360 views you can from the top but pass views are spectacular on their own.  Here are the rest of my favorite pictures, I hope one day you find yourself able to try this hike it will be worth it.

South facing view at the summit

South facing view at the summit

Southwest view from the summit

Southwest view from the summit

West view

West view

More West view

More West view

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Northwest View from the wind shelter

Northwest View from the wind shelter

Meadow mountain and Twin Sisters from the Summit

Meadow mountain and Twin Sisters from the Summit

The view to the East

The view to the East

Twin Sisters Trail, Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park *Repeater* 6/8/13

11 Jun

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Last week when I was hiking with my girlfriends, we were admiring Twin Sisters (Hike details here) at all of our different amazing view spots.  I think it took me 3 looks to realize that there was not all that much snow showing at the summit and by the end of that hike I knew this was where we were going to hike next.  It was a good elevation gain, has amazing views and got us above 11,000 feet.

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When we arrived at the trail head at 7:30 AM, other hikers were pulling up at a steady pace and we could tell it was going to be a crowded day on the hike.  The summit isn’t all that huge either on the West sister and the East sister we never even attempted it last time, so we had no idea what that might look like.  We decided to go with a slow and steady pace on the way up mostly to adjust to altitude.

The weather was perfect, it was sunny but with clouds constantly moving across the sky making each glimpse of Longs peak different and more magnificent.  As we got closer to the tree line the wind started to really pick up, this is one of those peaks that is always windy and some of the hikers we passed as they were descending said it was hit or miss at the top on if the wind would be bad or not.  Most of the snow was gone but we hit a few patches mostly above the tree line.

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As we got to the saddle between the 2 sisters, the wind really picked up…like A LOT.  Last time we came here we didn’t even try the East sister, which is the true summit, this time Aaron really wanted to try it and so we went towards it.  Our timing was almost perfect as 6 people were coming down while we started going up this meant that we had it all to ourselves.  This East Summit requires some bouldering and the use of your hands as you find the best path up for you.  There is no defined path but most people end up going the same way up just by finding the easiest rocks to crawl over.

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When we got to the top of the East Sister, the wind was really pushing us around strong and Aaron is uncomfortable with heights when there is no wind.  So while I could have walked around up there, I didn’t because I knew he would probably have a heart attack.  I took a couple of pictures and then followed him down, as we were climbing the clouds started to come around the mountainside and we were literally in the clouds.

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The view of the West Summit from the East Summit.

The view of the West Sister from the East Sister.

The view east from the summit of the East Sister

The view east from the summit of the East Sister

View of Longs Peak from the East Summit

View of Longs Peak from the East Sister

Aaron climbing down the East Summit.

Aaron climbing down the East Sister.

We got down from the East sister and almost ran over to the West Sister so that we could catch the clouds coming in from the East and around the mountain, it was so cool looking.

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The Summit was CROWDED and more people were coming up all the time.  Fortunately the wind was also driving a lot of people right back down, we got some great pictures as the clouds were zooming across the sky and mountains.

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We made great time down the mountain and just as we were about a mile from being done, I fell….hard.  I squeaked and got all twisted in my poles trying to protect my head, I even managed to break one of my trekking poles.  It turned out not to be a big deal since I couldn’t close my left hand around it anyway and I could only use one pole the rest of the way regardless.

I was doing an assessment of my injuries and figured the hand was the worst one, as soon as we got to the car I grabbed an ice pack and started icing it took some Advil and figured we could still do a second hike on Sunday.  The one I had picked was easy so why not…..turns out my hand wasn’t the problem but my whole right side of my body( on which I landed) ignited with pain at about 2AM.  Not one for suffering in silence, I woke up Aaron to tell him the hike was off, I am such a good wife…..

Sunday all I did was lay around feeling sorry for myself as the weather was perfect so views of our second hike would have been spectacular.  Outside of a few bruises ( including my pride),  I am feeling pretty good today but Sunday and Monday were good days of healing.  I should be back to hiking this weekend and we are planning on trying 2 hikes again.

St. Vrain Mountain Epic Fail- Hall Ranch Park To the Rescue 5/18/13

24 May

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Last week was a perfect week here in Denver, very warm and sunny with the mountains taunting us all week with their insane beauty.  We really wanted to climb up high and see it for ourselves up close, I know it was our naiveté but we made the decision to try another high hike above 10,000 feet and one that was on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park which got twice as much snow as the Continental Divide.  I have been wanting to hike St. Vrain Mountain since last fall and by the time I had the confidence to even think about trying it, winter had settled in.   This was the hike we decided to try on Saturday.  We talked about it all week and so were extra anxious to get started but nervous we wouldn’t get very far.

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We were right to be nervous, it took us almost 2 hours to go just 1.2 miles and the last time I post-holed it was pretty bad, up to my hips and it took me like 20 minutes to get out…. What we did see was amazingly beautiful and just got us excited for when we could actually finish it.  In that 20 minutes of digging me out, we decided that the only way to salvage the day was to get down as quickly as we could and hit Hall Ranch (Hike Details here) which we had passed on the way up to this hike.

Here is the little bit we caught of what we could see of this trail:

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We rushed to the Hall Ranch trailhead deciding to just do as much of the Nighthawk trial as we could and we were kind of excited because the first time we were here it was in the middle of a snow storm so all of our promised views were obscured.

We started at noon and finished at 3:30, the trail had a surprisingly low volume of other hikers.  Which was nice in that it allowed us to cruise up the trail, I think this is the fastest we have ever hiked.  The wild flowers were amazing and the weather was perfect in that is was cool little cloudy but warm enough for us to wear shorts and short-sleeved shirts!

When we got to the top this time the views of Longs Peak, Mt. Meeker & Rocky Mountain National Park were really amazing.  Actually the views all around were amazing.  South, East and North all had different stunning views to offer more than I had hoped for to be honest.

Best view at the top

Best view at the top

Longs Peak & Meeker

Longs Peak & Meeker

In the end we made it exactly to the trail break of NightHawk ( 4.7 miles) and then turned around and headed back.   The whole day of hiking gave us a total hiking of 12 miles with 2300 total feet of elevation gain it was sadly 7 hours of hiking with a 30 minute gap to drive from one trail head to the other.  At first it was a little disappointing to have to turnaround on the first trail, but if I think about where I was 2 years ago or even last year, I never would have made it through one of these trails let alone stopping one after 3.5 hours only to do another one for 3.5 hours.  It felt pretty awesome!

Eastward view about halfway back down

Eastward view about halfway back down

We decided it was a pretty huge win and so celebrated with lunch/dinner at Oskar Blues Grill & Brew.

Here are some of our favorite pictures from the hike!

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Gem Lake -Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes CO 3/6/13 ( Spring Break Hike #2)

16 Mar
Gem Lake

Gem Lake

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.

Fees: None

Here we are at the parking lot ready to start the hike to Gem Lake

Here we are at the parking lot ready to start the hike to Gem Lake

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….

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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.

Gem Lake trailheadTrail 1

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.

Trail 2A L K at view

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:

The trail as it leveled out and before the boot

The trail as it leveled out and before the boot

Paul Bunyans Boot

Paul Bunyans Boot and Lauren

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.

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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.

Trail conditions to the lake

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.

Gem Lake

Gem Lake

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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.

Directions: 

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.

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Fun with perspective and Lauren

Fun with perspective and Lauren

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

23 Sep

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

Directions:

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.