Friday, August 19, 2016

Explore Rocky Mountain NP’s scenic lakes

Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak, the highest points in Rocky Mountain National
Park, rise above scenic Lily Lake. NPS photo.
Multiple lakes can be found even at Rocky Mountain National Park’s high elevations. Often surrounded by fragrant evergreens with a rising peak reflecting off the crystal blue water, all are beautiful sights to visit.

Many of the Colorado park’s most scenic lakes can be reached via a hike.

Wild Basin Area
Lily Lake – An extremely easy lake to reach, the trailhead starts at the lake off of Colo. Hwy. 7 south of Estes Park. The 0.8-mile wheelchair accessible-trail circles the lake.
Ouzel Lake – The remote lake fills a low spot in a marshy area. From the Wild Basin Trailhead, head west on the trail then go southeast on Thunder Lake Trail then west on Bluebird Trail and lastly south on the spur to the lake for a 10.2-mile round trip.
Thunder Lake – The lake sits below the timber line and is excellent for fishing. Take the same route as for Ouzel Lake except don’t turn onto Bluebird Trail for a 13.2-miles round trip journey.
Sandbeach Lake – As the lake’s name implies, a sandy beach actually sits on the edge of this lake, a rarity for the mountains. From the Sandbeach Trailhead, take the Sandbeach Lake Trail for a 8.8-miles round trip hike.

Bear Lake area
Sprague Lake – Easy to reach, Sprague is a Rocky Mountain classic with trees reflecting off the surface while a mountain range rises behind it. Take Bear Lake Road west then Sprague Lake Road south; from the parking lot, the 0.9-mile trail circles the lake.
Nymph, Dream and Emerald lakes – All three lakes in Tyndall Gorge can be visited on a 3.6-mile round trip. From the Bear Lake Trailhead, head south from Bear Lake to the Emerald Lake Trail.
Lake Hiayaha – Large boulders surround the lake, which sits at the base of Chaos Canyon. Follow the route to Nymph Lake and once past it go left/south on the Glacier Gorge Trail for a 3.9-mile round trip.

Glacier Gorge Trailhead
The Loch, Lake of Glass and Sky Pond – These three lakes contain populations of hybrid cutthroats (Lake of Glass) and brook trout (Sky Pond). The route runs 5.4-miles round trip from the trailhead on Bear Lake Road.
Mills Lake – This lake can be reached via the Glacier Gorge Trail for a 5.3-mile round trip hike. The lake is filled with rainbow and brook trout.
Black Lake – Past Mills Lake, the Glacier Trail ends at boulder-strewn Black Lake and Ribbon Falls just before it. Brook trout thrive in the lake, which is a 9.6-miles round trip walk.

Fern Lake Trailhead
Spruce Lake – Take the Fern Lake Trail into the forest then turn onto Spruce Lake Trail for a 9.1-mile round trip hike. Primitive unofficial paths lead from it upstream to a pond then Loomis Lake.
Fern Lake – The alpine lake feeds Big Thompson River via Fern Creek, which includes Marguerite Falls. Take the Fern Lake Trail past all three to the lake for a 7.7-miles round trip journey.
Odessa Lake – Continue on the Fern Lake Trail past Fern Lake (9.2 miles round trip) to this waterbody in Tourmaline Gorge. The lake contains rainbow and brook trout.

Lumpy Ridge Trailhead
Gem Lake – The small lake sitting next to a wall of granite is past the Estes Park Overlook. Take stem trail from the trailhead and then the Gem Lake Trail north for a 3.5-miles round trip journey.

Lawn Lake Trailhead
Lawn Lake – In 1982, the earthen dam holding back the lake broke, sending water down Roaring River and killing three people. From the Lawn Lake Trailhead, head north on the Lawn Lake Trail along Roaring River for a 12.5-mile round trip.
Crystal Lake – Hardly a day hike, this beautiful mountain lake is worth the effort if you like backcountry camping. Continue on the Lawn Lake Trail past Lawn Lake for a 14.7-mile round trip.
Ypsilon Lake – The lake sits at the edge of the treeline beneath Ypsilon Mountain. Start on the Lawn Lake Trail then go left/west on the Ypsilon Lake Trail and cross Roaring River for 8.75-miles round trip.

Trail Ridge Road
Lake Irene – A short trail heads to the evergreen-encircled lake on the park’s west side. The 0.9-mile trail leaves from the Lake Irene Picnic Area.

Learn more about the park's day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at Rocky Mountain National Park guidebook.