Today we did a hike in a different area of the park just north of Estes Park. The trail climbs 950 feet in a 5.5 km round trip to Gem Lake.
I wasn’t sure how popular this area was but to be safe we got going pretty early again and were on the trail before 8 am. There were about 10 cars in the approximately 50 car parking lot.
Once again I am glad we went early. Going in, a lot of the trail was nice and cool in the shade and we only met about 10 people. Once we had been at the lake it started getting busy. We were back at the parking lot around noon and it had obviously been full for quite a while. The vultures were circling. To get to the lot you have to take an about 1/4 mile side road which you are not allowed to park along. Out on the main road there were about 20 cars that gave up trying and they hiked the extra distance to the trailhead.
The trail was almost constant climbing. The first part was mainly log steps.
I know the steps have to be there to prevent the trail from eroding away but I really hate them. It means extra work going up and a jarring drop going down. I wish it was just smooth dirt.
The trailhead is called Lumpy Ridge because the area surrounding the hike is covered in very weirdly weathered blobs of granite. I use blobs because in a lot of places it looks like someone took balls of mud and just threw them around the hills.
These spires are called the Twin Owls but we never saw them from the right angle. That would have added another couple of kilometers to the hike.
There were lots of great viewpoints of the mountains and back down into Estes Park.
This tree had some really spiky pine cones.
The middle section went through a nicely shaded ravine that was also relatively flat.
More strange stone shapes.
From here on it was really tall stone steps, some more than a foot high.
They even had a room with a view, part way up.
And then to Gem Lake. It is not really a lake but it just a huge pothole. It has no inlet or outlet and is just filled by the rain.
It is surrounded on two side by steep cliffs.
For a short while it was nice and calm for a good reflection.
When we got there, there were only a few people and they were all up on the opposite cliff. My guide book said that was the usual spot, so up we went.
You must walk around the lake and then climb up the face just around the corner at the very left in the picture above. It was not a fun climb for Jennie. It doesn’t look that high but the toe holds were pretty small. We went up the rocks right behind Jennie, below.
A bit of scrambling over the eroded potholes to get to our vantage point.
A really great view.
Another second breakfast.
The weird thing was that none of the people that arrived later went up. Jennie and I were sitting up there with, at times, around 30 people sitting down below us.
Me, being me, had to see how far up I could climb.
It was actually very easy. The granite had a very rough surface and the hiking shoes gripped it really well.
A great perch.
The very top looked just a bit too dangerous to try for. There was a large gap that I would have had to cross.
It was a long way down.
Jennie is the red speck just right of center, below.
All the tiny ants down there.
Lots more strange shapes.
I dragged myself away and headed back down.
And after a while we climbed down from our perch and headed back down the trail.
Going down is certainly easier but our knees and feet took a pounding on those huge steps. We arrived home around 12:30 and were pretty tired.
This is actually the last active day of our trip for this year. We are heading towards home tomorrow with a stop at our cottage on the way. There will be a few more posts just to document the trip back, if anything interesting happens at the cottage and then a final summary.
This was a truly amazing trip, maybe our best yet. I hope that you enjoyed the blog.