Tina and I at Bowen lake

Happy Hiking: Bowen Lake

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  • Bowen Lake
  • Distance:  9.3 miles
  • Type: Moderate, out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,906 ft
  • Other: Dogs Allowed
  • AllTrails Link

How to Get to Bowen Lake

Bowen Lake may be reached from two different trailheads.  One trailhead is located in Rocky Mountain National Park and the hike is 16.2 miles.  The other trailhead is located in Arapaho National Forest off of County Highway 455.  The distance from this location to the lake is a more reasonable 9.3 miles.

County Highway 455 is a dirt road, but it is well graded and can be driven by any passenger car.  Only about the last half mile is rough.  We reached this trailhead from Grand Lake Lodge in about 45 minutes.

The Beginning of the Hike

It is useful to have the All Trails app for the beginning of the hike as none of the signage mentions Bowen Lake.  In addition, don’t worry about the initial walk up the road open to OHVs.  At first, my friend Tina and I thought the trek would be ugly and noisy.  Not so!

Hikers soon reach the Blue Ridge Trail at the gate that ascends through the forest.  The path is dotted with wildflowers and buzzing with mosquitos.  Definitely bring bug spray!  After about an hour in the forest, the trail opens to lovely panoramic views above treeline.

Blue Ridge Trail to Bowen Lake

The Weasel

The crisp breeze on this portion of the trail will warrant an additional layer if hiking first thing in the morning as we did.  Continuing across the tundra, we reached a talus field with a resident weasel.  Yes, that’s right, a weasel!  Not a marmot and not a pika…a weasel! 

view along the trail to bowen lake

In all my hikes in Colorado, this was my first time to see a weasel!!  Can you tell I was excited?  In my eyes, our hike to Bowen Lake was already a success despite forgetting my Sony camera at home…UGH! I’m thankful Tina spotted the critter!


Bowen Lake

About four miles into the hike, we reached the ridge marked with a Continental Divide Trail sign.  Who knew we’d knock out another small portion of that trail when we dropped down to Bowen Lake.  The descent to Bowen Lake is relatively steep, but worth the effort.

bowen lake

7 second video of lake

We arrived by 9:45am, and we were the only ones enjoying the tranquility of the lake.  As we snacked on our early lunch, I heard a noise to the north like a snapped branch.  I asked Tina, “Did you hear that?”

Then I heard another noise to the east, like a swoosh of a car door without much of a slam.  I turned quickly.  With a laugh, Tina jerked her head like I had a nervous twitch!  I ignored my friend’s mocking, and got up to walk the path around the east side of the lake.

The moose

Within seconds I spotted a moose coming to the lake for a drink!!!  Tina was quick to join and to give credit to my enhanced hearing.  We crept along the trail for a better viewing, but the camouflage of the trees kept us from capturing any good images.

After it wandered into the forest, we packed up our gear as clouds were already forming.  We began our ascent past a small meadow.  I remarked to Tina, “It sure would be nice if that moose would just walk out here.”

moose at bowen lake

Upon turning the corner, not only did we see one bull moose, but two!!  They just grazed away and didn’t pay us any attention.  Every now and then, they’d snort which was the “swoosh” I heard earlier. It was so great to sit and watch them though admittedly I was a bit irked to only have my cell phone!  I sure would have liked my zoom lens.

17 second video of moose

Our Return

Anyway, we enjoyed a wonderful wildlife experience before climbing back to the ridge.  Upon our return, we finally ran into a few groups of hikers near the weasel’s home.  We warned them of the moose out of excitement and possible danger should they accidentally cross paths.

Overall, the hike to Bowen Lake, despite the distance, was relatively easy, especially compared to trek to Mount Ida the previous day.  I highly recommend it.  Don’t forget your water, food and sunscreen! ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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