My friends, Brian and Erin, kindly shared their condo in Winter Park with me this weekend. I felt so fortunate to be able to head to the mountains Friday afternoon and miss the Saturday morning ski traffic. What a luxury they afforded me! On top of including me in their weekly winter trek to the mountains, as I don’t ski, they graciously joined me in snow shoeing on one of the biggest powder days of the lackluster snow season.
Saturday morning we geared up, stepped out of the condo, and wondered what in the heck we were doing. Wind whipped tiny flecks of snow into our faces as we shoved our packs and shoes into the trunk of their convertible Audi complete with snow tires! Brian drove us 45 minutes to the outskirts of Rocky Mountain National Parkwhere we found the trailhead to Shadow Mountain Shore.
Trail(s): Deer Mountain Trail Location: Rocky Mountain National Park Fees: Review website as they are in flux Website:National Park Service – RMNP Distance: 6 miles
It was a cold New Year’s day, but I really wanted to start the new year by getting outside. I checked the forecast all week, and even on New Year’s Day, it was expected to be warmer in Estes Park than in Denver. This is unusual, but was also encouraging as I loaded up my car with my backpack, micro-spikes, and multiple layers of clothing!
The drive to Rocky Mountain National Park was a bit slow with construction and a long line at the entrance as only one ranger was working the gate and the automated park pass lane closed. Thankfully, he moved cars along rather quickly. Soon I reached the trailhead located on the Northeast side of park to which I don’t visit often.
The intermittent snow-packed and dirt path climbs for the first two miles, so despite the windy conditions which didn’t make it into the forecast, I only donned five layers…short sleeves, long sleeves, ski sweater, fleece vest, and windbreaker. I left my puffy jacket in my pack.
As I climbed the trail, I turned to the west to enjoy magnificent views of the surrounding granite peaks and mountain valleys. It didn’t take long to make another stop to shed two outer layers of clothing and strap on my micro-spikes as the path turned mostly snowy.
Soon, I was following switchbacks through the spruce and fir forests as the trail steepened. After about two and a quarter miles, the trail levels off in the shadow of the trees. It was time to add on the two layers I shed plus my puffy! This portion of the hike was very quiet and peaceful.
Finally, I reached a trail junction which indicated I had 0.2 miles to reach the summit. I was rewarded with lovely views of the valleys below and surrounding mountains. Strong winds encouraged me to head back down the mountain as I cooled off quickly.
Generally, I hike in the morning, but today I waited until the afternoon, and I found the landscape under the falling light to be beautiful. As I drove out of the park, I was blessed to see the setting sun and a large herd of elk. As it turned dark, the full moon rose from the horizon through the clouds. I can’t even describe how spectacular the giant, light orange ball looked over the farmland. Truly amazing!
This trail is perfect for a winter hike, and I’m glad I was able ring in 2018 out on a trail. ETB
WANT TO VACATION SOONER? IF SO, THIS VACATION CLUB IS FOR YOU!
Another Saturday, another missed forecast…these weathermen! We planned a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park to Mills Lake. While we expected cold weather (27-35 degrees) and blue skies, 40 mph sustainable winds were not in the forecast. The wind was supposed to be over on Friday!
As we drove into the park, we hit a few icy patches on the road as loose snow swirled across the pavement. We joked, maybe we should just go on a scenic drive, as the wind seemed menacing! Upon arriving the parking lot, the wind howled. If we weren’t careful, I think a door could have blown off the car. The intensity increased and sometimes we felt 60 mph gusts.
We all layered on our clothes. I wore short sleeves, long sleeves, a ski sweater, a vest, and a puffy jacket with a hat, buff, mittens, and hand and feet warmers. We were holding out hope that the trees would protect us from the wind as they had the last few hikes. Fortunately, this was partly true. As we began, the wind wasn’t too bad and as we gained elevation, we quickly heated up…enough for some people to shed a layer.
Photo credit: Danelle
Being cold-natured, I wasn’t part of that group. I was warm and gave thought to it briefly, but stopping to snap a few photos or removing my hat and gloves for a few minutes was enough to cool me off.
The previous evening, a snow storm swept through the Rockies. Some areas got a foot of snow. In Rocky Mountain National Park, at 9,240, the elevation at the trailhead, there was just a dusting, though as we continued to climb, we hiked through about three inches of new snow.
The fresh snow wasn’t too slick or deep, so we didn’t need any help from traction devices. We just squished squished along the trail. Fortunately, others started out earlier than us, so we didn’t have to break trail, though at times, the wind was so strong, that it blew loose snow over previous tracks to make the trail barely decipherable.
The scenery was spectacular. Snow dusted, dark grey, granite cliffs towered around us as snow swirled across the surfaces. The evergreen forest was blanketed in snow. Icicles hung from rocks. The creeks were frozen enough for just a little running water to pass through. And after we entered a wind tunnel where I briefly considered turning around as we did have to turn our backs to the stinging snow, we hiked another mile to see an amazing frozen lake.
Photo Credit: Danelle
The view was just breathtaking. I’m not sure either my description or my photos can do the scene justice. At times, surprisingly, the wind died down and the feeling was simply serene. At other times, the wind gusted viciously and snow whirled across the lake creating an almost eerie sight. It was really awesome! We stayed at the lake much longer than I expected, as certain sun drenched places which were protected from the wind were rather pleasant.
Photo Credit: John
25 second Video Courtesy of Danelle. Worth watching!
Soon, however, we turned around and headed back to the trailhead. I think the total distance was only 5.3 miles, but the hike sure felt like a workout. It’s just that much harder to hike on snow which requires engaging some balancing muscles. Not to mention, keeping warm burns more calories. I loved this hike, and I think I may return in the summer to hike past Mills Lake and on to Ribbon Falls and Black Lake. I’m really glad my friends were “gung ho” and willing to brave the wind for a wonderful experience. ETB
I had the greatest birthday! I started the day with a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. Tanya and Diana met me at my house, and we carpooled to Lumpy Ridge Trailhead where we arrived to the parking area around 10am. While I think all of us have a park pass, this area isn’t near the main entrance of the park doesn’t actually require one. Since it was April and Thursday, the trail wasn’t too busy either. Another added bonus, a week after a massive snow storm the south facing slope was snow free, so we actually got to hike rather than snowshoe.
We started gaining a decent amount of elevation as we climbed a stairstep trail surrounded by large granite boulders and unique rock formations. Being the beginning of the hiking season, we took a few opportunities to catch our breath while enjoying the view. We worked up a sweat quickly and shed layers down to short sleeves in the sunny fifty degree weather before we even reached Gem Lake, located 1.8 miles into our 7.8 mile roundtrip.
lumpy ridge trailhead
After admiring the lake tucked beneath the cliffs, we carried on to the trail junction where we turned left. The trail leveled off as we crossed over the ridge and walked through some open space before entering the forest. The trail narrowed as we descended through the pines. Occasionally, we had to walk carefully through some snowy areas or take short detour, but for the most part we stayed on the undulating path.
Eventually we reached another ridge and expected to see “Balanced Rock” at the top which we didn’t immediately spot. We descended again, and there it was on the right side of the trail. It was a lovely spot for lunch slightly out of the wind. As we snacked on fruit, nuts, sandwiches and some birthday bundt cake, the clouds hid the sun and we were soon in our puffy jackets that once again we stripped off as we climbed back up the ridge!
It was nice to see a few wildflowers and just listen to the chirps of chipmunks and birds with spring on its way. We even spotted a bunny at the very end! We finished up our 7.8 miles around 2pm, and I got home just a few hours before our family went for dinner. We tried Bones, an asian fusion restaurant, that was very nice. David spoiled me with a chocolate cake and wonderful gifts before we headed out to meet friends for drinks.
Charlie Brown’s knows how the treat people right on their birthday…$30 of drinks on the house! Chris, Ashley, Kelly, Vela, and Bridget all joined us, and we ended the night singing along with the piano player! FUN DAY…ETB
My friend Tanya and her son August plan on a backpacking trip along the Colorado Trail later this summer. As such, she they have been planning some long hikes. Fortunately, my friend Diana and I got to tag along and go to Rocky Mountain National Park for a ten mile hike to Finch Lake.
Finch Lake is located in a less populated area of the park. The location coupled with the fact we went on weekday made it a perfect day for trail to ourselves most the way. The trail, supported by a rock wall, immediately ascended along the side of the mountain as it wended past lichen covered boulders situated beneath the cover of evergreens.
As we continued, we broke into more open spaces blanketed in wildflowers with views of Long’s Peak, one Colorado’s many 14ers. We walked at quick clip while stepping over countless rocks like we were climbing up a dry waterfall, we crossed the creek, and soon arrived at Finch Lake a few hours after our 10 am start.
The forecast called for afternoon storms which wasn’t a surprise since I think it has rained every afternoon all summer! Clouds accumulated as we snacked on lunch while sitting lakeside with a view of snow-capped mountains. Soon we heard claps of thunder in the distance. It was time to descend, even faster than we ascended, with the exception of stopping to dip our heads in the creek and watch the bunnies hop away.
We timed our descent perfectly, just as we left the tree cover, sprinkles of rain fell upon us. Amazingly, the storm must have circled around us as we had listened to the thunder and seen flashes of lightning toward the end of our descent, and the streets outside the park, just a few miles away, were lined in hail! What a lucky, nice day of hiking we had!! ETB