Rocky Mountain National Park
Date Hiked: Sept. 8, 2007
- Distance: 3.2 mi (RT)
- Elevation Gain: 1,000 ft
- Elevation Min/Max: 7,840 to 8,840ft
- Managing Agency: National Park Service
- Fee: None
Directions: Gem Lake is most easily accessed via the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. From downtown Estes Park, head north on 34 past the Stanley Hotel and make a right on MacGregor Ave. Make another right onto Devil's Gulch Rd and look for the signs for Lumpy Ridge Trailhead on the left. There is no fee to hike into RMNP from here.
Lumpy Ridge is a geologic wonderland and an overlooked treasure in RMNP. The area is just north of Estes Park and is made up of towering granite spires, domes, and other rock formations. The famous "Twin Owls" are part of this formation. Because of the low altitude of this area, the trails are hikeable almost year round. The hike to Gem Lake is one of the more popular hikes in this area and rightly so as it takes you into the heart of Lumpy Ridge.
From the trailhead you start off gradually, through aspen forests, until you enter the park and start ascending more steeply. The hike gains 1,000 ft of elevation in just 1.6 miles so it will get your heart pumping. As you hike you'll weave in and out of the crazy rock formations, get great views of Longs Peak and the park as you look back down the ridge, and finally, arrive at scenic Gem Lake. The lake is small but it is perched on a shelf surrounded by rock. There are many places to explore and great spots to have some lunch or just relax. The way back is even more fun as you can appreciate the rock formations without the burning in your lungs.