Lake Helene from Bear Lake (Winter)
Rocky Mountain National Park
Date Hiked: April 28, 2013
- Distance: 6.8 miles (RT)
- Elevation Gain: 1,300 ft
- Elevation Min/Max: 9,433 to 10,678ft
Lake Helene from Bear Lake Trail Map (Google Maps)
Directions: This amazing hike leaves from Bear Lake, at the end of Bear Lake Road. Enter Rocky Mountain National Park ($20 fee) at the Beaver Meadows entrance. Make a left onto Bear Lake Road and take it all the way to the end. The parking lot at Bear Lake get filled rather quickly, you can park at Glacier Gorge and walk .5 mi to Bear Lake, or better yet, take the free shuttle instead of driving down Bear Lake Road.
This is probably my favorite snowshoe hike yet. In April, when the weather mellowed out but there was still plenty of snow on the ground, I had the whole park to myself. I seriously did not see another person on this hike, and I hiked it solo which was really an amazing experience. I've hiked solo in the park many times but never this far into the park in the winter.
For this hike, you want to follow the signs towards Odessa Lake. You'll start by switchbacking up to a ridge where the Flattop Mountain trail will go off to the left, you want to stay straight to Lake Helene. Going up the ridge, you get wonderful views of Longs Peak, the Keyboard of the Winds, and Hallett Peak, in all their glory. From the ridge, you'll level off and gain elevation gradually while skirtting the north face of the valley all the way to Two Rivers Lake, which is just before Lake Helene. By the time you've reached Two Rivers Lake, you'll no doubt have spotted Notch Mountain rising above the trees. Once you get to the lakes, Notch is front and center, it is a spectacular and iconic mountain and one that most people never get to see up close. Add the winter's majesty and you get a view that you can be truly proud of. Once you get cold enough, from standing and drooling at Notch Mt., return the way you came.
Go get a beer and a burger at The Rock Inn, you've earned it!