Staunton SP

Staunton SP

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Nymph > Dream > Haiyaha Lakes, Rocky Mountain National Park

Haiyaha Lake via Nymph Lake and Dream Lake
Rocky Mountain National Park

Date Hiked:  June 29, 2013
  • Distance: 4 miles (RT)
  • Elevation Gain: 800ft
  • Elevation Min/Max: 9,491 to 10,232ft
Rocky Mountain National Park Website (NPS)
Nymph > Dream > Haiyaha Lakes Trail Map (Google Maps)

Directions:  This hike starts at Bear Lake.  Enter the park through the Beaver Meadows entrance ($20 fee).  Make a left on Bear Lake Road and take it all the way to the end.  Parking is a hot commodity in the summer so better to park at the shuttle parking lot and take the free shuttle to Bear Lake.

I generally try to avoid Rocky during the summer and I especially try to avoid Bear Lake.  Bear Lake is the most popular spot in the park.  If you want to hike in Rocky during the summer (which is a wonderful time of year to be in the park), then explore the west side from Grand Lake or the Northern portion from the State Forest area.  For this hike, my Dad was in town, and this is just the kind of sacrifice one makes for family.

These lakes are pretty.  They are very pretty. They are very very very pretty...and lake Hiayaha is awesome.  Push your way through the crowds at Bear Lake and follow the signs towards Nymph Lake.  Here's a little trick about summer in Rocky, once you get 1/4 miles down the trail, 80 percent of the crowds disappear, make it that far and you've got it made.  On this hike, each lake has fewer and fewer people (and if you do it during the winter you'll have them all to yourself).  That being said, take some time at each lake, they are all incredible.  When you get to Dream Lake you have two choices, go on to Emerald Lake, our make a left turn and ascend to Haiyaha Lake.  Either choice is the right choice, but for purposes of this description, make a left.

You'll gain some altitude but when you level off, look for some ponds off to the right, they have amazing views and could be a destination all in themselves.  Push on to the rocky shores of Haiyaha and take it all in.  This is a classic Rocky Mt. alpine lake with an up close and personal view of Hallett Peak.  On this particular day, it started raining and thundering as soon as we got to the lake.  Thunderstorms in Rocky Mt. are not to be taken lightly, but it was incredible.  As we rushed back down the trail, the thunder reverberated off of all the granite peaks.  It was an incredible show of nature and it added just a little touch of summer adventure to this hike.

Summer in Rocky Mountain National Park...I guess it's worth the crowds after all...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Maroon Lake & Crater Lake, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area

Crater Lake & Maroon Lake Upper Loop
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, White River National Forest

Date Hiked: June 16, 2013

Distance: 4.8 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 800ft
Elevation Min/Max: 9,557 to 10,169
Trailhead Lat/Long: 39.098476º N; 106.940412º W
Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service
Fee: Yes, National Parks Pass Accepted Here.

U.S. Forest Service Website - Maroon Bells Scenic Area
U.S. Forest Service Maroon Bells Scenic Area Trail Map & Info
Crater & Maroon Lake Trail Map (Google Maps)

Directions:  From Aspen, take Maroon Creek Road (closed in winter) southwest for about 10 miles to the Maroon Lake Parking Area.  There is a fee to enter this area and there is mandatory shuttle service from mid-June to September.  However, if you get there before 9:00AM you can drive yourself to Maroon Lake.

The hike to Crater Lake is a great way to get up close and personal with the Maroon Bells without doing one of the longer hikes in the area.  Crater Lake sits at the base of the Bells and although there will be crowds of people at Maroon Lake, few of them will travel the 3.5 mi (RT) to Crater Lake.

Follow the Maroon Lake Trail along the north shore of the lake, this is where all those famous Maroon Bells photos are taken and it is beautiful!  Once you pass the lake, you'll come to the wilderness boundary and a trail junction.  Go straight here to get to Crater Lake, go left to hike the scenic trail.  I suggest going to Crater Lake and taking the Scenic Trail on the way back.  The hike to Crater Lake takes you through Aspen Forest and rocky areas that open up with great views of the Bells and Pyramid Peak towering over you to the south.  You'll loose sight of the Bells for a little while, but when they reappear, they are right above you.  It is awe inspiring to be so close to some of Colorado's most iconic mountains.  When you get this view, you are almost to Crater Lake.  Dip down to the lake and enjoy the view.  The trail continues along the north shore of the lake but there is no official trail around the lake.

When I arrived at Crater Lake, the weather was getting worse and worse, it started raining just as I hit the shoreline.  In retrospect I wish I had stuck it out because the clouds blew through in about 20 minutes (such is CO weather).  When the clouds parted I had just arrived at the Maroon Lake scenic trail and was, thankfully, rewarded with some amazing views from the upper loop trail.  This trail is fantastic, don't let the crowds scare you off as there are far less people on this trail, then at Maroon Lake.  This is a perfect hike for kids and it is exciting for adults as well.  You cross Maroon Creek a few times, get a stunning display of wildflowers, and get the views of the Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak that you will be craving.  If you can't go to Crater Lake, this is a good backup, and it is a little extra bonus if you were able to get to Crater Lake.