If you’ve read any of our other posts on this blog, you’ve probably figured out by now that we really love to hike. If you ask me, there’s only…
Dream Lake in all of its frozen beauty.
If you’ve read any of our other posts on this blog, you’ve probably figured out by now that we really love to hike. If you ask me, there’s only one thing more fun than hiking…hiking in the snow! And the only thing better than hiking in the snow? Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park! You might be thinking, “Well, no… It’s cold and difficult and boring.” Or maybe you’re thinking, “She’s crazy. Skiing is WAY better.” Before you click over to one of the six other tabs you have open right now, hear me out.
Snowshoeing allows you to see familiar trails in a completely new way, it’s a challenging and rewarding workout, and it gives you the opportunity to experience popular hikes without the crowds. Oh, and unlike skiing, you don’t have to get up at 4am to battle traffic for hours just to get there. Snowshoeing for the win!
As I’ve gotten into the sport in recent years, I’ve found it surprisingly difficult to find good information about snowshoeing near the Front Range. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this post, I’ll share everything you need to know in order to have a fantastic snowshoe outing in one of our favorite places: Rocky Mountain National Park.
But first, a few reasons why you should showshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park…
-It has a pretty consistent snowpack throughout the winter months.
-It is significantly less crowded in the off-season, allowing you to enjoy its natural wonders in peace and solitude.
-It has a wealth of trails of varying lengths, difficulty levels, and terrain types, making it a great destination for snowshoers of every ability and experience level.
Length: 8.5 Miles. Moderate to Strenuous. Approximate Time: 6-8 hours. Nestled against the granite wall that forms the Eastern face of Longs Peak, pristine Chasm Lake is a truly spectacular…
Length: 8.5 Miles. Moderate to Strenuous. Approximate Time: 6-8 hours.
Nestled against the granite wall that forms the Eastern face of Longs Peak, pristine Chasm Lake is a truly spectacular sight to behold. Getting there is pretty incredible too. The trail climbs gently through varied terrains, offering spectacular views, waterfalls, and plenty of marmot sightings. This hike is only steep and moderately technical in the last half-mile or so; the rest of it should be quite manageable for most fit(ish) hikers.
Getting to the Trailhead
This hike starts at the Longs Peak Ranger Station in Rocky Mountain National Park, which is accessed via CO-7, either from Estes Park or Allenspark. If you are coming from the Front Range, head to Lyons, then turn left onto CO-7. Stay on that road past Allenspark, and keep an eye out for signs for the Longs Peak trailhead. When you see the turn-off (just after you enter into Larimer County), take a left. You’ll follow this road until it reaches the ranger station and trailhead. If you are hiking on a busy weekend or holiday in the summer, expect to park along the road, as the lot fills up very early. Although the hike is within Rocky Mountain National Park, visitors do not need to pay an entrance fee at this location.
Begin your hike by following the East Longs Peak Trail. You’ll be on this trail for most of the hike, and all of the junctions are very well marked. For the first mile or so, you’ll climb at a mellow grade through lovely pine forests. At the first junction, follow the signage and veer left. From here, you’ll traverse a few switchbacks as you start to see and hear a stream that courses alongside the trail in several places. A bit higher up, you’ll cross the stream (there is a bridge), and the views open up towards the forest below. This peaceful, shady spot is a great place to stop for a snack or a short break. As you keep hiking past the stream crossing, the pine forest dwindles until the only trees left are krumholz, the short, wind-sculpted trees found at higher elevations. As you get above treeline, the views really open up.
The first stream crossing en route to Chasm Lake.
Looking to the east, you get big vistas of the entire Front Range, and to the west Longs Peak looms large. The rest of the hike winds through alpine tundra. Make sure to keep an eye out for the wide array of delicate and colorful wildflowers that dot this landscape in the summer months. The trail continues to climb steadily (and a bit more steeply) until it reaches the next junction at about mile 2.5. The right-hand fork will take you up Battle Mountain, while the left will continue towards Longs Peak and Chasm Lake. After another mile, you’ll reach a rocky ridge. There’s an outhouse here, and this is another nice spot to take a break. This is where you’ll leave the Longs Peak Trail (that’s an adventure for another day), and make your final push towards Chasm Lake.
From the junction, the trail hugs the side of the ridge, narrowly in some places, as it curves towards the lake. We hiked in late June and encountered a small amount of snow in this section. While it wasn’t too difficult, traversing the snow on this narrow section of trail might be a bit unsettling for some hikers. Use hiking poles and keep your weight leaned in towards the mountain, and you should be just fine. As you approach Chasm Lake, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Peacock Pool and Columbine Falls. Just before reaching the lake, you will encounter a steep section that contains large boulders. You’ll need to do some scrambling in a few places, but this tricky section is very short (and very fun!). Spectacular Chasm Lake is waiting for you at the top. Grab a seat on one of the many large rocks ringing the lake, relax, and enjoy this beautiful little pocket of earth. Make sure to head down early enough in the day to avoid being above tree line when afternoon thunderstorms roll in. We capped off this perfect summer day with a post-hike ice cream outing, and we’d highly recommend you do the same.
The final approach to Chasm Lake.
Enjoy the breathtaking views of Longs Peak!
If hiking in June, check the snow conditions before you go. July and August are the best months to complete this hike.
The alpine section of this hike is quite exposed, which makes it a dangerous place to be in the event of a thunderstorm. Start early to avoid getting caught up there when weather moves in.
If hiking on a weekend, plan for an extra mile or so of walking along the road, as the parking lot fills up very early with hikers attempting to summit Longs Peak.
This is the snowshoeing adventure that has it all: easy proximity to the Front Range, minimal crowds in the wintertime, challenging climbs, spectacular views, and long peaceful stretches of trail…
This is the snowshoeing adventure that has it all: easy proximity to the Front Range, minimal crowds in the wintertime, challenging climbs, spectacular views, and long peaceful stretches of trail flanked by towering pines. Getting to Heart Lake on snowshoes is not an easy task. The hike is strenuous, and will likely take up the better part of your day. However, the challenge of the trek makes the stunning views of the lake and the Continental Divide that much more rewarding. Read on as we share all the essentials for planning your own Heart Lake snowshoe outing.
Conundrum Hot Springs, located in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness just outside of Aspen, Colorado is a truly incredible backcountry experience. The 8.5-mile long hike along Conundrum Creek leads you to…
Conundrum Hot Springs, located in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness just outside of Aspen, Colorado is a truly incredible backcountry experience. The 8.5-mile long hike along Conundrum Creek leads you to natural hot springs with fantastic views of the entire valley. This is a one-of-a-kind hike is an experience that you’ll never forget. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to plan your very own Conundrum Hot Springs trip.
(Note: The Conundrum Hot Springs trail and backcountry area experience very heavy usage, and have suffered in recent years as a result. The Forest Service is implementing a reservation system beginning in 2018, which will hopefully help to keep this wilderness area pristine. Please do your part by abiding by the Leave No Trace backcountry practices.)
Lake Verna, located on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park and accessible via the East Inlet trailhead, offers some of the most spectacular backpacking in the region. Less…
Lake Verna, located on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park and accessible via the East Inlet trailhead, offers some of the most spectacular backpacking in the region. Less crowded than other areas of Rocky Mountain National Park, Lake Verna and the East Inlet trail make for a fantastic backcountry adventure in Colorado’s most famous national park. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to plan your own Lake Verna backpacking trip.
Craig Meadows, located just south the town of Bailey, offers a great Colorado weekend backpacking trip. Reachable in less than an hour from Denver and often free of snow early…
Craig Meadows, located just south the town of Bailey, offers a great Colorado weekend backpacking trip. Reachable in less than an hour from Denver and often free of snow early in the season, Craig Meadows makes for an easy backpacking escape from Colorado’s Front Range. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to plan your own trip to Craig Meadows.
Recently, I took a trip to Palm Springs, California to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my family. We’re spread out all over the country, so the desert city is always…
Sunset over Palm Springs. CA
Recently, I took a trip to Palm Springs, California to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my family. We’re spread out all over the country, so the desert city is always the perfect place to meet up and get some early winter sun. One of our favorite traditions is to hike the iconic Museum Trail. This trail winds straight up from the parking lot of the local art museum (hence the name), and is accessed from the center of downtown. We like to do the hike late in the afternoon so we can watch the sun set and the city lights turn on below us as we descend. My family likes to cap off this annual hike with a trip to the Mexican joint a few blocks from the trailhead for margaritas. This year, I came to an important realization: city hikes are awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I love and appreciate the solitude of trekking the remote backcountry as much as any nature fanatic. However, there is also something fabulous about walking or biking to a trailhead, savoring spectacular urban views, and having an array of apres-hike venues mere steps from your finishing point. In this post, I’ll share my five favorite city hikes right here in Colorado. I hope they’ll make you love urban hiking as much as I do.
If you’ve lived in Colorado for a year or thirty, you’ve likely heard of the hike between Aspen and Crested Butte. While it’s a nearly 200-mile drive between posh Aspen…
If you’ve lived in Colorado for a year or thirty, you’ve likely heard of the hike between Aspen and Crested Butte. While it’s a nearly 200-mile drive between posh Aspen and laid-back Crested Butte, the two mountain towns are actually only a couple dozen miles apart as the crow flies (if you’ve lived in Colorado awhile, you’ve probably heard this expression a bunch too). Not only can you hike between Aspen and Crested Butte in one day, but the hike itself is one for the ages. Be sure to check out our other Aspen to Crested Butte resources below: