Thursday, June 21, 2018

Colorado Hike: Chasm Lake (RMNP)

Ask 10 Coloradans why they love this state and I'm going to guess the majority of the answers you get will mention the mountains. They certainly ranked high on our list when we decided to move out here.

For a while I was doing a fairly good job of sharing information about the trails we've hiked or run, but I've fallen out of the habit. I'm going to try and get back in the habit because there are so many gems to be shared - like the beautiful and somewhat difficult trail we hiked this past weekend.

While I always hope this information is helpful for others who are looking for a trail to hike - or run - I personally love being able to look back and see where we've been.

Chasm Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

This trail begins at the Longs Peak trailhead and shares a trail with the Longs Peak trail for several miles. Roundtrip, you'll travel about 8.5 miles and the "strenuous" rating is on point as far as I'm concerned. The trailhead sits at an elevation of 9,405 feet and the highest recorded elevation on this trail is 11,823 feet. 

The first two or so miles are in an evergreen forest. The trail is very well maintained and clear, which is much appreciated, but don't take your eyes off the trail for too long or else you're likely to trip on rocks or tree roots. The trail crosses streams in a few spots and there are some beautiful waterfalls to cross. We were lucky enough to enjoy beautiful wildflowers along the way, and were also quite popular with the mosquitoes.

Eventually you'll climb out of the forest and reach the alpine tundra. There are no trees for shade and the sun can be punishing, so be sure to wear sunblock and have a hat with you. On the upside, there are beautiful views and you'll have left the mosquitoes behind! The trail is still very easy to follow and you'll enjoy a few short respites where the trail levels off for a bit and you can catch your breath.

You'll make your way to a stretch where you walk along the wall of the canyon and have a view down below to a lower lake and a waterfall. At the end of this section there's a bit of scrambling to do and when we visited, there was still some patches of snow, right along the canyon wall, to cross. We could easily follow the path set by others and our hiking poles were useful.

Once across, there's a beautiful flat section where you'll walk along and cross over streams and likely see a number of marmots - the only animals beyond squirrels, birds and mosquitoes that we saw along the entire hike. Here there is also the second of two privy's along the way that likely are welcome sights for many.

One last climb before the lake. While some have described this as "easy", I felt it was a bit challenging. It's all relative but it is doable. On the way down we determined we had taken the wrong way up, so I'll give you a hint: stay towards the right side on the climb up.

It was all worth it once you make it up that last climb. The lake is beautiful, clear and is an instant reminder of just how small we all are.

Take a few minutes to have a snack, relax, take stock of the work you've put in so far, snap some photos and enjoy the view before you start the trip back to the trailhead.

What to know if you go:
  • This lot fills up very early, so plan to arrive before 7:00am
  • While you don't enter through a main entrance to the park, it is part of Rocky Mountain National Park, so be sure to pay the entrance fee
  • There is a Ranger Station and toilets, as well as picnic tables at the trailhead
  • Storms come up quick in Colorado in the summer, especially after noon. So be sure to check the weather forecast before you go and don't start out on your hike if it's already raining or getting really dark. Another great reason to go early. Hiking in a storm is not safe or smart.
  • Be sure to take plenty of water, snacks, sunblock and a hat. Bug spray is also advised. 
  • Hiking poles are definitely helpful on this trail.
  • Have fun, be courteous, leave the animals alone, pack in/pack out, and enjoy this beautiful park!
To help plan your trip, reference this Longs Peak Area Trail Guide from the National Parks Service.

We're open to trail recommendations in Rocky Mountain. If you have one, let me know!

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