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447 Gem Lake 2011-07-25

Ben at Gem Lake

Our friends, David, Jenny, and Ben were leaving; but wanted to do a short hike before they left the mountains and headed for Denver. We suggested Gem Lake.

Gem Lake is east of Estes Park in the Lumpy Ridge area. I had already hiked to Gem Lake while I was doing the Lumpy Loop. It was such a good hike, I did not mind the repeat.

I saw a dog being walked on the Lumpy Loop and another when we just did the Gem Lake hike. Dogs are not allowed on the Rocky Mountain National Park trails or backcountry. There are signs at every trailhead. The Lily Mountain Trail is very similar to the Gem Lake Trail and that one does allow dogs.

Starting from the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead, the trail climbs up an exposed drainage. An early start would prevent the blazing rays that strike just before noon. The climb is moderate with a few switchbacks.

The trail joins the Twin Owl Trail at the top of the drainage. Turn right and after a short climb, the trail come to an overlook. View Estes Park and the Front Range mountains, including Longs Peak.

Continuing, the trail climbs a bit, but mostly traverses toward Gem Lake. At another exposed rocky area the trail switchbacks through low angle cliffs to a grand view.

Dropping back into a drainage, the trail crosses seasonal streams in a cool grove of aspen. A fun sections of tight switchbacks lead to a saddle.The Paul Bunyons Shoe rock formation is just to the left. The formation is a huge boot-looking rock with a hole in the bottom.


hikers along the trail


From there, the trail gets even more interesting. The trail starts in aspen and then gives way to rocks. several rocky switchbacks lead to a privy sign located close to the trail. Now, the trail is close to the lake. A few more switchbacks and brownish Gem Lake appears.

The cliff lined, Gem Lake has no inlet or outlet. The water collected from drainage just evaporates. The left shore (east) has a beach. The right shore (west) has a rocky bench. Many people explore the cliffs but keep in mind, gravity is active in the area! Scrambling is fun but climbing over dangerous grounds is fool hardy. Colorado Mountain School offers classes that will give any adventurer a challenging taste of climbing.

If the short Gem Lake hike was not long enough, continue to Balance Rock or Bridalveil Falls - both are great destinations.

Eagle Cliff Mountain

Driving into the main Beaver Meadow entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, a small peak watches over the valley. On the day after hiking to Gem Lake, Jon and I left our Moraine Park Campground site to climb the small mountain.


Eagle Cliff Mountain


Finding a route through the open woods was fun. I had told Jon of some discoveries I had made years ago but we were unable to locate the exact positions. Coming to the Bear Lake Road, we made a dangerous crossing. A woman had toactuallyslow her vehicle for Jon and she seemed irritated. Maybe if Jon had antlers the drivers would have been kinder.

The slope to the top of Eagle Cliff Mountain was steep and trail-less from the west side. We followed animal paths and at times saw human tracks. Contouring to the north, we found a set of small cairns which we followed to the saddle between the summits. We climbed the rocky cliffs for the conclusion of a fine adventure.

There was an obvious trail that came from the direction of the huge YMCA camp. I am sure that it led back to the camp.

I picked up a small dead pine tree to help with my descent. It was steep.

The climb was not easy. There were no trails and once again, the slope was steep with many downed trees. However, if that type of terrain and travel is interesting to you, Eagle Cliff Mountain is a good mini-adventure. The views are spectacular.

Happy Gem Lake and Eagle Cliff Mountain trails


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