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428 Lumpy Loop 2011-07-01

Cow Creek Trail

I woke up sore from the Glacier Creek Trail hike. The hike was not that hard, it was me that was the problem. I know that in a couple more days I will feel better; but for now, it hurts.

Lumpy Ridge is an area east of Estes Park. The area is a rock climbing mecca; but also contains popular hikes. Gem Lake and Bridal Veil Falls are just two of the destinations.

My hike was going to start at the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead and then go counter-clockwise around the ridge. Along the way I would pass Gem Lake, Cow Creek Trailhead, Bridal Veil Falls, Dark Mountain Trail, and then pass below the west side of Lumpy on the Black Canyon Trail, and finally returning to the trailhead on the Lumpy Ridge Trail. All together it was around 16 miles and a good adventure.

I started the hike at the late hour of nine. I am still trying to find time to both hike and write.... Gem Lake is a less than 2 mile hike. Even with my late start, the trail was not crowded. I was at the lake alone.

From the lake it is a long descent to Cow Creek Trail. Along the way I met a man and a woman. We talked about where they were hiking to that day and they asked about a few trail distances. When they asked what I was doing that day, I told them. The man said that was a big day. Trying to put a bit of humility into my effort I responded, "well, I generally walk faster when I am alone."

"What are you saying, she shouldn'tt have come?" the man replied with a grin.

"Well, that or you should not have come!"

The woman cackled loudly as I gave them a good day and was on my way.

At the Cow Creek Trail I took a side trip to the trailhead. I had never been there before and was surprised to see the trail/road passed through the middle of the old McGraw Ranch. The area had been restored and is remarkable.

Near the trailhead, I saw a man sitting beside the trail, obviously waiting on someone. I gave him a "howdy"; but he did not respond. After I walked to the trailhead kiosk, snooped around a bit, and returned, the man was walking toward me with a woman. He still did not say anything in response to my greeting.

There was a hat on the ground close to where he had been seated and so I called out asking if it was his. He turned and was thankful. In fact he was so thankful, the once unfriendly hiker was now a chatterbox. He wanted to know everything about me and what I was doing! He was a good guy and I was glad I found his hat so that he would talk to me.

Continuing on the trail toward Bridal Veil Falls a man about my age and his college age son were in front of me on the trail. They carried nothing with them. Nothing. They did not have a water bottle, jacket, pack, food, camera, or the other essentials. As I neared them, the boy said something to the dad and they started running. As I caught up with them again, they repeated started running again. I was not trying to catch them, I was just walking my normal speed, which was faster than theirs. I still has a lot of ground to cover before the end of the day. Their actions were very funny to me. I could not really think of a reason why they did not want me to pass them, maybe because I had not showered in a few days.

Nearing the falls the trail gets a little tougher and I passed them by going a slightly different route. At the base of the falls they came up to where I was securing some gear for the wet crossing; but they would not say a word. I just laughed to myself as I crossed through the waterfall.

There's more to the story; but I will save it for another time ...

Returning from the falls I turned and started the climb up Dark Mountain Trail. It was not even two miles long, but it climbed steadily and was very hot. Finally, at the pass, I took a short breather and then picked up the pace going down the hill. It was fun passing all of the rock formations. The weather even improved as clouds moved in and offered shade from the sun.

At the old Twin Owls Trailhead, a new (a few years old) trail continues to the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. Unfortunately the trail has a couple of moderately steep climbs. They would be not much, if you were fresh; but at the end of a long day, they are a little wearing.

The Lumpy Loop is a good trail. It is demanding and with long stretches exposed to the sun. You can always do sections of the trail.

A few Lumpy Loop trail notes ...

The Lumpy Ridge Trailhead is east of Estes Park on Highway 43, Devil's Gulch Road.

The Cow Creek Trailhead is at the site of the old McGraw Ranch, off Hwy 43 also.

Both trailheads have restrooms.

I did not see water at either trailhead.

There were several locations where you can filter water.

The trails were maintained and easy to follow.

It took me a little less than seven hours to do the loop.

If you ever visit Estes, the Gem Lake Trail and Cow Creek Trail to Bridal Veil Falls are trails not to be missed. The Lumpy Loop takes in both attractions plus a lot more. It is a long fun day hike for those wnating something a little more demanding. One of the trickiest parts of the hike is to keep moving. There are so many unique and beautiful places that make you want to spend the rest of the day there, unless you still have 12 more miles to hike!

Happy Lumpy Loop trails


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