Hike to Gem Lake

Estes Park, CO

After a long hike yesterday, we decided to take it easy today and just do a short 1.7 mile hike (one way) to Gem Lake.  Of course, when hiking in the mountains it’s not always the distance of the hike, but the distance combined with the change in altitude that’s important.  This hike turned out to be a great challenge for a shorter distance with a 1000′  elevation change.

This little guy was standing sitting guard as we entered the parking area

As with many hikes, we began with a nice walk over flat terrain.

But soon we began to go up, and the “go up” part continued for the rest of the hike to the lake.  The park service built nice steps into the hill side but, as usual, the distance between the steps made the going a bit more difficult than if the steps weren’t there.

About half way up the trail we began to find great views of Estes Park below, surrounded by mountains.

At one point we crossed a narrow log across a small steam.  The nimble hiker’s daughter conquered this obstacle like the Flying Wallenda’s conquer Niagara Falls on a wire!

There were some interesting rock formations along the trail, but this one caught our eye.

This hike is listed as moderate, but if you’re not in good shape and/or are not use to the altitude, it would be a real challenge.  At one point we went up some steps meant for Andre the Giant, but we managed to get up without much problem (with a few stops to catch a breath).

After a bit we came to Gem Lake, which is very pretty but really is more of a pond.

We climbed up a rock formation on one side of the lake to enjoy lunch with a view.

The hike back down the mountain is really nice for two reasons.  One is that gravity is providing its usual assistance and the second is the great views are all in front of you.

Our visitor from the east even demonstrated some parkour running as we made our descent!  Don’t know what parkour is?  Neither did we, so check it out on Wikipedia.

The great views continued as we made our way down the trail.

At various points, green Aspens brightened the trail.

A few large rocks must have fallen on the trail while we were up at the lake, but our trusty daughter quickly moved them out of our way.  All that strength training is really paying off!

The hike to Gem Lake is a great one if you don’t want to be on a trail all day, but still want to get a good work-out.  It is short (3.4 mi. round trip) but has a steep climb up to the lake.

Tomorrow we’ll challenge ourselves with a hike of a bit more length.  More on that later . . .

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13 Responses to Hike to Gem Lake

  1. Amanda says:

    It’s amazing what a little thing like elevation gain can do to a short hike! Looks like you found some gorgeous views. And is that an elk? He’s massive!

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, Amanda, that is a huge bull elk. They are literally everywhere here. As a matter of fact, we had three bulls in the campground this afternoon. I have SO many pictures of the elk.

  2. pam says:

    Rocky National Park is so beautiful and how great to have your daughter along to enjoy it with you. The last time we were there it was cold and sleeting. We were not as intrepid as you in getting out on the trails.

    I am pleased to say I knew what parkour was–thanks to my high school students doing it in our quad. I was the yearbook adviser and we did a feature on this new pastime students discovered they could do between classes.

  3. Erin says:

    Lovely hike. Looks like at times there is water streaming down the rocks into the lake (pond). Good thing you had Jessica with you to lift those rocks out of the way, or you might have had to stay forever at the pond!

  4. What a beautiful day and hike! Aspens have become one of my favorite trees. Great pictures!

  5. Janna says:

    You guys are having such a good time–you are blessed to have such a daughter!

  6. Charlotte says:

    Thanks to you my “places to hike” list just gets longer every day. Look the pics and stories!

  7. Sue says:

    What a beautiful hike! I thought the southwestern vistas were spectacular, but these really take the prize. Three sets of feet are just as cute as two….
    Sue

  8. Another great hike,at another beautiful West state and having so much fun.
    Love your new header,

  9. That flat terrain is always so misleading.

    With nimble hiking parents, why would we think their daughter would be any different?

    I give up…who is Andre the Giant? Did I need to be an elementary teacher to know this one?

    That daughter of yours is not only nimble but very strong!

    I am running out of adjectives to describe your hikes. Let’s see…gorgeous, wonderful, beautiful, lovely, spectacular, etc., etc., etc.

    Enjoy your adventure with Jessica!

  10. LuAnn says:

    Those large step-ups seem to challenge me the most. I love those shots with the snow-capped mountains in the background and Jessica moving that huge boulder. 🙂 Best of all, I learned a new word today – parkour. Thanks!

  11. Hey, just saw the fires in Colorado, are you guys far from it? I hope you guys are all okey.
    -MonaLiza

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Mona Lisa,for your concern. There is a new wildfire on the west side of the park. It has only effected some of the trails near Grand Lake. But did it send up a cloud of smoke yesterday over Estes Park. The wind must have been blowing our way because it got very hazy fast and the smell was very strong. It started as a two acre fire, then the wind kicked up and the humidity was extremely low so the fire expanded quickly. We hiked through the Fern Lake fire devastation today…very eerie!

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