4.2-4.5 miles each way, depending on what sign or book you read 1,943-1,971 feet elevation gain, depending on what book you read Rocky Mountain National Park, Wild Basin entrance On Highway 7, 11 miles south of Estes Park. From Boulder, take Highway 36 to Lyons, turn left/west on Highway 66 through town, turn left on Highway 7, then drive 15 miles to the entrance.
Forest trail, easy to follow Quite a workout with 1900+ foot elevation gain Pretty lake with a surprisingly sandy beach Few people, we saw 30-40 during six hours on the trail and at the lake Privy at the lake campground, just off the trail
Steep trail! Warm on a sunny day, parts of trail have no shade
A sandy beach. That's what we found after hiking 4.5 miles through the forest at Rocky Mountain National Park, a sandy beach on the side of a high country lake. It was just so strange.
The hike to appropriately named Sandbeach Lake starts just inside the entrance to the Wild Basin section of Rocky Mountain National Park, about 11 miles from Estes Park. Because there's an entrance station here, you do have to pay the regular park fee, $20 per car, good for seven days.
The trail head for Sandbeach Lake is just to the right of the entrance station. There's not much parking, but I think other trail heads here are probably more popular. We were able to find a parking spot still at 10 a.m., but we did get one of the last.
If you want to visit Sandbeach lake, come ready to hike! The trail climbs and climbs, especially during the first mile and the last mile. There is some debate about how long this trail is. The map at the trail head lists it as 4.3 miles, but the signs along the trail add up to 4.5 miles. We called it 4.5 and felt like we did pretty good getting in nine miles today.
The trail begins at the parking lot and starts climbing immediately. There are several switchbacks as you make your way to the first sign, 1.4 miles up the trail. It gives you the option of heading towards Meeker Park or Sandbeach lake, now 3.1 miles away. Despite the quick elevation change, we decided to press on toward the lake.
The trail seems to hang on the top of the Wild Basin valley for quite awhile. The view below is Copeland Lake and some other small water areas. Eventually the trail heads north away from that area and continues climbing through the forest. You'll pass four campgrounds on the way to Sandbeach Lake, which has its own camping areas including an area for group camping. We came across several groups of family or friends with overnight gear who said they had spent the night at Sandbeach Lake. Don't forget you will need a permit from the park to use these sites.
There are two major river crossings on this trail, both have a double set of log bridges to keep you dry. After bridge 1, be prepared for a change in the hiking trail, instead of just climbing, the trail becomes much more of an up and down roller coaster. That means you'll be doing some up hiking on the way out. At the second "bridge" or river crossing, consider taking a stop for a snack and water. After this bridge, you'll start the last big climb to Sandbeach Lake and it's a doozy. We found ourselves stopping a few times in a shady spot to catch our breath, but we did see one family coming up the trail smiling and laughing so maybe it wasn't as steep and grueling as we thought it was.
Your reward when you arrive at the lake is a sandy beach at elevation. View of the Sandy Beach at Sandbeach Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park
Just like you'd see at the ocean, there's a section of sandy beach that leads up to the lake on the northeast side. I'm not sure I've ever walked through sand wearing my hiking boots before. The lake is an interesting shape, almost a figure 8 because in the center is a strip of land that juts out. This strip of land is a great spot to take pictures. You can take pictures south with the lake and the mountain peaks in that direction. Or you can take pictures facing north with the lake, the sandy beach and a great view of the backside of Mount Meeker. (To see the front side, hike the Chasm Lake trail)
Personally, I think this trail would probably be best in the fall. On a 90-degree day in the metro area, we headed for Rocky Mountain National Park to cool off. This trail didn't give us that, even though we walked through the forest, there were so many exposed areas we thought it was quite warm. I'd say do this in the fall because there were so many aspen trees along the way, it seems like it would be a pretty hike when the leaves were changing. You may also want to bring a fishing pole, we saw one person fishing in the lake while we were there. It seems the park removed a dam at this lake in the 1980s and now it is home to greenback cutthroat trout.
As you hike this trail you'll notice certain areas where the nearby rivers and creek sound louder. We found this 5 drop waterfall/cascade just west/past the Hunter's Creek campground. There is a waterfall listed on the Rocky Mountain National Park maps called Lyric Falls. It's a bushwhack to get there from the lake or the last bridge, so we didn't try. For good directions, consider picking up Lisa Foster's book, "Rocky Mountain National Park, The Complete Hiking Guide." It also has loads of advice for climbing the peaks near Sandbeach Lake.
As always, if you have questions, comments or hiking trail suggestions, e-mail me, email@example.com
Previous hiking reports:(lower elevation hikes have a star)
, Mallory Cave*
, Marshall Mesa
,Heil Valley Ranch*
, South Boulder Peak*
, The Boulder Flatirons*
, Walker Ranch*
, Bear Peak*
, Rabbit Mountain*
, Bald Mountain*
, Betasso Preserve*
, Wonderland Lake*
, Chimney Gulch*
, Apex Park*
, Elk Meadow*
, Chicago Lakes
, Chief Mountain
Rocky Mountain National Park:
, Twin Sisters
, Bierstadt Lake
, Chasm Lake
, Lulu City & Little Yellowstone
, The Loch, Andrew's Glacier
Indian Peaks/James Peak Wilderness:
King, Bob & Betty Lakes
, Forest Lakes
, Arapaho Lakes
, Mitchell & Blue Lakes
, James Peak Area
, Heart Lake
, Devil's Backbone*
, Lake Agnes
Summit & Eagle Counties:
, Missouri Lakes
, Mohawk Lakes & Continental Falls
St Louis Lake
, Waterfall At Snow Mountain Ranch
, Granby Ranch
Exploring Fulford Cave
, Our Favorite Hikes
, Our Favorite Bike Rides
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