Get Outside! Hiking Gem Lake

Hikers Trek Through The Lumpy Ridge Of Rocky Mountain National Park

Basics: Distance: 3.4 miles roundtrip Elevation: About 1,000 Feet Location: Lumpy Ridge Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park Dogs: Not allowed in National Park Trailhead: large paved lot, bathrooms, information signs Entrance Fee: None at this trailhead Hiking partners: Members of the Denver Trailheads & Second Wind meetup groups

It may sound cliche, but Gem Lake is truly a gem in Rocky Mountain National Park. It is a shallow lake in a granite rock basin in the Lumpy Ridge area of Rocky Mountain National Park. Lumpy Ridge is the rocky formation behind the Stanley Hotel.

The Lumpy Ridge trailhead is new, it was created in 2007 to replace the Gem Lake trailhead and the Twin Owls/Black Canyon trailhead.

There are two main trails at the trailhead. The Black Canyon trail is used by many rock climbers to access various routes along Lumpy Ridge. The Gem Lake trail is used by hikers and climbers. While both trails will take hikers to the trail to Gem Lake, the Gem Lake trail is shorter, just 3.4 miles roundtrip.

The Gem Lake trail takes hikers up a canyon with beautiful aspen trees. A half mile from the trailhead, hikers come to a trail split. A left turn takes hikers to the Black Canyon trail or on a 1.1 mile loop back to the trailhead. A right turn takes hikers towards Gem Lake.

Expect a lot of company on this trail. Because it is short, many visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park hike this trail. Even on a weekday afternoon, we found group after group of hikers on the trail, so many that I lost count."Paul Bunyan's Boot"

As you hike up, you'll pass some amazing photo stops of Lake Estes, the Estes Park Valley and a variety of mountain peaks including Longs Peak, Twin Sisters and Estes Cone.

Along the trail, don't miss the rock some call Paul Bunyan's boot. It's a large rock in a boot shape with a hole in the bottom. It's a nice place for a photo stop along the climb up. It's about 1.3 miles from the trailhead.

Another interesting stop is the privy. Yes, there is a bathroom, of sorts, about 0.2 of a mile from the lake. There's a small wooden sign that says privy, but don't expect much privacy. The single stall privy has no roof, but it's worth a visit, even if just to take a photo. After the privy, hit the trail for the last switchbacks to the lake.

Gem Lake is a nice spot for a picnic. There is a sandy beach next to the water. There are plenty of rocks to use as a resting spot. And make sure you walk around the lake and take pictures from a couple different angles. We even met one family that climbed the rocks from the backside of the lake. Gem Lake

If you want to add more distance to your hike, consider hiking on to Balanced Rock or taking the loop around to Cow Creek and Black Canyon.

If you have a favorite trail to share or a question about this hike, e-mail me:

Previous hiking reports:(lower elevation hikes have a star) Boulder: Heil Valley Ranch*, Hall Ranch*, Eldorado Canyon State Park*, Caribou Ranch*, Royal Arch*, South Boulder Peak*, The Boulder Flatirons*, Walker Ranch*, South Boulder Trailhead*, South Mesa Trail*, Mallory Cave*, Forsythe Canyon*, Bear Peak*, Rabbit Mountain*, Bald Mountain*, Betasso Preserve*, Wonderland Lake*, Marshall Mesa* Golden area: Forgotten Valley, Chimney Gulch*, Apex Park* Jefferson County: Mt. Falcon*, Elk Meadow* I-70 area: Herman Gulch, Chicago Lakes, Chief Mountain, Hells Hole Rocky Mountain National Park: Calypso Cascades & Ouzel Falls, Finch & Pear Lakes, Flattop Mountain, Gem Lake, Granite Falls, Twin Sisters, Bierstadt Lake, Chasm Lake, Lulu City & Little Yellowstone, The Loch & Andrew's Glacier, Sandbeach Lake Indian Peaks/James Peak Wilderness: King, Bob & Betty Lakes, Forest Lakes, Arapaho Lakes, Mitchell & Blue Lakes, James Peak Area, Heart Lake Northern Colorado: Homestead Meadows, Devil's Backbone*, Lake Agnes Summit & Eagle Counties: Booth Falls, Missouri Lakes, Mohawk Lakes & Continental Falls, South Willow Falls Grand County: St Louis Lake, Waterfall At Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby Ranch Other: Harmonica Arch, Exploring Fulford Cave, Our Favorite Hikes, Our Favorite Bike Rides

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