Monday, October 19, 2009

Lumpy Ridge, hike to Gem Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park.

Park History
Lumpy Ridge rises above Estes Park on the North side of the town. It is part of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), but there is no fee to hike here. Lumpy Ridge has a large raptor habitat, and the birds live in the rocks and cliffs on the ridge. One important point to remember is that in 2007 the Twin Owls Trail head was relocated south and is now renamed Lumpy Ridge Trail head. It encompasses the Gem Lake Trail, Twin Owl Loop and all the Lumpy Ridge Climbing destinations. It now has a larger parking lot and bathrooms. Some of the newer maps do not reference this change, if you are seeking to hike Gem Lake or Twin Owl trails, this is where you start.

Getting There
The Gem Lake Trail starts at The Lumpy Ridge Trailhead just outside of downtown Estes Park. From Downtown Estes, turn North on Macgregor Ave. This road is an easy one to miss, especially during the busy Estes Park visitor season. One way to spot it, is that Mama Rose's Cantina is across from the Macgregor Ave; and the next road to the West called East Riverside Drive will take you around to Macgregor Ave. Here is the link to get directions.
Once on Macgregor Ave, it is pretty easy to get to Lumpy Ridge Trailheads, take Macgregor for approximately one mile, the road turns right and changes it's name to Devil's Gulch Road or Colorado Road 43. Continue on this road for .8 of a mile and you will see the Lumpy Ridge Trail head sign on your left. Turn left and the parking is about 500 yards ahead.

The Park
The Lumpy Ridge Trail head is located mostly within Rocky Mountain National Park, but the park is free to enter. It has a large parking lot and clean bathrooms which accommodate the large crowds that show up to hike. This is the starting point for several hikes into Rocky Mountain National Park including Twin Owls, Lumpy Ridge climbing destinations and the hike to Gem Lake. The fees to enter RMNP maintain the trails at Lumpy Ridge and all of the trails are very clear, well maintained, and fairly wide to accommodate the large number of visitors who come to Lumpy Ridge, especially on the weekends. There are no dogs permitted in the park, hikers and horses only.

The Trail
The Gem Lake Trail is 1.7-1.8 miles one way, or around 3.5 miles in total. It is definately a "do-able" hike, and would be rated as moderate for lots of rocky incline. The trail starts off in the woods, with views of Lumpy ridge in front of you as you hike, you continue to climb uphill and when you look back, you have views of Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak and the snow capped peaks across the valley. The unique large round rock formations are all around you ask you hike, and as the trail nears the top and Gem Lake, you climb up a trail carved in the rocks. As you near the top of the trail and Gem Lake, the hike becomes steeper and more rocky, but the final push to the top is worth it, as you reach a beautiful mountain lake! The lake is framed by a cliff on the far side and there are sandy beaches to sit in, or you can climb on the rocks.
We hiked this trail in an hour and a half, but we were in a time crunch, so I would say plan 2 hours to stop, catch your breath and to enjoy the views and the Lake at the top.


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