Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) – Glacier Gorge Hike 14 August 2006

Last Friday, Patricia and I met in Denver two days early (she went to take care of the Stolper girls, while I was on my way to the ESRI Conference in San Diego) to go hiking in our beloved childhood playground, RMNP. We had planned to backpack and enjoy the stars at night, but could not get a campsite, and decided we were not quite ready for backcounty camping yet. So, we did a day-hike on Saturday, leaving Stolpers at about 5:30 am and heading towards Estes Park via the “Peak-to-Peak Highway” (72 and 7), and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise and a fantastic drive on an empty 2-lane road through curvy, steep mountains. (We actually lived on the Peak-to-Peak when we were very small, in Rollinsville, where I went to kindergarten in a 4-room schoolhouse.)

We got to RMNP around 7:30 am, and took off on our hike around 8 am, parking at the Bear Lake parking lot (yeah, the busiest part of the entire park). We had intended to hike up Glacier Gorge all the way up to Sky Pond, about 10 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1660 feet. However, the weather was a little iffy, with thunderstorms expected around the time we were breaking through timberline but we had the right camping equipment for it and this is very important. So, after hiking up Glacier Gorge and around Loch Lake and up past it, we stopped 4 miles up at the steepest part of the trail, about half-way up Timberline Falls. We had our lunch sitting on a rock by the falls, watching all the folks, very young and old, continue on up through the side waterfalls and steep rocks to the very top of the waterfall (including a young couple with a very small baby in a backpack!), and then headed back down the way we came. Timberline Falls

BUT, thanks to Patricia, we took a fantastic turnoff route 2 miles back, via Lake Hiayaha, and enjoyed a more rustic trail with really cool terrain (past huge boulder bluffs around high ridges with drop-offs that made Patricia nervous) and views of Long’s Peak and Storm Peak.

Lake Hiayaha was almost entirely uphill from where we left the other trail, so I was definitely slower at that elevation (10,000′), and we were both headachy from time to time, having been at sea level only the day before!, but it was beautiful. We stopped and took off our boots and stuck our feet in the water and ate 2nd lunch under an incredibly ancient tree. From there it was nearly all downhill, except for rounding another steep ridge to Dream Lake, above Nymph and Bear Lakes.

We saw lots of wildlife – starting with a fox on the Peak-to-Peak, then 5+ huge bucks by the road as we dropped into Estes Park, then beavers chatting on a rock far below us on the trail, many chipmunk, several rabbits, birds we could not identify, and a fawn. And, thanks to our detour, we hiked 11 miles, and probably lots more elevation gain that we had expected!

There are many more photos of our hike where this came from, so enjoy!