Bear Lake – Rocky Mountain National Park, CO 1-18-16

We had spent the night just outside of Boulder, CO the night before in anticipation for our flight home from Denver that evening, but since our flight wasn’t until later in the day we had time for a short visit to Rocky Mountain National Park. After having a leisurely breakfast we made the short 1 hr drive up to the park  entrance near the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center which is open year round. Since it was a Holiday and also a free park entrance day it was by far the busiest park we had visited on the trip.

We knew we didn’t have a lot of time to work with so this was really more of a site seeing visit than anything else. After stopping at the visitor center we were informed that most of the roads in the park were already closed for winter so our options were limited on what we could visit. We decided with the amount of time we had checking out Bear Lake would be our best bet as it was the most scenic point we could still access from the road.

The drive up to the lake was quite scenic and the Rockies are certainly a pretty dramatic range with mountains springing up everywhere you look. We stopped at several points to admire the views as we worked our way up to Bear Lake which sat at approximately 9,500ft in elevation. The only downside was that snow and clouds were blowing over the peaks so the views weren’t completely unobstructed.

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Views from the road leading to Bear Lake.

 

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More dramatic views from a cutout off the road.

The drive up was slow and steady as we worked our way up in a long line of cars. It seemed like everyone had the same plan as us so I did get a little worried that we wouldn’t be able to find any parking once we arrived at the trailhead. Luckily though the parking lot was quite large and people were constantly coming and going so it wasn’t hard to get a spot.

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Parking area at the Bear Lake trailhead.

It was very windy at the trailhead so after bundling up and putting on our micro spikes we headed up to see the lake and what other options we might have for a short hike. There were a few rangers at the trailhead and droves of people on skis and snowshoes ready to head off onto the trails. It was good to see that they spent a lot of time educating people on best practices and also did a fair amount of discouraging people from attempting things they were certainly not prepared for.

The trail right from the parking lot was extremely packed down by countless hikers passing through so our micro spikes were more than enough to at least get us the few hundred feet to the lake but the snow pack overall was definitely quite thick so I could only imagine what it must of been like at higher elevations in the area.

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Start of the trail to Bear Lake.

As we neared the lake there was a small sign showing us a short loop we could do around the lake.

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Sign showing the hiking trail around the lake.

We thought this might be a good idea for the day but before we made any decisions we walked out about 10-20 ft out onto the frozen lake which was covered in at least 2 ft of soft snow.

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Bear Lake under quite a bit of snow.

Once we stepped out into the lake we begun post holing something fierce despite the trail having been well tracked out. Given this we just took some time to take in the stunning views around us before just heading back towards the car. It would have been nice to actually hike a bit more but it was apparent we didn’t have the right equipment with us so the best plan was just to head back and just make a leisurely drive out of the park before making the drive back to Denver to catch our flight home to New Jersey.

I was glad to have at least set my eyes on the Rockies for the first time and it only strengthened my desire to come back and tackle some of the bigger and more dramatic peaks within the park. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I am able to make that a reality.

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