Gem Lake is a beautiful Colorado hike. This 3.5-mile roundtrip hike in Rocky Mountain National Park is worth every bit of that 1000 foot elevation gain.
I’ve been away. And by “away” I mean, in Denver, but away from this space. Instead of being here I’ve been spending the bulk of my free time forming relationships – with Denver, with new friends, and with the mountains.
And you know what? It was a nice little break from blogging/writing/baking. However, lately I’ve found myself wanting to return. I think part of it is the change in the weather (there’s just something about fall, you know?!). No matter the reason, I’m happy to be here.
As I mentioned I’ve spent quite a bit of time forming a strong bond with the mountains and doing a lot of hiking. I don’t want to say I’m obsessed, but I am in love. So I decided I would share some of my hikes on here.
- To log the experiences so that I can remember them for personal reasons.
- To share them with you in case you are ever in Colorado with the urge to hike.
With all that said, let’s jump right in.
This first one isn’t a super intense hike, but it is a beaut: Gem Lake.
The Gem Lake hike is located in Rocky Mountain National Park just outside of Estes Park. It’s a small, beautiful lake (pond??) nestled right in the mountains.
I did this hike on the 4th of July with friends that were visiting from Minneapolis. A few of my Denver friends had hiked it the previous day and after seeing their pictures I decided that I needed to go see Gem Lake for myself.
Because seriously, look:
We got to the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead at about 8:30am. Luckily it was still early enough to grab a spot in the parking lot. Parking is always a little bit of a gamble, but we got one and then we were off hiking.
The first 1/2ish mile goes through a sparsely wooded area with a slow and steady incline. The incline isn’t too intense, but it will get your heart pumping! Especially if you aren’t acclimated to the altitude. The trail continues and opens up to some beautiful views of Estes Park, Long’s Peak, and other mountains.
From here the trees are a little bit more dense and the switchbacks begin, most of which are created with stone stairs, like a rustic spiral staircase through the wilderness. That’s fun, right?
After about 1.7 miles from the trailhead you’ll get your first view of the glorious Gem Lake!
What a gem! Am I right?!
After exploring the area for a bit (and taking 3 gazillion pictures) we climbed up some of the rocks on the far side of the lake to hang out and eat some snacks. We were equipped with pb&j, apples, bananas, Clif bars, trail mix and (of course) Bud Light. It was the 4th of July, after all.
If that isn’t an All-American picnic I don’t know what is!
When we got our fill, we packed up our things, took a few more pictures, and hiked back down to the trailhead.
Overall, I would highly suggest this hike to anyone and everyone!
- The views are ridiculously gorgeous.
- It’s not too intense, but you still have to work a little bit.
- It’s not an all day commitment. The total hike should take 2-3 hours, depending on how long you hang out at the lake.
- You can hang out in Estes Park afterwards.
Oh and did I mention how beautiful it is?
I went in the summer, but I bet it’s absolutely stunning in fall with all the aspens changing colors. Let me know if you check it out!!
- Length: 3.5 miles
- Type: Out and back
- Beginning elevation: 7860 feet
- Ending elevation: 8900 feet
- Elevation gain: 1040 feet
- Location: Estes Park, CO
- Trailhead: Lumpy Ridge Trailhead