Gem Lake and Balanced Rock Trail

Location: Rocky Mountain National Park
Nearest town: Estes Park
Distance from Denver: 67 mi / 1:30
Trail distance: 3.2 mi RT to Gem Lake or add 2.0 mi RT to continue to Balanced Rock + multiple longer options available (see National Park Service link below)
Elevation: 7,840 ft at TH; 8,840 ft at Gem Lake
Directions: From Estes Park, go north on Hwy 34 and then north on MacGregor Ave. Go right on Devil’s Gulch Rd and turn left into the Lumpy Ridge TH.
Date hiked: 04/2012
Additional resources:
ProTrails
Colorado Lifestyle
Resource Analysis Systems
National Park Service

Trail notes and photos:
The trail to Gem Lake is fairly steep but short and accessible with awesome mountain views and interesting rock formations. It goes into Rocky Mountain National Park, but the trailhead and parking is outside of the park (free) and just a few miles north of the town of Estes Park. 

Along the trail are interesting granite rock formations, a few of which I climbed on the way back down. The granite is sharp, so be careful!

Rocks along Gem Lake Trail - Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocks along Gem Lake Trail

Along the climb to the lake are big views of the peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park, including Longs Peak.

Views of Rocky Mountain National Park along Gem Lake Trail

Views of Rocky Mountain National Park along Gem Lake Trail

At the top of the hike, near Gem Lake, are these stacks of granite rocks.

Rocks by Gem Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocks by Gem Lake

The rocks behind Gem Lake look fun to climb around on and offer a nice backdrop. Actually, the lake isn’t a lake, but rather a small basin surrounded by the rocks which help catch and hold the water. I’m curious to find out more about how the water collects without a regular source feeding it. One side of the lake is sandy, almost beach-like and would be nice for a picnic.

Gem Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park

Gem Lake

The hike to Gem Lake alone is worth the trip, but for a longer hike continue another mile to Balanced Rock and back the same way, or explore the longer day trip or backpacking options further into the park.

The hike to Balanced rock was moderate with some views and pleasant forest.

Mountain views along the trail to Balanced Rock - Rocky Mountain National Park

Mountain views along the trail to Balanced Rock

Trail between Gem Lake and Balanced Rock - Rocky Mountain National Park

Trail between Gem Lake and Balanced Rock

The trail pretty much ends at Balance Rock, from what I recall. It’s an interesting formation, but I don’t feel a need to come back or bring company here.

Balanced Rock - Rocky Mountain National Park

Balanced Rock

Advertisements

One response to “Gem Lake and Balanced Rock Trail

  1. Pingback: Cow Creek Trail to Bridal Veil Falls | Wandering Colorado·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s