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
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!
Along the climb to the lake are big views of the peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park, including Longs Peak.
At the top of the hike, near Gem Lake, are these stacks of granite rocks.
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.
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.
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.