Gem Lake

Trail Length: 4.0 mile loop
Trailhead Elevation: 7,882’
Elevation Gain:  948’ net elevation gain
Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead Location:  To reach the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead: From US 36 in downtown Estes Park, drive north on MacGregor Avenue. Shortly after crossing US Highway 34, MacGregor Avenue will turn into Devils Gulch Road. Continue on Devils Gulch Road bypassing the gateway to the MacGregor Ranch area. Less than a mile ahead, the turn off to the trailhead is marked by an NPS sign. Turn left (north) onto the trailhead access road which dead ends several hundred yards from Devils Gulch Road.

We left home last Sunday planning to hike up to the Ralph Price Reservoir in the Button Rock Preserve just outside of Lyons, Colorado.  We had never hiked here before so thought we would check it out.  We got to Lyons and turned off on Boulder County Road 80 and headed up the dirt road for 2 miles.  We were only 1 mile away from the parking area when we approached a park ranger who was stopping all traffic.  He told us the Button Rock Preserve was closed today because there was a search and rescue in progress.  We were disappointed that we were unable to hike there but hoped it wasn’t a serious situation and that the search and rescue would have a positive outcome.  (We later learned that a 23-year old Longmont man had been missing since Friday and his vehicle had been found parked at the trailhead parking lot.  It was later reported that he walked out of the woods to the trailhead parking lot at 5:45pm on Monday evening.  He was safe but no other information was provided as to why he was missing).

Since we couldn’t hike to Ralph Price Reservoir, we had to come up with a plan B.  We were only 16 miles from Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park so, off the top of my head, I decided we should head up there and hike up to Gem Lake.  I hadn’t been to Gem Lake in 29 years and Lisa had never been there so we headed down the road for Estes Park.

Gem Lake is in the area of Rocky Mountain National Park known as Lumpy Ridge on the northeast side of the park.  This area has many interesting rock formations and great views to the south and west of Rocky Mountain National Park.

We headed down the trail around 12:15pm.  The trail sign at the trailhead.

Gem Lake-trail sign

Wildflowers along the trail.

Gem Lake-flowers

Gem Lake-flowers

Gem Lake-flowers

As we started to climb, we got good views back to the south and west.  Here’s a shot of Mt. Meeker (13,916’) through the trees.

Gem Lake-Mt Meeker

Another shot of both Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak (14,259’).

Gem Lake-Mt Meeker and Longs Peak

We always find some interesting dead trees along the trail which Lisa enjoys photographing.

Gem Lake-dead tree

Gem Lake-dead trees

After 0.5 miles, we came to a trail junction.  We continued on up in the direction of Gem Lake.  On our return, we would take the Twin Owls View trail to head back to the car.

Gem Lake-trail sign

As we climbed higher, the views got more expansive to the west.

Gem Lake-view to West

This view is to the south.  You can see the town of Estes Park and Lake Estes.

Gem Lake-Lake Estes

Lots of interesting rock formations along the trail.

Gem Lake-rock formations

Gem Lake-rock formation

Gem Lake-rock formations

A shot looking back to Estes Cone (11,011’).

Gem Lake-Estes Cone

A shot along the trail and a view of an aspen grove.

Gem Lake-trail

Gem Lake-aspen grove

After climbing 948’, we arrived at Gem Lake around 1:45pm.  A small, calm, peaceful lake with a great reflection of the clouds.

Gem Lake

We sat and had lunch at the lake and explored a little bit beyond the lake.  The trail continues on to Balanced Rock and the Cow Creek Trail, but we turned around and decided to head back down.

Gem Lake-trail sign

A shot from the north shore of the lake looking south.

Gem Lake

Here’s a shot from the west shore of the lake looking over to the huge granite wall that makes up the east shore.

Gem Lake

A final shot from the north shore of the lake before heading back down.

Gem Lake

As we headed back down around 2:35pm, a few more clouds were starting to move in from the south over Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak.

Gem Lake-storm clouds

A shot of Lisa heading back down the trail.

Gem Lake-Lisa on trail

We came across this interesting rock formation.  We thought it looked like a huge giant’s foot and leg resting on its side.

Gem Lake-giant's foot

A view looking through the hole in the “foot”.

Gem Lake-view thru giants foot

Some more wildflowers and a blooming cactus along the trail.

Gem Lake-flowers

Gem Lake-blooming cactus

We came to the trail junction and headed in the direction of the Twin Owls.  The Twin Owls is a great area for rock climbers.

Gem Lake-Twin Owls

An interesting sign heading up to the Twin Owls climbing area.  We weren’t sure if we would be interested in climbing the “bowels of the owls”!

Gem Lake-Bowels of the Owls

An interesting rock overhang.

Gem Lake-rock overhang

A couple of more close up shots looking across the valley to the south of Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak.

Gem Lake-Mt MeekerMt. Meeker

Gem Lake-Longs PeakLongs Peak

We arrived back at the car around 3:45pm and headed back down towards town.  As we were heading out of the trailhead parking area, Lisa spotted a coyote and we got a few shots of him as he was hunting.

Gem Lake-coyote

Gem Lake-coyote

Gem Lake-coyote

4 thoughts on “Gem Lake

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