With the fall colors in full swing and this Indian summer hanging on, I decided a day on the trails was just what I needed! With the company of a good friend, I picked a few classic destinations on a loop that would take us through some of the parks most spectacular terrain. We arrived at the Bear Lake parking lot at about 8:00am with a blue sky overhead and cool, crisp air greeting us as we walked toward the lake. Our first destination would be Bierstadt Lake, about two miles from Bear Lake. This is a gently rolling trail through beautiful sub-alpine forest. It’s one of my favorite trails in the park and one I hike often. Before long we were cruising around Bierstadt Lake and heading down toward the Bierstadt Lake trail head.
This section of trail is steep with a series of switchbacks to ease the burden. The aspen trees were spectacular and we had to try to make ourselves keep moving as it was easy to stop for extended periods to gaze at all of the color. And the color is just the beginning of the views this trail offers. One can see for miles along the Continental Divide and Longs Peak, directly to the south. Truly amazing! We were soon crossing Bear Lake Rd. and heading up the Storm Pass Trail to the connector trail that would take us into Glacier Gorge. The next stop was to be Sky Pond, by way of The Loch, Timberline Falls, and Lake of Glass.
This hike embodies Rocky Mountain National Park. The deeper you get into Glacier Gorge and Loch Vale, the more you see why this place is so special. The waterfalls, sheer cliffs, high mountain peaks, pristine alpine lakes, and slap-you-in-the-face beauty awaken the senses and let you know you are in the presence of perfection. We spent a little time at The Loch trying to count all of the trout (we lost count at 20 just near the outlet stream), and soaking in the day. We forced ourselves to mosey along higher into the valley and before we knew it were climbing the steep trail towards Timberline Falls. This time of year it’s not flowing as dramatically as it does in the spring and summer months, but it’s still an amazing sight. From here, the trail scrambles up beside the waterfall, making it hard to keep your feet dry. This is a 3rd class scramble and caution needs to be used as a slip here would not be good! But the effort is rewarded with one of the most breathtaking basins in the state of Colorado. You reach Lake of Glass first, a beautiful emerald colored lake with towering spires and 13,000 foot peaks surrounding it. We also lost count of the trout in this lake at about 35. A great place to throw out a fly if one were so inclined. From Lake of Glass we wound our way through stunted pines, rock outcroppings, and more dramatic scenery until we reached Sky Pond. Again, a lake that needs to be visited to understand exactly what you’re dealing with. Unmatched beauty. And the weather was absolutely perfect. There was not a breath of wind, the temperature was probably 55, and there were just a handful of pretty white and fluffy clouds. These are the days you dream about!
We now had about another 5 miles to hike to get back to the Bear Lake parking lot. We made quick work of the trail and were soon climbing the final hill that dumps you out at Bear Lake. What a spectacular day on a few of my favorite trails to a few of my favorite lakes!
Guest Blogger Michael Hodges
A friend called me to get the phone number for the Wildlife Officer who deals with bears. I went to their home down in the Highway 34 canyon on the way to Loveland. A bear had tipped over a birdseed container they had chained to the tree and he was feasting. I got there just as the Wildlife Officer fired a shot of rubber pellets from her shotgun. The bear, very black and bigger than the bears we have right in Estes Park, took off running and she fired a second shot at him. Boy, did he run fast! It is amazing after usually seeing them waddle along in their slow, ambling walk - to then see them take off at top speed and realize how fast they can really move! So we spent a half an hour cleaning up birdseed, and then pepper sprayed the area around th container in case he comes back. We warned the family to stay away from that are for at least a couple of days until the residual pepper spray wears off (or a good rain washes it away). That is nasty stuff!
Being out in the dark with a flashlight checking to make sure the bear was gone, one does not have any trouble staying alert! Every little night sound of the forest sounded like the bear was right there. In truth, he was probably a mile away and still running...but the mind is not ready to accept safety....yet.