Gem Lake Trail started from the Lumpy Ridge trailhead, which was located a few minutes northeast of downtown Estes Park. Directions can be determined on a GPS device by searching for Lumpy Ridge Road. Hiking was the main activity on the trail and fishing was allowed too. Dogs, horses, and mountain bikes were not allowed. Parking was free because the trailhead was not inside the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park. Restrooms are provided but not water. Our cell phone signal was moderate for most of the hike.
We hiked 1.7 miles with an elevation gain of 1000 feet to reach Gem Lake.
The trail’s gradient was consistent and allowed us to maintain an upbeat pace.
The trail was mostly smooth but contained log steps throughout. Our kids (ages 2 and 6) had fun hiking the Twin Owls Loop, which starts at the same trailhead, but this would have been too difficult for them.
After a half mile, we officially entered Rocky Mountain National Park. It wasn’t much longer when views to the south became available.
We hiked this in mid-March and, although, there were several feet of snow at Bear Lake, the rest of Estes Park was extremely dry. The next picture shows the only section with snow, a result stemming from a large set of boulders casting a shadow.
Near the end, we discovered an open air bathroom, something we hadn’t seen before this high up. This seemed to be a very popular trail, even in chilly March, so this bathroom was well placed.
The final ascent narrowed and was rockier.
Gem Lake was frozen and it seemed like its water level was low.
This video captures the tranquility of the lake.
Our descent was fun because we enjoyed panoramic views that contained Longs Peak and Twin Sisters Peaks.
The next picture was a zoomed in look at Longs Peak.
About a third of the way down we stopped at an overlook to enjoy a view of Lake Estes.
In addition, we saw a mule deer lying down about a hundred feet off of the trail.
On our way down we extended our hike 0.6 miles by taking the Twin Owls view trail (1.1 miles instead of 0.5) back to the parking lot. Read my Twin Owls post for information about a fun, easy loop with great views.
In sum, this trail was fun because it was moderate in difficulty, easy to get to, quick to do, and very scenic. It may be our new favorite hike in Estes Park. Deer Mountain was another hike we loved but was almost twice as long as this one.