As promised, continuing with my recaps of the final months of our family commitment to hike in a different spot each month, I have a great one for November: Bear Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park! I’ve been itching to visit Bear Lake ever since I started following RMNP on social media – the pictures the park posts are always stunning. When we decided to visit Colorado over Thanksgiving, one of my first acts was to research Bear Lake to find out if it was a hike that our family could do, with two tiny ones along for the ride. What I learned was that, once you get there, the hike itself is short and mostly flat. Excellent. Sign me up.
Of course, first we had to get there. Bear Lake is deep within RMNP, and we visited on a day of snow-packed roads. The winding drive up from the park entrance to the trailhead would have been harrowing under the best of circumstances. But in winter conditions, in a flimsy-feeling rental car with Arizona plates and no snow tires, it was kind of terrifying.
It was also beautiful.
After a white-knuckled ride up, we arrived at the trail head and suited up in our winter gear (and for half of our group, our baby carriers).
Elevation 9,475 feet! We just kept climbing and climbing on this trip – hard to believe that the air would feel thick in Denver – but it did. Between hiking at Indian Peaks Wilderness, over 10,000 feet in elevation – more on that coming in a few weeks – and Bear Lake, and staying with my brother in his cabin at over 7,000 feet, we were definitely out of our element. I think we all adjusted fairly well, though, and the hiking didn’t pose much of a problem. We did have to take it slower than we would at sea level, and we got out of breath a little more quickly, but overall I think we adapted quickly.
As I said, the Bear Lake hike itself wasn’t too difficult. The lake was only about 250 feet from the trailhead, and it was only a half mile to circumvent it, so that’s what we did. Had the weather been warmer, I’d have loved to explore more of the lakes in the area. We’ll just have to go back, in a warmer season next time.
We started out on a well-groomed path from the trailhead to the lake.
As with many of the hikes we did in Colorado, the trails were hopping! As you know, I love seeing other like-minded folks out and about and enjoying nature, so I was delighted.
The lake itself was spectacular. Hard to believe something this incredible was only a five minute walk from the parking lot. Only in Colorado!
After marveling at the view for a few minutes, we headed off on our hike around the lake. (Well, first we asked a fellow hiker to take a family picture of our entire group, thinking Nana would enjoy seeing all of the kids and grandkids assembled in such a beautiful spot. It was an epic fail and we ended up deleting the picture because it was so bad. The guy cut off all of our legs and squeezed the group into the bottom corner of the picture so you could hardly make us out at all. What are people thinking?)
Ah, well. Into the woods!
The entire hike around the lake was beautiful. My only complaint? I wish it had been four times as long! Well, maybe not – by the time we got back to our car, what felt like only a few minutes later, the kids were chilly and were definitely ready to cuddle up in their car seats. But we made the most of our brief time in RMNP. I’m already itching to go back!
After RMNP, we headed to nearby Estes Park for a delicious pub dinner and more exploring, but I’ll tell you all about that when I recap the trip.
The hiking in Colorado was really spectacular. I actually had a hard time deciding which hike to use as our November hike, because we were out exploring on foot almost every day and we did some really incredible walks. But Bear Lake felt right for this project, after I’d dreamed for months of visiting it. The snowy hillsides, craggy mountain peaks, and fresh pines combined to make a truly magical experience. Now I want to see it in summer!
Have you ever hiked at a national park?