5 Tips for Hiking to Chasm Lake

Chasm LakeWinter is almost here and snow is on the way!  So yesterday my brother and I decided to hike to Chasm Lake from the Long’s Peak Trailhead.  We left Fort Collins around 5:45am, drove down I-25 to Highway 66 toward Lyons, and took Highway 36 up to Estes Park.  Not to side track, but if you haven’t driven up Highway 36 since it’s been opened after the flash floods in September, then be prepared.  The amount of destruction and loss caused by the floods is really overwhelming, and there’s still so much to rebuild.

We arrived at the Long’s Peak Trailhead off of Highway 7 at about 7:00am, but in my early morning rush to leave the house with all my hiking gear, I had forgotten one important piece of clothing…my jacket!  So instead of getting an early start, we went to grab a “second breakfast” and waited until the Estes Park Mountain Shop opened at 8:00am.  They had a huge selection of jackets and other outdoor gear, and their staff was so helpful.  Mission accomplished, so it was time to head back to the trail.

Now this leads me to my important tips for hiking to Chasm Lake this time of year (late November):

1.  Gear up!  If you have ever hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park then you know the weather can change very quickly and you should be prepared for changing temperatures and trail conditions.  Not only should you dress in layers, but you should bring the essentials like a jacket, beanie, gloves, and insulated hiking boots.  I also recommend trekking poles and MICROspikes® because much of the trail is snow-covered this time of year.

2.  Get hydrated!  The trailhead starts at an elevation of 9,405′ and Chasm Lake sits at approximately 11,803′, so you will gain a couple thousand feet in elevation during this 8.4 mile round-trip hike.  So yes, plenty of water is essential!  And if you’re over 21, don’t drink too much the night before (wink, wink). 

3.  Go early!  Plan to be at the trailhead no later than 7:00am.  The parking lot is generally not full this time of year (compared to the summer months), so you should have no problem finding parking.  The reason you want to get an early start is because the weather can change very quickly, and afternoon storms are very common, so it’s best to be finished with your hike by noon or so.  Also, Chasm Lake sits at the base of Long’s Peak, and when the afternoon sun sets below the summit of Mount Meeker, Chasm Lake lies in the shadows, which means the temperature drops dramatically!

4.  Grab a camera!  The hike to Chasm Lake is beautiful no matter what time of year you go.  Take plenty of pictures along the way.

5.  Gripe later!  As with any moderate or strenuous hike, your adventure can by physically demanding.  Your muscles might cramp, your head might ache, and your motivation might dwindle away.  I would never suggest you put yourself in danger.  I am simply suggesting you push yourself to the destination if you can and stay positive about the entire experience.

On that note, happy hiking and be safe!