Rocky Mountain National Park Lake Tour
September 22nd, 2012
We decided to head up to Rocky Mountain National Park to see if the
Aspens were turning color. We weren't sure exactly which hike we
wanted to do, but we didn't think we'd be doing that long of a hike, so
we packed just a few snacks and 3 small water bottles and drove up to
Estes Park. Since the Bear Lake Road is under construction we had
to get there before 9:00 or the road would be closed. We were
able to get there before 9:00, but by the time we got there the Bear
Lake parking lot was full, so we had to catch the shuttle bus from the
park and ride.
We took the shuttle to Glacier Gorge and started hiking towards Alberta
Falls. This is a nice hike if you want to see some Aspen.
The leaves were definitely changing. It was a short hike to the
falls and we stopped there just to grab a few pictures. I
probably have more pictures of Alberta Falls that anywhere else in the
park, but I still feel the need to take one every time we pass by.
We decided we would continue on past Alberta Falls to one of my
favorite lakes in the park, Mills Lake. I credit Mills Lake with
my love of hiking. I first hiked Mills Lake in the summer of 1999
when I was living in Fort Collins while interning at HP. Growing
up we went to lots of state and national parks, but my family just
didn't do any hikes that were over about a mile in length. Mills
Lake was suggested to me as a good hike to try, but I didn't think I'd
be able to do it because it was 5 miles round trip. I decided to
just try it and it was fantastic. It has some really good views
of Long's Peak and is just a beautiful lake to see. Ever since
then, I've been an avid hiker.
It is about 2 miles to Mills Lake from Alberta Falls. The weather
was nice and we made great progress. Tyler was really going fast
compared to his usual pace. We arrived to find hardly anyone at
the lake and were able to get a spot all to ourselves on some nice
rocks. We sat down and grabbed a snack and took some
pictures. Unfortunately, it was pretty hazy as there was some
smoke from some wildfires hanging in the mountains.
Views from Mills Lake
It was absolutely calm as well, which is very rare, so I was able to
get some nice reflection shots.
Perfectly still water at Mills Lake
We took some family photos. Even Tyler took his turn taking
At this point, we had originally planned to head back to the trail head
and the shuttle bus, but I decided we should try something new.
I've never hiked from the Glacier Gorge trail to Lake Haiyaha.
There's a little sign on the trail that says there's an unimproved
trail that will take you to the lake. Erin and I had been to Lake
Haiyaha once before about 6 years ago, but from a different
route. We thought it would be fun to try this route and the
weather was absolutely perfect, so we decided to give it a go. We
stopped along the way to grab a few pictures of the Aspen trees.
Most of them are in full color right now and they are quite beautiful
Aspens along the trail
Lake Haiyaha is surrounded by some really big boulders. Tyler
really enjoyed climbing over and around them to get to the lake.
Boulders on the lake shore
We grabbed some pictures and took a few minutes to rest.
Erin and Tyler relaxing at Lake Haiyaha
After a short break, we started back to the shuttle via Dream, Nymph
and Bear Lakes. There was a pretty cool old tree right near the
Gnarled old tree
The trail from Lake Haiyaha to Dream Lake was much shorter than from
Mills to Haiyaha, so we made quick work of it. It was also mostly
downhill which helped. I took a picture of Long's Peak to show
how hazy it was.
There is also a nice viewpoint along the way where you can see Bear and
Looking out over the valley
We descended to Dream Lake and finished off the rest of our snacks and
almost all of our water. We definitely hadn't packed for this
long of a hike.
There was a nice little blue bird flying around the Dream Lake area, so
I tried to grab a couple of shots.
From Dream Lake back the Bear Lake and the trail head is a little over
a mile. There are a lot of nice things to see along the way, but
we were all getting thirsty, so we pretty much just hiked it back at
full speed. I did take a few pictures along the way.
In about 20 minutes, we made it back to Bear Lake. Just a quick
stop for photos and then it was time to catch the shuttle bus.
We ended up hiking for just under 8 miles and saw a really nice
waterfall and 5 lakes. What a wonderful hike on a beautiful fall
day. After the hike we went back to Estes Park and grabbed some
lunch at our favorite Mexican place in town and drove back home to
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