|Trail Name||Gem Lake|
|Nearest City||Estes Park|
|Distance||4 Miles Round Trip|
|Elevation Gain||1,075 Feet|
|Low Point||7,770 Feet|
|High Point||8,845 Feet|
|Trip Reports||Gem Lake|
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Terrific views of Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, some of the most unusual rock formations in the park, and a picturesque little lake set in a natural rock amphitheater, all within a couple of miles of the trailhead, make this hike well worth the effort.
How to get there
Note: This trailhead has recently been relocated to the northwest of the old trailhead, and the parking lot expanded. The Google Maps waypoints shown on this sight reflect the location of the new parking lot and trailhead, although the maps and satellite imagery have not been updated yet to reflect it. The turn-off to the new trailhead is approximately 1/4 mile west of the old Gem Lake Trailhead, on Lumpy Ridge Rd.
From Estes Park, take the US Hwy 34 bypass (the road that goes by the Stanley Hotel). Just west of the Stanley, turn right (north) onto MacGregor Avenue (CR 43). The road makes a hard right at the entrance to MacGregor Ranch, after which it is known as the Devils Gulch Rd. Veer right, and proceed about 3/4 miles to Lumpy Ridge Rd. Turn left onto Lumpy Ridge Rd. The Lumpy Ridge Trailhead and parking area at the end of the road.
The Twin Owls Trailhead on MacGregor Ranch previously provided a second option to access the Gem Lake trail. With the opening of the new Lump Ridge Trailhead and parking area, the National Park Service reports that the Twin Owls Trailhead (and the old Gem Lake Trailhead) are permanently closed and will be restored to natural conditions.
Gem Lake is a small (about 0.2 acre) shallow lake located in a rocky amphitheater of Lumpy Ridge. Although it may not have the grandeur of its bigger brothers in the Glacier Gorge area of the Park, its unique beauty, coupled with the terrific views along the way and the unusual rocky landscape of Lumpy Ridge, make this a "must-see" addition to your exploration of RMNP.
From the Gem Lake Trailhead, the trail heads north for a short distance until it reaches the base of Lumpy Ridge, where the grade begins to increase. Shortly thereafter, you'll intersect the trail coming up from the Twin Owls Trailhead from your left (west). Proceed to the right, and continue up the grade through a forest of ponderosa pine. As you climb, you'll see huge and unusual granite outcroppings and rock formations. As you gain elevation, the views back towards Estes Park, with Longs Peak and the other peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park in the distance, encourage you to stop and enjoy the vistas (don't forget your camera on this hike).
After the first mile or so, the grade lessens somewhat, and the area becomes more heavily forested with aspen, pine and spruce. The trail then ascends steeply through some switchbacks, and soon you are at the lake.
The first views of the lake - surrounded by rocky stone walls - is memorable. Because of its popularity, you're assured you will have company, but the unique setting, rocky surroundings and sandy shoreline make a perfect setting for a picnic before returning to the trailhead.
As with all trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, dogs are not permitted on the Gem Lake Trail.
Fees, Permits, etc.
- Rocky Mountain National Park entrance fee required at the park entrance. RMNP Fees & Reservations
- Dogs are not allowed on trails in Rocky Mountain National Park.
- Rocky Mountain National Park offers a free shuttle from Estes Park to Bear Lake Trailhead, Glacier Gorge Trailhead, Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, and Cub Lakes Trailhead. RMNP Shuttle Bus Routes