My summer has been great, however it has been missing something very important – Rocky Mountain National Park. I can barely believe it myself, but, before today, I had not visited RMNP since May. I almost let the entire summer go by without a single hike at RMNP. Luckily, I put the RMNP back in RMNPaula today, and I did it in great style. I found the only mountainous beach in RMNP.
Last summer was my beloved staycation summer, when I had lots of time to play in the mountains. You could barely keep me in the Denver city limits for more than a day, as I spent a great deal of time going on solo hikes in RMNP. This summer I had to meet the real world halfway and mostly restrict my mountain fun to the weekends. I’ve still maximized my time in the mountains, but I’ve turned my focus to 14ers this summer which has sadly kept me away from RMNP. I blame my boss. We are in a semi-competition to climb the most 14ers, and he’s beating me by one currently, so I have had a lot of motivation to climb 14ers. 14ers are cool and there’s definitely something to be said about being eye level with clouds. Still, for me, there is nothing I enjoy more than hiking to mountain lakes.
There’s so many amazing mountain lakes in RMNP that I never quite made it through my entire list last summer. I’ve known about Sandbeach Lake for over a year, and the name stirred visions of a picturesque mountain lake with a beach. For some reason though, it was near the bottom of my list, and I left for Atlanta before I could make it to Sandbeach Lake.
After the craziness that was my life last week, I knew that I needed to spend a Sunday hiking in RMNP by myself. Just like last summer. There’s something so special and empowering about going on hikes alone, and I knew exactly where I wanted to hike. Sandbeach Lake was at the top of my list this year!
The greatest thing about Sandbeach Lake is that it’s in a relatively unknown part of RMNP, Wild Basin. Wild Basin is home to my favorite hike in RMNP, the Lion Lakes, but Sandbeach Lake is definitely worth a visit too. The Wild Basin area of RMNP is always much less crowded than the main entrance of RMNP in Estes Park, plus it’s closer to Denver.
The hike was actually longer than I had anticipated. I logged my longest run ever at 2 hours and 45 minutes yesterday, as part of my Chicago Marathon training, and naturally my idea of a recovery day was a hike in the mountains. I had hoped the hike would be around 7 miles, and instead it was 9 miles round trip. The trail was only moderate, I just happened to be in pain from my run the day before. Needless to say, the moment that I turned the final bend to Sandbeach Lake was an extremely happy moment for me and my legs.
The beach far exceeded my wildest dreams. It was legitimately a beach on a mountain lake. Complete with a sand castle. I wish I could take credit for the sand castle, but it was already there. I spent a good hour or so on the beach, eating my lunch, wading in the water, exploring the area and taking a brief nap. The water was actually not that cold, and if I had been more prepared I probably would have actually gone for a swim. I was prepared enough to pack a pair of flip-flops but apparently not prepared enough to bring extra clothes or a towel. Oh well, next time.
I mean just when I thought life in Colorado could not get any better, I discover a mountain lake with a beach. Truly incredible!
Next weekend it’s back to the 14er life for me, as my cousin and I journey to southwest Colorado for a weekend of camping and hiking. We’re thinking Ouray area, Mount Sneffels? Stay tuned!