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getting in touch with my inner colorado girl

Just say yes


If I ever send you an email and ask if you want to do my favorite hike in the world, say yes because I’m taking you to Lion Lake. I mean okay, it’s a 14 mile hike, but luckily my friends Britt and Melissa know me well enough to trust my taste. To me, 14 miles did not sound too terrible, especially compared to my 14 mile Mount Massive hike. Plus I love hiking 14ers, really, but there is something about mountain lakes that is so incredibly special. Please don’t ask me to ever choose between mountain lakes and 14ers. That’s like choosing between chocolate and peanut butter.

Lion Lake, summer 2010.

Anyway, the last time I had hiked Lion Lake was in 2010 with my cousin and brother. I did not have time to hike it last summer, and so I was way overdue. And even just based on that one hike in 2010, I still consider Lion Lake my favorite hike in the world. Strong statement, yes.

The hike starts out of the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park, which I can never gush enough about. It’s closer to Denver than the main section, less touristy and there are several great lake hikes in the area. Bluebird Lake, Thunder Lake and Sandbeach Lake are all amazing, though Lion Lake is definitely my favorite. It’s a fun hike too because you pass by several waterfalls on the way up to Lion Lake. Some people actually hike just to Ouzel Falls, which is about 3 miles one way.

Melissa and Britt at Ouzel Falls.

Ouzel Falls.

From Ouzel Falls, it’s about two miles to the turn off between Thunder Lake and Lion Lake, and while there are no waterfalls during this section, there are certainly some great views. The turn off marks 2.2 miles remaining to Lion Lake, and the trail immediately began to climb once we started heading towards Lion Lake. There were also downed trees everywhere, and it took forever to go around all of the trees. Consequently it was a pretty long 2.2 miles, and it’s possible that Britt and Melissa were starting to question my judgement.

One of a million downed trees.

At last, we reached a meadow with a small stream. This was promising, and I was pretty sure we were close.

The long-awaited final meadow.

We hit a snowfield and took a quick break to build a mini-snowman. Did I mention that I was wearing Chacos for the entire hike? I forgot my hiking shoes at my house, but I was wearing Chacos so I figured it would probably be okay. I got a kick out of walking over the snow in my Chacs.

June snowman.

Chacs in the snow. Don’t mind the dirt.

Nothing makes a hike worth it like the first view of the mountain lake (or summit). When we finally rounded the corner and saw Lion Lake, I had this huge smile on my face. It was even more beautiful than I remembered.

So. Pretty.

I swear it’s real. I know this looks fake.

Lunch rock. Gorgeous.

Britt and I tried to hike up to Lion Lake 2, as there are actually three lakes at the end of this trail. However, there was too much snow for the Chacos to handle getting up the final section, so we just turned back. We had great views of Lion Lake from a little higher though, which was definitely worth it. Then, reluctantly, we said our final good-byes to Lion Lake and headed back down the trail.

We stopped in Lyons on the way back for a beer at Oskar Blue’s, and by the time I got back home in Denver it was 7:00 p.m. 14 hour day or not though, the day had definitely been great. The Chacos on the hike down, however, were not great. I think I will reserve Chacos for hikes less than 10 miles on flat terrain. Also I think I will apply sunscreen to my feet.



Author: paulamahla

Typical Colorado girl that can't make up her mind. Trail running, hiking, climbing, camping, CrossFit, ultimate frisbee, and skiing? E, all of the above.

2 thoughts on “Just say yes

  1. Yeah, the long march through the wildfire section and Ouzel Lake definitely puts Lion Lake a notch or two above Bluebird and the other long hikes in the park, plus probably the best wildflowers area available. You need to try Lion via Thunder Falls. (Where the Lion/Thunder trails diverge, stay on Thunder and keep right, following the river uphill. You’ll pass through a super-swampy meadow, which may not really be pleasant without a nice snowpack to walk on, and then straight uphill to the lake.)

    I will make you do Spectacle Lake when I come. It is past Lake Ypsilon (left on the Mummy Mtn Trail) and also has an incredible wildflower meadow just before the lake. The final 1/8 mile is a scramble up what passes for a stream. Keep right. Of course, there are 3 miles or so of steep, boring trail before Lake Ypsilon, so it probably can’t take on Lion Lake. Also, you can see it from above from Mount Ypsilon, part of a sweet 3 mile, 3 peak hike on Old Fall River Road.

    I don’t mean to get all up in your blog, but we agree that my hiking taste is impeccable, right?

    PS Lakes over peaks, as well as chocolate over peanut butter, is an easy decision for me.

  2. Pingback: I’ve been hanging around | return to the motherland

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