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