Chasm Lake Hike
- Physical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
- Technical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
This Chasm Lake hike might be short, but it’s deceptively challenging, ascending steeply towards the iconic ‘Diamond Face’ of Longs Peak. You’ll pass above the treeline into stunning alpine tundra, past gushing waterfalls and wildflower-studded trails, before emerging at Chasm Lake itself: a beautiful glacial tarn surrounded by an amphitheater of dark rock.
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Route Description for Chasm Lake Hike
Don’t let the mileage deceive you – the Chasm Lake hike is a challenging trail that begins at 2,743 m in elevation and is harder than it looks. The challenge is worth it, with beautiful views of the Diamond Face of Longs Peak towering over Chasm Lake, millions of columbine flowers in the spring and summer, and a view of Columbine Falls into Peacock Pond.
From the trailhead, find the Longs Peak information board and trailhead and check the day’s weather report. Weather can change fast while hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, so make sure you’re prepared.
Start the Chasm Lake hike by following the trail west from the Ranger Station. This is also where you would start for the hiker’s summit of Longs Peak.
The Chasm Lake trail starts off gradually and gets more and more steep as you hike. At 0.8 km into the hike, you’ll stay left, on the main trail, following the signs to Longs Peak at the intersection. You’ll stay in the woods for over 3.2 km, catching short, quick glimpses of Longs Peak through the trees. At 2.7 km, you’ll get to the first footbridge. Most of the year, this creek crossing is dry, however after rain or during snow-melt you’ll see the stream.
At 3.2 km, you’ll arrive at a longer bridge over a year-round river and small water cascade. Shortly after, you’ll pop out of the woods into the alpine tundra. The trees become shorter and the trail gets rockier and steeper. You’ll see Battle Mountain to the right and a trail leading to the Battle Mountain campground. Stay on the main trail, following the signs for Chasm Lake and Longs Peak.
At a large juncture, approximately 5.5 km into the hike, you can rest for a bit before continuing on. The trail to Chasm Lake is straight ahead. To the left is a bathroom and the right trail would take you to the hiker’s summit of Longs Peak through the boulder field and Keyhole route. Continue straight for 1.2 km to Chasm Lake.
The trail now descends for 0.8 km leading you to views of the Diamond Face of Longs Peak straight ahead, Mt Meeker to the left and Mount Lady Washington on your right. Depending on the time of year, you may have to cross two snowfields along the trail. Watch your footing and use a stick, walking pole or your hands for balance on the snow. The snow is usually gone by the end of August and returns in late September or October.
The trail leads you back up in elevation to the top of Columbine Falls. Follow the path as you make your way over the large boulders that are over the river flowing into the waterfall. Keep to the trail in this section, as the surrounding ground is very sensitive. The trail winds through the marsh, back and forth over the river until you reach the rocks. Look to your right, there is another waterfall coming down the rocky cliff.
You’ll see a sign pointing up the rock to Chasm Lake. Find the path of least resistance for a short, but easy, scramble up the rocks. You’ll climb for about 15 m. There are a few cairns to mark the way, but you can choose whichever way is easiest for you to get up the rocks.
At the top, Chasm Lake will come into view and the Diamond Face of Longs Peak looms over you! See if you can spot any rock climbers on the wall. This is a great place for a break.
To return, retrace the route you came in on back to the trailhead.
Hiking Trail Highlights
The main feature of the Chasm Lake hike is Chasm Lake itself, a stunning glacial tarn that sits in a dramatic, deep cirque formed at the base of Longs Peak, Mount Meeker, and Mount Lady Washington. This spectacular glacial basin is surrounded by precipitous scree slopes and rocky terrain, part of which is covered by a permanent snowfield, including the Mills Glacier.
Fed by glacial meltwater, Chasm Lake glows with a deep, turquoise hue, creating some fantastic photo opportunities when the light is right. The color of the lake is perfectly offset by the dark, snow-clad peaks that surround it, and it’s worth scrambling over the rocks to find the best viewpoints away from the trail. It’s possible to swim in the lake, although the water can be very cold, even at the peak of summer!
Longs Peak is the highest peak in the Rocky Mountain National Park, standing at an impressive 4,346 m above sea level, it’s one of Colorado’s iconic ‘14ers’ – mountains that reach a height of over 14,000 feet. Conquering this epic mountain is a popular challenge among hikers and mountaineers, but it’s a strenuous trek to the summit. The Chasm Lake hike offers many of the benefits of a trek to Longs Peak, but with a little less effort required.
Longs Peak takes its name from Major Stephen Harriman Long, an explorer and inventor who famously led an expedition over the Great Plains. Although they didn’t enter the Rocky Mountain National Park area, Long and his team identified the highest peak in the northern range from afar. Today it’s particularly well known for the iconic Diamond Face, a 270 m sheer cliff in the shape of a diamond, and a world-famous alpine climbing route. The Diamond Face towers over Chasm Lake, creating a stunning vista from the tarn itself.
One of the nicest features of this Chasm Lake hike is the presence of waterfalls along the trail, which provide a picturesque stopping point if the climb is proving a little strenuous. Located on the Fall River, the Chasm Falls tumble 25 m down a pretty, rocky gorge, and are arguably the most spectacular waterfalls in the park. Keep your eyes open for American Dippers, small gray birds that bob in and out of the water in search of food, and can sometimes be seen ‘swimming’ through fast-flowing streams.
Further along the Chasm Lake trail, you’ll come to the Columbine Falls, which tumble over the rocks and glow with gorgeous colors at sunrise. In winter, these falls freeze over completely, creating a popular ice climbing route. However, in spring, augmented by the melting snow, they rush down the mountain, creating a beautiful natural spectacle that makes the Chasm Lake hike really special.
Insider Hints for Chasm Lake Hike
- Hike in the spring or early summer to see the blooming Columbines.
- It is highly recommended to bring trekking poles if hiking in the spring and early summer for use over the snowfields.
- Try and make it to Chasm Lake for sunrise. The sunrise itself is beautiful, but the colors it casts on the Diamond Face are incredible.
Getting to the Chasm Lake Hike Trailhead
To get to the Chasm Lake trailhead, head south from Estes Park on Highway 7 for about 14.5 km. Turn right (west) on Longs Peak Rd for 1.6 km, following the signs to the trailhead.
Chasm Lake Hike Elevation Graph
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Chasm Lake Hike Reviews
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