Scenery from the Chasm Lake with Columbine Falls hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Scenery from the Chasm Lake with Columbine Falls hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Chasm Lake Hike

Rocky Mountain National Park
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River near the trail on the Chasm Lake Hike in Rocky Mountains National Park, ColoradoLongs Peak from the Chasm Lake Hike in Rocky Mountains National Park, ColoradoAlpine tundra and Battle Mountain Peak from the Chasm Lake Hike in Rocky Mountains National Park, ColoradoColumbine Falls from the Chasm Lake Hike in Rocky Mountains National Park, ColoradoThe Diamond of Longs Sunrise from the Chasm Lake Hike in Rocky Mountains National Park, ColoradoTwin Sisters from the Chasm Lake Hike in Rocky Mountains National Park, ColoradoThe view from the Chasm Lake Hike in Rocky Mountains National Park, ColoradoColumbines from the Chasm Lake Hike in Rocky Mountains National Park, ColoradoSunrise on the Chasm Lake Hike in Rocky Mountains National Park, ColoradoTop of Fall Peacock Lake on the Chasm Lake Hike in Rocky Mountains National Park, ColoradoColumbine Falls Snowfield on the Chasm Lake Hike in Rocky Mountains National Park, ColoradoUpper Columbine Falls from the Chasm Lake Hike in Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado

Chasm Lake Hike

Distance: 8.3mi
Elevation: 2,664ft
Time: 4.5-6.5h

Difficulty Rating:

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9.9 Overall Rating
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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.

Chasm Lake Hike Map

Getting there

To get to the Chasm Lake trailhead, head south from Estes Park on Highway 7 for about 9.0mi. Turn right (west) on Longs Peak Rd for 1.0mi, following the signs to the trailhead.

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About

When to do

April to September

Backcountry Campsites

Battle Mountain Group

Toilets

In parking lot and on trail

Family friendly

No

Route Signage

Average

Crowd Levels

High

Route Type

Out and back


Chasm Lake Hike
Elevation Graph


Chasm Lake Hike Description

Don’t let the mileage deceive you – the Chasm Lake hike is a challenging trail that begins at 9000ft 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 0.5mi 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 2.0mi, catching short, quick glimpses of Longs Peak through the trees. At 1.7mi, 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 2.0mi, 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 3.4mi 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 0.8mi to Chasm Lake.

The trail now descends for 0.5mi 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 50ft. 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

Chasm Lake

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

Longs Peak is the highest peak in the Rocky Mountain National Park, standing at an impressive 14259ft 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 886ft 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.

Waterfalls

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 82ft 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.

Want to find more amazing hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park? Check out Lake Haiyaha hike or the Sky Pond and Lake of Glass hike.

Insider Hints

  • 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.

Comments

TwoBoots 2 years ago

Chasm Lake was a wonderful hike. Beautiful trail.

10.0 Overall Rating
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Tom Pack. 2 years ago

Hiked on a September, Once we got out of treeline it got pretty windy and rocky for the rest of the hike but gorgeous views of Longs Peak

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Lola M. 2 years ago

Remarkable scenery. There were flocks of beautiful wildflowers along the trail, and they look so magnificent. They only add up to the beauty of this hike.

10.0 Overall Rating
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BoulderBound 2 years ago

One of the most beautiful hikes I've done in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Definitely must try.

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Sammy L. 2 years ago

I was there last year, it was a magical trail. strongly recommend!

8.0 Overall Rating
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Lloyd Frank 3 years ago

Stunning vistas, beautiful waterfalls, and unforgettable lake views. So many scenes in just one hike. Very worth it.

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lilibethl 3 years ago

Chasm Lake looks great. This is a good place to visit with a little less effort required. I was so delighted.

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Xyla O. 3 years ago

Awe-inspiring scenery of Chasm lake. It was incredibly uniqe and charming.

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Brexit Smith 3 years ago

It was actually easier than I expected. I was amazed by the beauty of falls.

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merry g. 3 years ago

This hike is a little tricky but I absolutely love it. The views were perfect. It was challenging but not very technical.

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27 Comments Show all

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