Gem Lake and Balanced Rock
- 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.
Aptly named, the Gem Lake and Balanced Rock hike is a great hike close to Estes Park. This hike is located in the Northern Side of RMNP, in the Lumpy Ridge Area. This unique trail has you hiking through lumps of rocks, beautiful aspen trees and has great views into Estes Park. Gem Lake truly is a gem, and acts as a gateway to a truly unique rock formation - Balanced Rock.
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Route Description for Gem Lake and Balanced Rock
From the Lumpy Ridge trailhead, head directly north from the parking lot. The first 0.8 km starts climbing right away over man made steps out of the rocks. At the 0.8 km mark, you’ll reach your first of two intersections. Follow the trail to the right, as indicated by the signs to Gem Lake.
The next 0.8 km of the hike rolls along the hills, climbing and declining, as you start to follow the creek. After 1.6 km, you’ll follow a series of short switchbacks, over, around and through neat rock formations. As you near Gem Lake, you’ll see signs for a privy off to the left. This is a “privy with a view” as you can see a great view of the mountains and Estes Park down below. Shortly after, you’ll crest the peak and Gem Lake will come into view. This is 2.4 km into the hike. Take a rest here or follow on to get to Balanced Rock.
Skirt to the left (west) of Gem Lake along the sandy beach. The trail continues on the northern side of Gem Lake after the rocks. Balanced Rock is 3.4 km past Gem Lake and it winds steeply, up and down into the woods. 3.9 km into your total hiking distance, you’ll get to another intersection. Stay left, as the signs point to Balanced Rock.
Balanced Rock comes into view right after a steep decline and seems to be standing in the middle of a valley. The top of this granite formation is 9 m above the path and enclosed by tall trees. The view is best visited in the morning.
To get back to Gem Lake, retrace your steps and then descend from Gem Lake on the same trail back to your car.
Insider Hints for Gem Lake and Balanced Rock
- Check out the Stanley Hotel for an historic tour (or even a haunted tour) if you have time.
- Another great hike on the North side of the park is Lawn Lake and Crystal Lake.
- You need to have National Park Pass to hike this trail.
Getting to the Gem Lake and Balanced Rock Trailhead
You’ll park at the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. From Estes Park, take highway 3 northwest (also called Wonderview Ave.) passing by the Stanley Hotel. Turn right (north) onto MacGregor Ave. Follow MacGregor around and it becomes Devils Gulch Road. Turn left (north) onto Lumpy Ridge Rd and stay left at the road split for the main parking lot.
Gem Lake and Balanced Rock Elevation Graph
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Gem Lake and Balanced Rock Reviews
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