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    Gem Lake Trail

    This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
    This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
    This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
    5.0 km
    This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
    303 m
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    Directions to Trailhead

    The Gem Lake Trail is a hidden ‘gem’ in the alpine wilderness. As you hike up the scenic route, you will be granted vistas of Estes Park and the encompassing Rocky Mountains. Travel through mixed pine and aspen forests, past neat rock sculptures, and up to the shallow basin that is fed by rainwater and snow melt. The postcard-worthy sandy beach is a wonderful place to spend the day.

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    Route Description for Gem Lake Trail

    The Gem Lake Trail is a scenic, secluded adventure on the border of the Rocky Mountain National Park. This charming excursion is a hidden gem, but we fear it won’t be for much longer. The incomparable vistas of the surrounding peaks and Estes Park cannot be beat! Though this hike is short, there are a few tricky, steep sections. Wear sturdy footwear as protection against rolled ankles! Furthermore, you will be ascending in altitude, so layers are always good insurance against windy conditions at the summit. The Gem Lake Trail is also accessible year-round! Trade those hiking shoes in for snowshoes and microspikes when it snows to safely navigate the snow-cloaked terrain. Located within the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), hikers are required to purchase a park pass.

    Truly one of the most scenic lake hikes in the Rocky Mountain National Park, the Gem Lake Trail will guide hikers through lush subalpine forests, past unique rock formations, past scenic park overlooks and up to a sandy granite basin. Nestled amongst towering granite cliffs and pine trees, the alpine lagoon is a stunning little lake. The fresh alpine waters of Gem Lake will tempt you, but once you dip your toes into the freezing waters, you will quickly understand why it is more scenic than swimmable. This trail is a wonderful introductory adventure in the RMNP and it's manageable by children and hikers of most skill levels! On your next trip to the RMNP or Estes Park, make sure to add the Gem Lake Trail to your itinerary.

    Embark on your adventure up to Gem Lake from the Gem Lake Trailhead at the end of Lumpy Ridge Road. From here, track north up the Gem Lake Trail. Explicitly signposted, you won’t be able to miss it. Hike up along an alpine stream and below the tree coverage of a mixed pine and aspen forest. Though this trail is open year-round, the vibrant aspens in the fall are breathtaking. Continue hiking the woodland path as you pass several interesting rock outcroppings, including Table Rock. Eventually, you will confront an intersection with the Black Canyon Trail. If you want to take a quick detour, the canyon reveals some cool rock sculptures.

    From the intersection, keep right along the Gem Lake Trail. As you ascend this path, the terrain will become increasingly technical and exposed. Hike up the path and revel in the stunning overlooks of the Continental Divide and the Front Range peaks. Soon, you will intersect with the alpine stream before arriving at a rock garden and overlook. Here, there is a crazy rock formation. This rock has a hole right through the centre of it, so it makes a great telescope to overlook the RMNP that kids and adults alike enjoy. Explore the interesting rock formation and continue hiking up the forested route.

    As you near the lake you will notice a sign for a privy on your left-hand side. Nestled amongst granite outcroppings there is a ‘privy with a view’. The composting toilet nestled amongst the hillside may have one of the best views in the park! Soon after the privy, you will summit the ridge to Gem Lake. Once you arrive, revel in the postcard-worthy view of the basin, hemmed by granite cliffs and in the foreground of now-capped peaks. The sight really couldn’t get much better.

    Have a picnic and rest your tired feet along the lake’s shore. Enjoy the sounds of the small, snowmelt stream filling the granite basin with fresh alpine water. Explore the shoreline and the granite boulders that flank the lake. Don’t forget to snap a few photos, because this lake is undoubtably Instagram worthy. When you are done exploring, retrace your steps from Gem Lake along the path and back to the trailhead.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can you swim in Gem Lake?

    Technically, yes, you can swim in Gem Lake. Note the water is shallow and incredibly cold.

    What is the elevation of Gem Lake?

    Gem Lake sits at about 2,701 m, nestled in an alpine granite outcropping.

    Is Gem Lake within the Rocky Mountain National Park?

    Yes, Gem Lake sits near the northeast boundary of the RMNP, near Estes Park, Colorado.

    Insider Hints for Gem Lake Trail

    • If you are seeking a longer adventure, consider the Gem Lake and Balanced Rock Hike.
    • Wear microspikes in the autumn and winter to help navigate the steep, icy terrain.
    • Head into Estes Park after your hike and grab a latte at Kind Coffee.
    • Pack provisions and have a picnic along the shores of Gem Lake.

    Getting to the Gem Lake Trail Trailhead

    The Gem Lake Trailhead is located at the end of Lumpy Ridge Road in Estes Park, Colorado.

    Route Information

    • Backcountry Campground


    • When to do


    • Pets allowed


    • Family friendly


    • Route Signage


    • Crowd Levels


    • Route Type

      Out and back

    Gem Lake Trail Elevation Graph

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