This section of the Rocky Mountains has ecosystems varying in elevation from the over 150 riparian lakes to Montane and subalpine forests to the alpine tundra. Large wildlife including mule deer, bighorn sheep, black bears, and cougars inhabit these igneous mountains and glacier valleys. The fourteener Longs Peak and Bear Lake are popular destinations.
The old ski area in RMNP, Hidden Valley has been turned into a picnic area, family walk, and headquarters for the Junior Ranger program. However, there is a nice trail beyond the family area. We did this as our second hike of the morning after completing the Tombstone Ridge section of the Ute Trail. Nice relaxing hike until we hit the trees and decided to turnaround as we couldn't really see anything but trees. If you're wanting to do just smaller hikes, filling in a shorter one as us, or have a picnic/hike combo, this is a very pleasant option.
Another great alpine lake trail. You see Nymph Lake and Dream Lake along the way. Around 1.5 miles into the trail you are high up and can see all the way to Sprague Lake and Bear Lake. Stunning views of Longs Peak the whole way. The Lake at the end doesn't disappoint.
Sept 11th was my 4th successful summit of Longs Peak over the last nearly 30 yrs. I must get amnesia in-between making this climb as its a very mentally and physically tough one. One also needs to understand the true danger aspects you're exposed to in order to summit.
10 Strong suggestions:
1. Leave the trailhead no later than 2:30 AM to summit by 10:00AM latest.
2. Carry at least 4 liters water (or a RO filter/pump)
3. Avoid weekends and holidays as more people = more risk to you from falling rock and critical point traffic jams!
4. Understand it is summer conditions at the lower elevations and winter conditions where the climb is toughest. Never have been at summit where it's above freezing in Aug/Sept climbs.
5. Aerobically condition, condition, condition especially if you live at lower elevations like I do in KS.
6. Don't do it if you have a fear of heights as there are several places where you have a wall of rock on one side and an abrupt 2000 ft drop off on the other. I've seen people freeze and panic and have to be talked through step by step.
7. Have a contingency day and go on the best day forecast.
8. If the weather turns, abandon attempt quickly and get to tree line ASAP if thunderstorm forms! I learned the hard way in my 20's and the lightening was horrific in Boulder field! You could feel the static electricity literally like the wind and there is no where to escape up there!!
9. Do it once and move on!! Lol! Note to self: re-read point 9!
10. Revel in your successful climb of Longs as you are in a very elite group as most anyone can do 20 or more of the other 14'ers without most of the risks Longs throws at you!
Rianne R. on Emerald Lake Trail
Stunningly beautiful series of lakes - all three (Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake) are gorgeous but unique in character and scenery. Some of the best views are at points along the trail allowing Vistas of Long's Peak.
I'd consider this trail moderate in difficulty - ESPECIALLY if you are visiting us from out of area and are not used to the high altitude. It is nearly all uphill on the way out, including stair-climbing in the last section. Hikers sitting along the side of the trail with a dazed look and questions of "how much further to the lake?" were a common sight. It's do-able, though - take your time, and bring twice as much water as you think you'll need. If you can make it to any of the lakes, it's well worth the effort. Do finish all the way to Emerald if you can - it is the most dramatic view of the three.
I had a great time, but rate 4/5 stars as it is a crowded trail most times of the year. Most people were great, but a few would do well to review trail etiquette again.
Misty S. on Ouzel Lake Trail
Started at 7am on a Thursday and there was only a few cars in the lot. The three separate falls are beautiful. Went up to ouzel lake and had the entire lake to myself. It was like nothing I've seen before. Back at the falls, the trail was pretty full. Returned to the parking lot at noon and the lot was full
Hiked this a couple months ago. Beautiful scenery. The best part about this hike is being able to take breaks at Nymph, Dream, and then Emerald Lake. The trail was definitely crowded, but it was still worth the hike. We ate lunch at Emerald Lake and then continued on to Timberline Falls.