The Saddle Trail

HARD 2 reviews
#118 of 144 trails in

The Saddle Trail is a 16.4 mile out and back trail located near Estes Park, Colorado that features a lake. The trail is rated as difficult and primarily used for hiking.

DISTANCE
16.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
4058 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

hiking

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

hiking
2 months ago

Hiked Sunday 8/6/17

One-Way Distance from Lawn Lake TH: 8.6 miles

To the east of Lawn Lake, a level and narrow unimproved trail meanders through the forest. It is easy to follow, but we did have to wade through bushes (often head-height) on several occasions and navigate wet and muddy patches (usually concurrent with the bushwhacking). The trail begins to climb once on the far side of the lake, and the muddy, bushy sections continue as the trail heads for treeline. Definitely recommend wearing pants and long sleeves. It passes some lovely waterfalls and scores of wildflowers and affords great views of the peaks to the north. Once well above treeline, it switchbacks once to the right and reaches the Saddle/Crystal Lakes split, marked by a sign. We continued up to the Saddle first. This trail initially consists of several log stairs that gradually become more spaced out before disappearing altogether. The narrow trail is clear and only somewhat rocky, but is generally steeper than the trail to Lawn Lake. Soon after the split, you can see both of the Crystal Lakes below. The trail continues NW before turning SW as it crosses a broad stream—follow the cairns across to regain the trail as it bends northward again. It then traverses the upper reaches of the stream on relatively flat terrain—many sections are wet and very muddy and require thoughtful navigation to avoid wet feet. Past the water, the trail rises over a small hump and then arrives at the base of the climb to the Saddle. This final pitch, either way ascended, is steep and loose and lacks switchbacks. The trail was a bit wider here, however, so it was helpful to hike along its margins on slightly larger rocks rather than slip in the scree-filled center. Past the crux, the grade lessens a bit and you’ll reach the broad Saddle after a little more climbing.

The trail past the split is incredibly beautiful—you'll find yourself in a gorgeous alpine valley complete with wide expanses of tundra, wildflowers of all colors, waterfalls, views of the high peaks and their snowy couloirs, and only the sounds of distant water, wind, and chirping birds to be heard. Also saw many marmots, and two bull moose in the tall grasses right around treeline on the trip down. The Saddle itself is quite expansive (not at all like the narrower saddle between Grays and Torreys Peaks, for example) and is covered in tundra grasses and flowers. The official trail ends, but we explored all around and found a rock outcropping to the NW, further down near some nice exposure, that afforded great views of the Comanche Peaks Wilderness and a green valley floor way below. The views of the talus slopes up 13ers Fairchild Mountain and Hagues Peak are quite impressive as well. In contrast to the ascent up, the top itself was very windy and thus quite cold even in the complete sunshine. Bring a windbreaker, hat, and perhaps gloves as well if you plan to stay and explore as we did. No other humans in sight the entire time — the tranquility was incredible. Highly recommend.

hiking
4 months ago

Gorgeous scenery, tons of wildflowers in late July/early August. Nice and quiet, not many go farther than Lawn Lake. Great views once you get up to the pass, but you do have to get up a steepish section of trail with loose rocks to get to it. Worth it for the view. Recommend starting early in the day, not much shade once you get past Lawn Lake.