Submitted by Stefanie Campolo
When I visited Colorado in early June, some of the trails at Estes Park were closed, due to landslides from snowmelt. I really wanted to hike a mountain that provided a scenic view of the Rocky Mountains, so the landslide closings were a bit of a bummer at first.
However, my cousin and I searched online for other trails that provide great views, and the trail to Gem Lake was one of them. The hike begins at the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead and is about 3.3 miles round-trip.
Throughout the hike, you see many gorgeous granite boulders and rock formations that sort of make you feel like you're part of a Jim Henson movie (which is always awesome).
Views of the Rocky Mountains are visible throughout the hike, with the views getting better and better as you ascend.
Upon reaching the top, you finally see Gem Lake, which is a small basin of water surrounded by two large rock formations. If you plan to eat your lunch at the top of the mountain, be wary of chipmunks. These small critters will come out from their hiding places and approach you for food. Being from Jersey and growing up learning to never feed the seagulls, I also chose not to feed the critters at Gem Lake. You will observe some hikers feeding them, though!
Overall, this hike was extremely fun and worth my time. I would do it again for sure. ProTrails rates this hike as moderate-strenuous. This sounds about right, leaning more toward the moderate side. So if you are looking for a relatively shorter hike with amazing views, consider Gem Lake!
Another cool thing about Estes Park is that you will pass the Stanley Hotel as you're driving, which is the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining. I did not go inside, but the hotel provides tours, one of which is called the Night Ghost Tour. That one sounds really fun.