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Lawn Lake Trail, RMNP, CO with Conor on July 31, 2007

September 27, 2007

Posted September 26, 2007

My eldest son, Conor, took some time out of his busy life to visit me this summer. I don’t get to see him as much as I would like, so I planned to spend as much time with him as possible. We had taken a hike on Sunday (see the Comanche Peak hike), but I had to work on Monday and again on Wednesday, so Tuesday I wanted to do a hike that would not make us too late in getting back. The Lawn Lake trail, in Rocky Mountain NP, seemed perfect. Fairly close, and Conor could check out the stores in Estes Park if he felt so inclined (and he did).

One of the reasons I want to do the Lawn Lake trail is that I had not successfully completed the trail last year. I just had to see what Lawn Lake looked like. Turns out, it looks pretty darn nice : )

Before I go any further in the trip’s description, here is my standard comment. Please check my photo galleries here for all the larger and higher quality photos for this trip. The photos in the gallery are a quantum leap in size and quality compared to the little teaser photos I put in this site’s trip narrative.
I have two other links that will help locate the area if you are interested in making the hike yourself. A Google Earth map can be found here. Use the scale bar on the left side of the Google map to help zoom in or out to help locate the area based on where you live. (Look on the right side of this web site for a link to a Google map that shows ALL my trips.)
In order to help you with the actual trail itself, you can use this link to view a topo map of the Lawn Lake trailhead.
All links open a new browser window.

We got going on the trail fairly early (well, before noon, I think). Pretty nice weather, but what I did not realize is that the weather pattern for the next few days (while Conor was visiting, of course) was changing. It would become much more humid than normal. That made for some above normal “haziness”. It all changed the day after Conor left Colorado. Figures.

But, have to say, the day was quite pleasant. Aspens were in full summer glory. And, as normal, Conor was in front : )

There is quite a large section of the trail that runs through aspens. Definitely one of my favorite sections. Hmmm. Could be another reason I like these sections is that they are relatively flat.

Takes a mile or two of hiking, but eventually the “high country” starts to look closer.

Zoom a little on that.

Aw. Isn’t it cute? (I think he was throwing things at us, but I could not prove it.)

Zoom. Can’t quite tell what he’s saying, something about the “….whites of their eyes…….”. Interesting.

So, that’s where we are heading. We end up walking right along side that far mountain. Lawn Lake is situated right below it’s sloping left flank (I think).

Zoom in a little (yah, I likes my zoom : ).

Saw an interesting piece of wood. Well, interesting to me. Not sure why. Maybe because it looks like it’s was staring at us.

Little closer.

Just a little closer.

Tried to make the water slow down.

We take a break. Lawn Lake is approximately another mile from this meadow. So, it was around a 5.5 mile hike to this point.

Here is another one from the meadow. Quite a pretty spot.

OK. One last “meadow” photo : )

Last time I had hiked up this trail, the meadow was as far as I got (I started the hike quite late in the day; made it back to my truck at full dark). So, the rest of the hike was all new to me. In case you did not know, there was a flood in 1982 down this river valley. It killed a couple of campers and did quite a bit of damage to Estes Park. See this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawn_Lake_Dam and this http://www.rmnp.com/RMNP-Areas-HorseshoePark-AlluvialFan.html for info about the flood. This link http://www.estesnet.com/Hydroplant/the_lawn_lake_flood.aspx has photos of the damage done to the town of Estes Park by the flood.

Aha, we were lucky to miss being pounced on by a crazed marmot : )

After the meadow and boulder field, the trail enters the forest for around another 1/2 mile.

It was very cool. Dark. Mysterious.

Well, ok, not totally dark and mysterious. Some of it was sunny, lush, and, umm, flowery. These were actually shoulder high if I remember correctly.

So thick, the plants almost hid the stream.

But then, the trail leads you out of the woods and into open alpine splendor.

Here is another picture of the alpine area around Lawn Lake. I think it may have been a little more sunny than the photo shows, but I had to underexpose quite a bit in order to get the sky to show. You can see from the next photo (the chipmunk) that there is no shadow, so I guess we still had some clouds over us.

Couldn’t resist taking a photo of this chipmunk : )

Came to a split in the trail. The less used trail, that heads to the right, goes up to a ranger cabin. I’ll show a photo of that later.

Conor reaches the point where you can get the first good view of Lawn Lake.

And here it is. Lawn Lake at last. Be nice to get up here a little earlier (or, on a day when I wasn’t worried about what time I got back home) and hike up to the pass that you can see in the distance.

Here is a slightly closer look at that area. I’d say it would take me another hour or more to make it to the pass. Before you get to the pass (I’m not even sure there is an “official” trail that heads that way), the real trail cuts over to the left and heads to Crystal Lake.

We found a place to sit and eat lunch. I decided I would try an “artistic” shot. It was really very nice. Perfect temperature, minimal people (saw 3 I think), no bugs that I can remember, somewhat nice scenary : ) But, it was quite “hazy”.

Forget what we were talking about, but I’m pretty sure I was happy just to be sitting down : )

The area was not “carpeted” by wild flowers, but there were plenty around.

Here is a photo of the ranger cabin I mentioned earlier. Not sure how much it gets used anymore. But definitely being kept in good shape.

The corrals were just down from the cabin.

We eventually headed back down the trail. The weather stayed very nice. I seem to remember a very short hail storm, but it came and went very quickly. In fact, I think I remember it because we cruising along in the sunshine and it start dropping ice on us : )

I had to stop and take a photo of this Indian Paintbrush (thankfully Conor finally figured out I wasn’t following him and stopped and waited for me to catch up : ) The color was very deep red. Unfortunately, I took the shot just as the sun was going behind a cloud.

This twisted remnant of a tree was interesting to both Conor and myself. The photo does not do it justice.

One last look at the upper country.

Not sure why, but the trail seemed “flatter” going back down than coming up earlier. Both in the pines……..

And the aspens………..

Fall River winding through Horseshoe Park. Almost at the end of the trail.

All in all, a very nice hike on a great day.

– Geoff Weatherford

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Joe Mills permalink
    February 11, 2008 9:57 pm

    What a nice photo log of you and your sons trip. My wife and I will be moving to the Denver area in April of 08 and are researching some good area to hike/camp. This one looks very nice. Can you camp along the trail?

  2. February 13, 2008 4:59 am

    Joe,

    Yes. We passed 2-3 campsites along the way. What they do is place the campsites across the river out of site. So, you can never see the campsites (all we saw were the turnoffs and signs pointing them out).
    I’m pretty sure you have to reserve them in advance.
    In addition, there are a fair number of campsites up around Lawn Lake itself (again, up in the trees away from the lake shore).

    Thanks for visiting and welcome to Colorado : )

    GeoffW

  3. February 23, 2008 10:37 pm

    Hello GeoffW. Good review. I am looking for a hike that me and my family could do. I have a 14, 10, 7 year old. We do 5 mile treks a few times over the summer but that is in the midwest. I make it out to RMNP on 3-4 day trips but not with the family. This year I want to take the family. If we plan to camp at Crystal Lake do you think this is a doable trek for kids?

    Thanks.

  4. February 25, 2008 4:08 am

    Husar,

    Pretty good question. Tough to answer without knowing more about you and your family, but I’ll give it a shot.

    Well, we had a family of 4-5 people pass us headed down the trail as we were headed up. Looked like the mother, and 3 or more children from 9ish to 15ish (I can’t remember the exact number and ages). I asked where they had come from and she said Crystal Lake. That said, they looked pretty tough and experienced.

    There are 3 main issues with this trail. Length, gain in altitude (so, it’s all uphill), and the altitude itself (Lawn Lake is at timberline, Crystal Lake is above timberline; so, we’re talking “hard to breathe” altitude).

    Lawn Lake is a 6+ mile hike (one way). I think Crystal is another 2 miles (maybe less) after Lawn.

    The length of the trail is an issue. At one mile per hour (it’s all uphill), that’s going to be close to an 8 hour hike. Possibly 9-10 hours if you include breaks/lunch stop/etc. Even without a pack, for kids that’s a long way.

    If you live in Colorado full time, then the altitude is probably not a big deal (you and the children will be somewhat acclimatized). There is a good chunk of uphill right after Lawn Lake. Since that is pretty much all above timberline, you will need to go slow.

    If you don’t live in Colorado full time, then that much altitude gain is going to hurt (unless you have spent a week or more in Estes Park or somewhere similar). You also have the risk of altitude sickness (I’ve seen half a boy scout group (including my brother) have that happen over night on a trip from Texas).

    My guess is that you should start with shorter and/or milder hikes (see some of my other trips) of which there are plenty in RMNP and northern Colorado in general.

    All kids (and people in general) are different, so maybe yours would do just fine. But seems a mite tough to me.

    One option that you may wish to explore which would make the trip much more enjoyable (or even doable at all), is hire a guide with llamas to carry your gear up to the lake for you. That way all you and the children have to do is carry water and lunches. I know that they do that on the trail since I’ve seen them. Just a suggestion. Even doing something like that I would still seriously recommend spending 2-3 days getting acclimatized if you are coming directly from the midwest.

    Remember. The object is to have fun : ) If it’s enjoyable, they will want to do it again.

    – GeoffW

  5. February 25, 2008 5:54 am

    Thanks for the reply. I don’t think me and my wife would have a problem but the kids might be another story. I think me and the wife will give it a go this summer. Then find a shorter trek for the kids.

    Thanks again.

  6. February 26, 2008 4:28 am

    I think that’s a wise decision about the children.
    If you and your wife take it slow and start early, it will probably be just fine. The only issue is if one or both of you are prone to altitude sickness. But if you give yourself a day or two to acclimatize to Colorado’s altitude, that should not be an issue (take some advils with you, just in case : )
    Just remember to reserve the campgrounds well in advance. Check here for more info on reservations and backcountry camping in RMNP in general.
    http://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/backcntry_guide.htm

    Have fun and take lots of photos : )

    – GeoffW

  7. February 26, 2008 3:21 pm

    I generally don’t have a problem with altitude sickness. In fact the last two years I have flown out and started hiking the same day. I am only at about 900ft where I live. Two years ago I did Long’s Loop in RMNP. I did that solo and it was a 3 day trek. Last year I took a friend and we did Four Pass Loop around the Maroon Bells. That was a 4 day trip. I am glad I took a buddy on that trip.

    Here is a the path I did on Four Pass Loop in 2007: http://www.husar.us/blog/archives/950
    Here is the photos from the trip: http://www.husar.us/blog/flickr/album/72157603718273354/Backpacking-2006.html

    Here is what I did for the Long’s Loop in 2006: http://www.husar.us/blog/archives/434
    Here are the photos from this trip: http://www.husar.us/blog/flickr/album/72157603706758757/Backpaking-2007.html

    After seeing your blog I want to add a new section on my blog that detail my trips. Keep up the great work on your site and I look forward to new trip reports. Thanks for your help!

  8. February 28, 2008 4:23 am

    Yah, I’d say you have plenty of high altitude experience : )

    I’d like to try Longs Peak with my son this summer (I did it myself about 100 years ago : ) Not really sure I want to do it again or not. Probably will. Maybe. Possibly.

    Lots of great photos. Makes me want to get out ahd start hiking again. Let me know when you get your detail trip blog going so I can bookmark it.

    Thanks,

    GeoffW

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