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Lumpy Ridge Loop Trail, RMNP, May 28, 2011

June 27, 2011


As per normal, I took my annual hike on the Lumpy Ridge Loop trail on a Sunday, May 29 of this year.  This is memorial day weekend which means I get the following day, Monday, to rest.  As this is an eleven mile hike, and near the beginning of my hiking season, it always seems prudent to allow for a day of rest prior to going back to work.  Just in case : )

Since I take the hike each year at the same time, its very evident from year to year about the differences in the local environment due to the current weather patterns.  So, some years at this time, as in 2009, there were wild flowers everywhere.  Including lots of columbines.  This year they were unable to open Trail Ridge road for the Memorial Day weekend due to all the snow.  And I saw very few flowers.

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 (and there are more of them). In addition, 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. You will need to 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. (If you want to see all my trips, this link will direct you 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 map that shows the trail I took . Please note that all links open a new browser window.


In addition to the Google map link above, please see a Microsoft Live map below. The red tack shows the general location of the trail from my home in Fort Collins, CO. You can click on the map to bring it up in a “live” mode and zoom in or out (and move the map around) to get more detail. Just make sure you don’t close the Microsoft “My Places” editor that pops up with map. If you close the editor (it is small and you can use/scroll/zoom the map without the editor getting too much in the way) without first saving the new location, the location button will disappear. If that happens, just close the map and click on it again on my web page.

Map picture


When I woke up and looked out the window that Sunday morning, it was raining.  Not very hard.  But still…  Who wants to take off for a hike in RMNP when its cloudy, cool, and wet?  And, if it’s that way in the Fort, more than likely it’s that way in Estes Park.  I took a quick glance at some web cams in Estes.  Yep, cloudy and wet looking.  But, not actively raining.  Hmmmmm.  Went back to bed.

Sigh.  Couldn’t get to sleep and decided to go for it.  I’d packed the night before, so it didn’t take long to throw stuff into the car and head to RMNP (stopping at Starbucks on the way, of course : )  By the time I got to Estes Park and the Lumpy Ridge trail head (which is really the Gem Lake trailhead), the clouds had started to rise a little.  And, better yet, it wasn’t actively raining.


As I headed up the trail, the clouds continued to rise until some of the peaks were able to peak through the clouds.





Feeling much better, I pushed on to Gem Lake.  I always forget (funny how that works : ) about how steep some parts of that trail are.  Luckily, its not very long.  That said, my legs were a trifle sore the next week from doing the rock step masters portion.  Note – I was carrying a heavier than normal pack for training purposes.   About 40 pounds instead of my normal day hiking load of fifteen to twenty pounds.  It definitely made a difference.

By the time I got to Gem Lake, small patches of blue sky were showing.


About half a mile past Gem Lake, on the way down to Cow Creek, the day had turned into mostly sunshine.  In the distance, the higher mountains had a fresh covering of snow.  Not like they were lacking in snow prior to the storm.


Cow Creek itself was at the stage of early spring.  So, no snow, but not much in the way of leaves or flowers.


This is pretty much the extent of flowers I saw in the Cow Creek drainage (and the Black Canyon side of Lumpy Ridge wasn’t any better).




But still, the sun was out, mostly, and it had warmed up enough to be t-shirt weather.  Enhancing the mild day, while warm enough for a tshirt, it was still early enough in the season, particularly this year, that there were no bugs : )


The aspens in upper Cow Creek were leafing ahead of some of the lower groves.



However, the leaves had all disappeared by the time I got up to the intersection of the Lawn Lake trail that comes up Black Canyon.  Even saw a little snow (more than the prior year).


As I headed down the trail towards Black Canyon, and it’s very pretty lower meadows, I happened to spot a mountain peeking at me through the trees.


Zoom.  Ah yes, the Longs.


Coming down into the Black Canyon meadows is a highlight of this loop hike.  And, one big reason why I go in this direction (the other big reason is that by going counterclockwise you miss the warp in the trail between Cow Creek and Gem lake which can add close to 572 additional hours to the hike.  Or, is it days?  Well, anyway, much longer.).


It’s even nice looking back up the trail.  I did see a few climbers.  Too far away for my camera and it’s lens to capture much in a photo.


The views of Longs Peak and it’s associated neighbors were wonderful today.  This was due to the fact that the storm had cleared the air somewhat (even for late afternoon) and that the clouds were chasing each other among the peaks.

Twin Sisters


Longs Peak


Looking back.


Longs again.


New leaves and old rock.


Good view of the Black Canyon valley.  You think they would have any trouble selling housing plots here?  Luckily I think it is all protected now.


Old shed.


Continental Divide from Longs Peak all the way to Flattop Mountain.  No hiking up there today.


One last look back as I reach the top of the trail that then drops off into the Gem Lake parking lot.  And to think I almost didn’t get out of bed : )


Something else was looking in the same direction.


So ends the day (well, I did have to drive back to Fort Collins : )  Excellent start to what I’m sure will be a great hiking season.  Okay, second start of the season.  Conor, Will, and I really started the hiking season in Moab back in April.  But, almost the first local hike.  I did take one the prior week that I will report on in a future posting.

– Geoff Weatherford

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