***Please note that The Colorado Hiker is no longer being updated. For current information on this trail and other Colorado tips, please visit Nomad Colorado. You can find specific information on this trail by visiting the Gem Lake Trail page on Nomad Colorado.***
Gem Lake Hike Trailhead: Lumpy Ridge Trailhead
Closest City / Town: Estes Park, Colorado
- From Estes Park, take the US Highway 34 bypass road (aka Wonderview Road). The Stanley Hotel will be on your right-hand side.
- Just beyond the Stanley Hotel, take a right onto MacGregor Avenue (CR 43). MacGregor Avenue quickly turns into Devils Gulch Road.
- Turn left at the signed entrance to Lumpy Ridge Road.
- The Lumpy Ridge Trailhead is located at the end of the road. This is a large trailhead with restroom facilities and amazing views of Lumpy Ridge.
Hiking Distances: 3.2 miles (roundtrip)
Description: Gem Lake is a very small and shallow lake (more of a pond really) located in a high, rocky saddle of Lumpy Ridge. Its dramatic beauty, paired with terrific views and the unusual granite landscape of Lumpy Ridge, make this a must-do hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.
From the Gem Lake Trailhead, the trail immediately goes north for a short distance until it reaches the base of Lumpy Ridge. It’s at this point that the grade really begins to increase. You’ll feel your heart pounding – especially if you’re coming from a lower elevation.
Soon after the trail starts climbing straight uphill, you’ll run into a fork in the trail. Avoid the trail coming up from the Twin Owls Trailhead from your left (west). Continue to the right, and head into an intrepid ponderosa pine forest. As you continue your climb, you’ll see huge and unusual granite outcroppings and rock formations. Don’t miss the amazing views behind you of Estes Park and Longs Peak. You’ll pass through beautiful aspen stands, which makes this a perfect fall hike in Rocky Mountain National Park to see striking gold and auburn leaf mosaics.
The final portion of the Gem Lake hike ascends steeply through switchbacks. The unassuming Gem Lake awaits you at the top – you’re almost there! The first view of the lake, which is surrounded by towering amphitheater walls, is absolutely unforgettable. Soak in everything Mother Nature has to offer.
Worth Noting: Dogs are not permitted on the Gem Lake Trail (or any other trail in Rocky Mountain National Park). Gem Lake is a perfect place for a family picnic.
Looking for more info about the Gem Lake hike or other hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park? We highly recommend Best Hikes Rocky Mountain National Park: A Guide to the Park’s Greatest Hiking Adventures.