Winter Walk to Emerald Lake

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It seems like I never go to Rocky Mountain National Park in the summer (not to hike anyway, we’ve driven the Trail Ridge Road a couple of times). I suppose it makes sense; it’s less crowded in winter and in the summer I’m usually backpacking somewhere I don’t need permits or to plan months in advance.

Anyway - Emerald Lake. It’s one of the more popular hikes so even though there was a ton of snow we didn’t need snowshoes, just microspikes, since the snow was packed down. It was super windy at Emerald Lake (I suspect common) but the sunny skies made it feel much warmer. For a short, ~3 mi out and back hike, it was nice to get out into the mountains, even if it’s only for a few hours.

If you go:

Wild Basin Snowshoe

Wild Basin is a great place to hike. It’s close, it’s beautiful, and there are a plethora of trails. In fact it’s been almost exactly a year since last time we were here. Not feeling very motivated to pick a trail ahead of time we did a “let’s start hiking and see where we go” kind of day.

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We started by walking down the road from the trailhead to the Finch Lake Cutoff trail. The first part of this trail only had a few inches of snow. As we went up the snow slowly got deeper. Then, just after 9,000ft, it all of a sudden increased another foot. Definitely time to strap on the snowshoes. Being the first hikers on the trail was magical and we took our time. Once we got to the intersection of the Finch Lake/Pear Lake and Allenspark trail the snow became packed down. We stopped here for lunch and a cup of tea and enjoyed the views towards the continental divide. After we followed the Finch Lake/Pear Lake trail to the Wild Basin trail and back out to the car.

If you go

Twin Sisters Peak

As winter closes in my range of hiking options shrink. Luckily the front range near Boulder stays snow free longer than the mountains farther west. In Rocky Mountain National Park the Twin Sisters Peak Trail is about 7 miles out and back and gets you to 11,427ft. It is straight up and straight back down. There are a few views along the way but it is mostly through the trees until the last half mile.

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There was already snow on the trail and there were a couple dicey spots of ice (yep, I left my microspikes in the car…) on the way up but going slow it was doable. Once we got out of the trees the trail was clear. It was blue skies for miles and the views from the top were stunning.

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Wild Basin, Wild Weather

It’s 60 and sunny in Boulder today but we’re trading that for 20s and a winter storm. Amazing how a short drive into the mountains changes things so fast.

We parked at the Wild Basin trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was sleeting when we hit the trail and we were glad for the forest cover for the first couple miles. We passed Ouzel Falls about halfway to the lake, but it wasn’t flowing very fast. After the falls the trail opens up, and we got glances of the divide as the storm clouds moved in and out.

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At the trail junction the Ouzel Lake trail splits off and heads up an exposed ridge. This was one of the best parts of the hike, the weather was raw: wind and snow blowing in our faces as we hiked to the lake. About halfway between the start of the ridge and the lake the trail gets some shelter from the mountains again and the weather died down a bit. After a junction the trail dips down into the trees near Ouzel Creek before reaching the lake.

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Ouzel Lake was beautiful in the snow, the wind came and went as did the snow. We managed to find a sheltered spot and pulled out the stove to make some warming hot chocolate and enjoy watching the winter weather move in an out.  

If you go:

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