Friday, September 26, 2008

Sandbeach Lake

Distance: 8.8 miles round trip
Elevation: 8,312 ft - 10,283 ft
Elevation Gain: 2,146 ft (cumulative), 1,971 ft (net)
Date Hiked: 20 September, 2008
Dogs: Not allowed, National Park
Bathroom at the Trailhead: Yes

Sandbeach Lake just where the trail comes out
Sandbeach Lake is lovely fall hike that meanders through juvenile aspen groves and along a ridge overlooking the golden marshes of the St. Vrain Valley. Its destination, Sandbeach Lake, is also embraced by shrubbery along its banks that reflect the season in greens, golds, and reds.

Fall color in the St. Vrain Valley
Fall color on the trail. I purposely blurred the image a bit to evoke the mood
A meadow along the way
The lake sits below Mt. Meeker, which dominates the skyline. Now I know how the ant feels when looking up at a lumbering Texas Longhorn. Sandbeach is aptly named because it is bordered on two sides by wide, sink your toes in, sand beaches. The sand is actually a remnant of Glacier that carved out the north side of Meeker and it covers much of the area. Local residents have to battle it when digging any sort of hole.

The lake looking south
Standing on the shore and looking up at Mt. Meeker
A close up of the Meeker Massive
Zooming in on the crags
The other unique thing about Sandbeach is that it exists in a broad sub-alpine valley, which is reminiscent of lakes in the Sierras. There is a sense of airiness you don’t get from most of Colorado’s starker alpine tarns. This is place you will want to linger, set up camp, open a bookstore, drink freshly picked Chamomile tea.

Pine cones by the lake

At over 2,000 ft elevation gain, this trail is not for couch potatoes. There are steep, rocky sections but also frequent flat transects that enable the hiker to catch his breath.

Color on the way back
While in the trees most of the time, there are views of the St. Vrain Valley, interesting rock formations, boulder fields (again left over from the glacier), stream crossings, as well as intimate meadows and aspen groves. Given all its pleasures, and the serenity of its destination, I am surprised that it is one of the lesser-known hikes within Rocky Mountain National Park’s Wild Basin area. Not necessarily a bad thing for us locals who cringe at the teeming hordes that descends upon Bear Lake every summer.

Another view of the St. Vrain valley
So, fill your thermos with apple cider, pack up some pumpkin pie, and wallow in Autumn on the Sandbeach trail.

You can really see the steepening of the St. Vrain Canyon in the distance

No comments: