Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lake Haiyaha to Bear Lake Shuttle

Distance: 3.6 miles to Lake Haiyaha (one-way), 7.2 miles (out and back), 5.7 miles (to Bear Lake Shuttle).
Elevation: 9,200 ft (Glacier Gorge Trailhead), 10,286 ft (Max Elevation on trail between Lake Haiyaha and Dream Lake), 9,475 ft (Bear Lake)
Elevation Gain: 1,556 ft

The Emerald Color of Lake Haiyaha

Lake Haiyaha means "place of big rocks with not as many tourists as Dream Lake" in indigenous Arapaho. This less frequently visited destination within Rocky Mountain National Park is indeed surrounded by huge boulders that have tumbled down from Chaos Canyon. The lake, which is located in a draw between Hallet and Otis peaks, is a deep emerald color.

The Glacier Gorge Trailhead

Alberta Falls

You can visit the lake four ways, as an out and back from either the Glacier Gorge or Bear Lake trailheads or as shuttle from either location. I have done this hike twice now and both times I started at Glacier Gorge and ended at Bear Lake. The convenient Park Shuttle dropped me off and picked me up from both trailheads.

A well-groomed trail

Another typical trail segment

Summer in Rocky Mountain National Park is a precursor to Elk bugling one with the herd. In this instance, however, I was with a large group that took up a quarter of the shuttle bus. Herd indeed.

Entering Glacier Gorge

The signs at the Mills Lake...Loch Vale trail junction

We started at the Glacier Gorge trailhead and quickly arrived at Alberta Falls at 0.87 miles. The route from Alberta Falls to the Mills Lake/Loch Vale trail junction (at 2.17 miles) is one of my favorites. The route switchbacks steadily upwards on a well groomed trail. There are plenty of vista points and the ever pleasant journey through Glacier Gorge itself. This segment is a rock shelf overlooking a precipitous gorge surrounded by towering rock walls. Don't worry about exposure here though, this shelf is wide and welcoming.

A sunnier segment of the Lake Haiyaha Trail

The pond on the way

From the Loch side of this junction is the sign for Lake Haiyaha. The turn off is within spitting distance (we did test this out) of the junction, so you don't have to worry about missing it. Another sign warns that the trail to the lake is unimproved. This is unimproved by National Park standards, which means it is still quite cushy by Colorado standards.

A rockier trail segment

A small pond to the left on the final approach to Lake Haiyaha

This segment of the route is more in the trees and climbs more intensively. At 2.64 miles is a small lake on the right. It has nice views, so take a break and walk out to it. At 3.34 miles is a turn off to the lake. This too is marked by an obvious sign. 0.3 miles further up the trail you come to the large rocks surrounding the lake.

A large group leaving the lake as I arrived

Looking up into the tallus field of Chaos Canyon

Our group enjoyed lunch spralled out on the rocks. These boulders are quite large and angular. It made it difficult to navigate and certainly time consuming to get down to the water. I chose to sunbath and take pictures.

An expansive view of Longs Peak and the keyboard of the winds from the trail to Dream Lake

Looking down on Bear and Nymph Lakes

From this point, the hiker can turn around and head back to Glacier Gorge or continue on to Dream Lake (9,912 ft) at 4.57 miles. This route takes the hiker upwards to a maximum elevation of 10,286 ft. before heading downwards on a narrow shelf towards Dream Lake. In spring, this route can be treacherous indeed, but once the snows have melted it is easy going with spectacular views of Longs Peak.

Once off the ridge, the trail to Dream Lake is largely shaded

Dream Lake with Hallet Peak in the background

Dream Lake is a short 2/10ths of a mile off the route, and since this is one of the most visited locations in the park, a mandatory detour. Take a moment to admire the twisted trees around the lake before heading down to restful Nymph Lake at 5 miles (9,705 ft). From Nymph Lake it is only 0.7 miles to the Bear Lake and the shuttle bus.

Stopping to take a look at the Trout in the stream

Nymph Lake and its many Lilly Pads

Despite the crowds, hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park is always pleasant. There is something about a National Park and its manicured wilderness that is cozy and comforting. I was surprised by the number of dead Lodgepole Pines, however. The Pine Bark Beetle is firmly entrenched on the eastern slope.


Steven said...

I enjoy the many trip reports. I want to visit so many of places you write about. Keep up the good work.

Linda said...

I suppose the signposts and way markers do give a cosy feel, but all the same it's a very GRAND cosiness.