Description: Some may say I've cheated a bit by including Chasm Lake, the water-filled cirque below Mt. Meeker and Long's Peak, on this website of Boulder County hikes.  However, Chasm Lake itself is in Boulder County, but the trailhead lies in Larimer County.  Ce la vie!  Here it is, and it's a doozie.  The beauty of this hike is that you will have the opportunity to traverse three life zones, the Montane, Sub-Alpine, and Alpine.  You'll start in lush, wooded environs of the Montane at the trailhead, passing a couple of streams filled with mossy rock.  Later, you will enter the Sub-Alpine with it's weather- and wind-worn Krumholz. or 'stunted wood' trees.  Finally, you will be hard pressed to find any vegetation at all in the Alpine, save for some incredibly beautiful wildflower patches.  Click here to learn more about the five life zones in Boulder County.  This hike is a long, gradual climb of almost 2,500' and 9 miles out and back.  One of the cool features is that this is the same trail for about half it's distance that many of the hikers take heading to Long's Peak.  You will meet some serious mountain men and women on this trail.  Another great feature of this hike is that it is 100% in the Rocky Mountain National Park.  However, you don't have to wait in the long lines at one of the three park entrances, nor is there a use fee.  Just thought I'd throw that in for you thrifty folks.

Challenge Level: Very Difficult, 9 Miles, 2,500' Elevation, 5-6 Hours.  I've stopped short of the maximum challenge rating on Chasm Lake only because most of the trail surface is pretty easy as this is a popular trail.  However, the bit of rock scramble at the very end to the lake make this a very tough hike.  I include it here because I know that there are many visitors to Boulder who may be fairly new to hiking but have the stamina and conditioning to make this hike much more easily than I did.  There is little exposure so it is really not a technical hike, just one of endurance.  Also, since this is an alpine hike there is more risk of being caught in the open during a thunderstorm, so start early and keep those eyes peeled for developing weather conditions.  Finally, as there can be late snow at these altitudes, July-August are the best months for good conditions on the trail.

Driving Directions: Long's Peak Ranger Station, 825 Longs Peak Rd Estes Park, CO 80517.  As with all the hikes up near the divide it will take you about an hour or more to reach the Long's Peak trailhead at 41 miles from Boulder.  It is located on the Peak-To-Peak highway (CO 7) about 5 miles north of Allenspark heading toward Estes Park.  There is signage indicating the left turn onto Long's Peak Rd to the campground.  Google Map directions here...

Parking/Trailhead: This trailhead fills up early in the summer as those hiking to Long's or the Keyhole will start long before sunrise.  I arrived just at sunup and was able to find parking in the lot during the week.  Later in the day you will likely have to park along the road into the trailhead.  When you pull up into the park there is a right turn to the campground, and a left turn which will take you to the ranger's cottage and the trailhead.  The trailhead starts just to the left of the cottage at the sign board.  Restrooms are just past the sign.

Trail Guide: Starting at the ranger cottage head up into the pines on Long's Peak Trail.  At 0.7 miles you will come upon a split in the trail.  To the right the trail heads toward Storm Pass, Estes Cone, and Eugenia Mine, but you want to stay left here and continue on toward Long's Peak.  After about a mile you will come to a wooded switchback to the right where you will be able to hear and see Alpine Brook, the stream in some of my photos.  This is a nice cool resting place to make some Kodak Moments.  You will continue up through the Montane forest switchbacking back to the left and then up the valley, winding back and forth until you cross Alpine Brook on a split tree bridge at 2.1 miles.  Not long after this you will enter the Sub-Alpine zone, where it becomes more arid, the wind starts to pick up and tree cover is reduced to traditional krumholz.  At about 2.8 miles you should come to another trail split.  To the right it heads toward Battle Mountain Backcountry Campsite and to the left toward Chasm Lake and East Long's Peak Trail.  Stay left here and head up toward the ridge line.  Once on the ridge, at about 3.6 miles, you should see a triangle fence marking the split of the East Long's Peak Trail and Chasm Lake Trail.  There is also a small spur trail that goes to an outhouse facility.  Take nice break here, and then follow Chasm Lake SW along the wall of the ridge line.  You should see a notice on the trail prohibiting livestock beyond this point.  As you walk the ridge you will soon see Peacock Pool and Columbine Falls, part of the drainage of Chasm Lake.  As you pass Columbine Falls you will enter a beautiful drainage area where there are lots of wildflowers and the trail traverses the flowing water several times.  Just after you will notice a wall of rocks in front of you at the 4.3 mile point.  Yep, you have to go up them as Chasm Lake is just over the top.  Take your time and take care as they can sometimes be slippery.  Once over the top find a large rock on the shore to rest and eat a good snack before heading back down the trail.

Map Resources: EveryTrail Map; US Forest Service (Longs Peak) Topo Map 

Après Hike: I hiked Chasm Lake in training for my first 14er.  When I finally made it up Grey's Peak at 14,278' I was standing there admiring the view when two fellow hikers walk up, open their backpacks, and pull out cans of Dale's Pale Ale, by Oskar Blues.  I immediately thought, "Why didn't I think of that!"  It would have been especially nice sitting on the shore of Chasm, too.  And, since you will be driving through Lyons to return from the trail, a wonderful town devastated by the 2013 floods, there's no better recommendation for an after-hike rest than Oskar Blue's Lyons location, 303 Main St., Lyons, CO  80540.  Check out their great craft beers, solid grub, and foundation to help recovering Lyons and Longmont.  Google map location here...

Picnicking:  Don't remember, but if anyone sees picnic facilities let me know!

Restrooms:  Yes, at trailhead.

Dog Friendly: No pets allowed on the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park

Cell Service: Nyet!