If you are looking for a fun and challenging hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, look no further than Chasm Lake. This alpine lake is located near the Longs Peak trail head, and it requires a bit of bouldering and scrambling to get there. But once you do, you will be rewarded with some of the most beautiful views in the park!
We were told that the scramble at the top is between a level 2 and 3, which is why this trail has a hard rating.
|Trail Type||Out and Back|
|Elevation Gain (ft)||2,549 ft|
|Peak Elevation (ft)||11,963|
|Parking||Lot With Bathrooms|
|Town Nearest Hike||Estes Park, CO|
Alpine lakes are formed when glaciers melt and the water flows into basins that are carved out by the ice. Chasm Lake is one of these alpine lakes, and it is known for its clear blue waters. Because alpine lakes are located at high altitudes, they tend to be quite cold – even in the summer!
You are allowed to swim in Chasm Lake but be prepared for ice cold snow melt water! Make sure to bring a towel and dry clothes so you can avoid hypothermia if you are brave enough to swim! The ranger at the bottom of the trail did tell us that someone brought an inflatable paddle board up with him and was doing some paddling around the lake. Just make sure you so not overexert yourself playing around up in the alpine!
Hiking above tree line can be dangerous, as there is less protection from the elements. However, it is also one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have in Rocky Mountain National Park. Be sure to take plenty of water and sunscreen, and wear proper clothing to protect yourself from the sun and wind. It can get cold up there so bring layers! On our hike it was super hot down below tree line and really cold and windy up at the lake.
Make sure you are in good physical shape if you are trying this hike. The oxygen levels above tree line are much lower, so it can be difficult to breathe. I would not recommend this hike for young children or those with respiratory problems. We made sure to take plenty of breaks to catch our breath and get some water on the way up and down.
If you start to feel sick while hiking above tree line, it is important to turn around and head back down the mountain. It is not worth risking your health for a view!
The Longs Peak trail head is one of the most popular in Rocky Mountain National Park, so be prepared for crowds. The best time to start your hike is early in the morning, before the crowds really start to show up. We got there around 4:45am and there was only road parking which added at least a quarter mile each way.
Most people start their hikes at this trailhead before sunrise. Bring a headlamp if you do this! The reason so many people start early is climbing the Keyhole route, and up to Long’s Peak (a 14er) can take some time, and you want to make sure you are down before the afternoon because storms can come and make it dangerous! There are also a lot of climbers up in this area. If you bring binoculars you can see the climbers up on the rocks above the lake!
The Longs Peak trail head is the starting point for many hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, including Chasm Lake. To get there, take the Colorado Highway 66 west from Estes Park. After about 12 miles, you will see the turn off for the Longs Peak trail head on your right.
We do not think there is a charge to park at the trailhead, but we had a national parks pass so we just put it in the windshield and had no issues. For some of the park there is a timed entry system but that did not seem to be the case at Long’s Peak trailhead. It was more of a first come first serve.
If you are up for the challenge, Chasm Lake is a great hike to add to your Rocky Mountain National Park bucket list!
PS: If you lost your cell phone on the side of the trail right above tree line it is at the ranger station at the bottom 🙂