Two Saturdays ago, I set out with one objective: hike all the way to Timber Lake inside of Rocky Mountain National Park. A while back, Stella and I had attempted to do this, but we were forced to stop at the active landslide in order to avoid risk of injury. Since that time, I had been waiting for the opportunity to get back to that trail and make it all the way to the lake. The Timber Lake Trailhead is approximately 10 miles north of the Kawuneeche Vistors Center on the parks westside. I began my quest around 11:30AM with nary a cloud in the sky and temps in the upper 60’s. With such opportune weather, I was very excited to get trekking!
My journey began with a quick saunter through Lodgepole Pine trees, which were intertwined Aspen’s still holding onto their brilliant orange and golden hues before I crossed Beaver Creek about 3/4 of a mile from the trailhead. Another 3/4 mile up the trail there are two large boulders, a great spot for a quick respite on the way up or backdown from the lake. From the boulders it is about another mile to the landslide. Once I had reached the landslide, I had two options: a) climb through the landslide and risk it shifting (very unlikely) b) climb a steep vertical pitch over the topside of landslide and descend an even steeper pitch on the opposite side.
Fortunately or unfortunately I had predetermined that I would climb over the landslide, which I did and made it unscathed. But please note that the path is not well marked. So if you find yourself at the landslide with the intent to climb up and over, backtrack about a 100 yards, look up & slightly back towards the landslide so you can make out a line to the top of the slide. Once at the top, I had crossed over a small creek and began my descent. Trekking poles are a must, and fortunately I brought Stella’s along. The descent in this area is quite steep.
Back on the trail and safely on the opposite side of the landslide, I continued my journey. I remember feeling a second wind come over me, as the trail was relatively flat for the next mile before I had encountered a short switchback. Shortly thereafter, I happened upon the Long Meadows Trail Junction. Another traverse up a switchback and I had begun the final trek across two alpine meadows before entering a forested canopy. You will know you are getting close when you see the Rockslide Campsite, which is located in the middle of the meadow. And you have basically arrived once the Snowbird Campsite is within view. I continued past the Snowbird Campsite and onto the northwest end of Timber Lake. The lake stretches to the southeast and is flanked by mountains to north, east and south, with Mt. Ida looming beyond a saddle to the east.
I had spent some time taking in the abundance of nature and fresh mountain air before reversing course and trekking back to the trailhead. One note to mention, on the descent I chose to traverse the landslide. My only comment here would be that it was much quicker than climbing up and over, but I would advise with considerable caution. I would rate this hike to the difficult side of moderate. I completed the trek in 6 hours, with 3 1/2 hours to Timber Lake. However, that included taking in a variety of great views, surveying the landslide and of course taking a few photos. The hike was really enjoyable and I was seriously rewarded at Timber Lake. I could not have asked for a better day, hiking this late in the season I did not have to worry about an afternoon thunderstorm.
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