Two weeks ago, we had our first adventure in Estes Park. Our objective had been to snowshoe to Cub Lake on Saturday, and then the Loch Lake Trail via the Glacier Gorge Trail on Sunday inside Rocky Mountain National Park. The Cub Lake Trailhead is located a short distance from the Fern Lake Trailhead, near the Moraine Park Campground. A word of caution, the Moraine Park Road can be easy to miss as you travel down Bear Lake Road.
As mentioned, we had planned to snowshoe up to Cub Lake; however, the snow was very sparse and hard-packed in the moraine, so we ditched the snowshoes and started our trek to Cub Lake. The hike begins on the western end of Moraine Park, crossing the Big Thompson River, as you head south for about three-quarters of a mile, before turning west along the northern edge of the moraine.
At the terminal end of the moraine we began our ascent to Cub Lake, up until this point in our trek the gain in elevation had been minimal. However, it is all up hill from here over the next 3/4 miles. Thankfully the snow remained hard packed, snowshoes or micro spikes would had been helpful at this point but not 100% necessary. The climb moved into a forested slope mixed with Aspens and pine as the trial weaves about. Eventually, you will come upon a rather large boulder which offers a fantastic view as you look back to the east across Moraine Park.
Stella and I had made the final push to Cub Lake, where the winds were screaming across the frozen lake; it was terribly loud! Just before the lake, there is a large swath of burned trees. Upon a bit of research, I had discovered that the burned area was from the 2012 Fern Lake Fire. After spending a few minutes at the lake, we had reversed course and made our way back to the trailhead. The total trek was about 5.3 miles, with an approximate elevation gain of 734 feet; roughly 400 of those feet occur in the last three-quarters of a mile to the lake.
Sunday, we had intended to snowshoe the Loch Lake Trail via the Glacier Gorge Trail. However, the snow was flying and it was a balmy ten degrees. So, we decided to explore the eastern half of Rocky Mountain National Park from the comfort of the Tahoe. We drove to the Bear Lake Trailhead, and stopped at Glacier Gorge Trailhead for a few moments.
As we made our way back to US Hwy 36, we happened upon a small group of deer and a rafter of turkeys off to the side of the road. A short drive later, we came upon a large herd of elk bedded into the snow in a field just off from the road; they were camouflaged, resembling large clumps of sagebrush! From there, we had driven into Hidden Valley, and onto Many Parks Curve before turning around.
That trip was our first visit, of any length, to the eastern portion of Rocky Mountain National Park. As the name indicates, Base Camp @ Grand Lake, a vast majority of our time is spent on the “quieter side of the park.” However, I am certain that more adventures will be had in Estes Park in the future!