Pretty much any search of “Colorado’s Best Hikes” will take you to Chasm Lake. It’s a gorgeous hike and is rated moderate to strenuous due to the high elevation gain and seriously rocky terrain. I’ve had it on my list of hikes since my friend Cassandra said it was her favorite Colorado hike so far.
Chasm Lake is located near Estes Park, near Longs Peak. Much like the rest of RMNP, the parking situation is a little rough. I recommend going early, but we got there around 11AM and were able to find a spot about a half mile away from the trailhead. It’s the same trailhead for those who are going to summit Long’s Peak, so if you go too early it can actually be even more busy. I’d recommend trying to arrive around 8AM.
The hike itself is about 8.5 miles, but more like 10 with the parking situation (heavy sigh). It’s a pretty good uphill climb, but isn’t horribly steep. Be prepared for some wiggly-ass thigh muscles coming down though—the climb up is mostly via rocky stairs.
I was lucky enough to be able to go on this trip with my long-time friend Kyle. We met in 2005 or 2006 via Myspace (oh how things don’t change) and Kyle came out to Denver from New Mexico to see a show and we met up briefly. We’ve stayed in touch through the years seeing each other here and there, but this was definitely our largest chunk of time spent together! There’s seriously no better way to get to know someone than hiking up a mountain together… in my world anyway.
I’d definitely put this hike in my top five Colorado hikes that I’ve done. It ranks a bit lower than Sky Pond, but it’s up there for sure. It was challenging, scenic and rewarding. It was also less packed than many of the hikes in RMNP, which is actually big points in my book.
Bring up lunch with you (I brought leftover pizza, which was apparently pretty funny), as your body will need some serious nourishment once you get to the top. I recommend at least 70 ounces of water for this hike, if not more. I brought 100 ounces and gulped down most of it by the end. Also, sunscreen and mosquito spray are both necessary. Definitely go in the warm months, but bring a light jacket.
The last part of the hike is by far the most picturesque (versus Sky Pond which is probably the most scenic near the middle), when you start descending into a beautiful valley down the side of a rock face. You’ll look to you left and see the most beautiful part of the hike, Peacock Pool. The glassy water rests among white jagged rocks, just beneath the flowing Columbine Falls. This area was such a treat. I got to see so many Columbines (Colorado’s state flower) growing wildly in groups all through the valley.
Theres a rock scramble up to Chasm Lake, which is neither steep, nor particularly difficult, just tiring. You’ll get in some sweet minor league bouldering experience on the way up.
On the way back into town we stopped and bought some bing cherries and Palisade peaches, which was the perfect end to a great hike.
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